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This resource guide can help you get started using the research management tool Zotero.

What is Zotero?

"Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources."

  • Zotero is a free citation management system where you can collect, manage, cite, and share research. You can use it to store citations, highlight and annotate webpages, and collaborate by using groups through Zotero's website. All your citations will be saved to the Zotero server.
  • Zotero works similarly to other citation management systems in that a browser-independent desktop app is used to access and organize your citations. The Zotero app can be installed on Windows, Macs, and Linux operating systems.
  • Along with the desktop app, Zotero also offers a browser extension (the Zotero Connector) that can be installed into the browser of your choice (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Opera) from the Zotero download page. The browser extensions allow you to easily add items from web pages to your Zotero library by clicking on the extension button to the right of the browser search bar.

Zotero Desktop App

A breakdown of all the Zotero desktop application icons, in order from left to right

To access the stand-alone client (the desktop app) on your computer, open it from the programs menu. If you have not yet added the Zotero connector for your browser, you can do so from the Download Webpage


The above image displays the layout of the Zotero pane. From left to the right the buttons are for:

  • Create a new collection: The first button to the left creates a new collection. This is useful if you are working on multiple assignments or projects and want to keep the citations for each project separate.
  • Create a new library/group: This button allows you to create different groups to let you collaborate with colleagues. If you are using a group to collaborate, the group will use the storage space of the creator. So, it may be a good idea to create a different account to create the group so that it has the full 300 MB of storage space for the group project. 300 MB is between 300 and 1,200 PDFs, depending on the size of the PDF.
  • Create a new item: This button allows you to add a citation to your library manually. It will ask you to choose a format (book, article, video, etc.) and will automatically format the data you enter.
  • Add an item by identifier: This button will allow you to add items to your library if you have an identifier for the item, like a DOI, PubMed ID, or ISBN. For more information on this process, see the Using Zotero page.
  • New note: This button will allow you to add notes to the citations in your library.
  • Add attachment: This button allows you to add an attachment to a citation. Use this button if you want to add a PDF or file copy of a citation in your library. Remember that Zotero only offers 300 MB of free storage, which roughly translates to 300-1,200 PDFs, depending on the size of your PDF.
  • Advanced Search: This button will allow you to search through your library using advanced features. The basic search bar is beside the advanced search button.
  • Simple Search: This is useful for doing a quick search of your library for tags, titles, years, and other info.
  • View PDF or full text online: This button will allow you to try to locate a copy of the citation using a number of options. The options include local PDF stored with the citation, link in the citation that leads to the full text, CrossRef Lookup (which is used for DOIs), Google Scholar, and McQuade's databases (this feature requires you to edit the preferences).
  • Sync: This button will sync your library with Zotero's servers. Much like when working on a document in Word, be sure to save your work often!
For questions or feedback contact the McQuade Library
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