This overview will get you set up with an account and importing your first reference.

Zotero overview

Zotero is comprised of 4 components

  1. A desktop application.
  2. A cloud application that syncs with your desktop application.
  3. A web browser plugin that gathers bibliographic information when you’re looking at an article online.
  4. A word processor plugin that facilitates creating citations and reference lists while writing.


First, let’s get our environment set up. Quite your word processor and make sure that you are in a position to quite your web browser.

Now, for the desktop application and word processor plugin. Head to, download Zotero and Run the installer.

First Launch

Once installation is complete, if you launch the program, you should be greeted with the following:

That’s step one and four covered, as the word processor plugin is installed automatically. The plugin works with Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, and Google Docs. More on this later.

Web Browser Plugin

At this stage, Zotero will have launched a new window in your web browser, and you should see the opportunity install the web browser plugin.

If this doesn’t happen, simply return to and install the plugin from there.

Zotero will automatically detect your browser. I recommend using either Chrome or Firefox; the plugin for Safari is currently in beta development and a bit more complicated to get configured.

Now, just to make sure everything is lined up, let’s quite and then relaunch your web browser. You should now see a small icon in the upper right hand corner. If you’re in Chrome, you’ll have a puzzle piece in this same spot, click that and you’ll see you’re extensions, inluding the Zotero extension.

Creating an account

One last step. An account is required for cloud syncing and sharing folders.

Fill in the necessary credentials here and we’re almost done.

Connecting Zotero Desktop with the Cloud

Now that you’ve created an account, let’s get your Desktop application connected with you account.

In Zotero, go to Edit > Preferences and in the preferences tab go to Sync, fill in your credentials and click ‘Set Up Syncing’.

Adding your first citation

Now we get to add our first citation.

First things first though, because we want to be organized. In Zotero, let’s create a folder for our project, by right clicking on My Library > New Collections… and let’s call it BIOL Research.

Now, say we’re searching Web of Science Core Collection, we find an article we’re interested in and we follow the link to read the article. And let’s say that takes us here (que to follow the link): []{target="_blank"}

We’ll see that when we’re looking at an article, our web browser plugin changes to reflect this by now looking like a document.

Click on it, and Zotero will harvest both the requisite meta data and the pdf for you.

Renaming PDFs

Head back into Zotero and you’ll see you reference.

Now select the arrow adjacent to the title and you’ll see your PDF.

Right click the PDF and select ‘Rename File from Parent Metadata’ and you’ve got a nicely titled article. Double click the PDF and it opens in your default PDF reader.

Syncing to the cloud

Now, click the sync button and send your citation and PDF to the cloud.

Sync happens automatically on every launch. And notes or highlights that you make on your PDF will also be synced and updated.

Zotero Cloud

Now, let’s go online and log in to our online account at

You’ll see our recently synced citation and associated attachments.

Contact Mathew Vis-Dunbar

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