Using Zotero

Introduction to Zotero: Making Learning Style Almost Obsolete!

Dr. Michelle Kassorla, Clark Atlanta University

Zotero is a free open-source program created by the Center for History and the New Media at George Mason University.  It works with Firefox as an add-on, and on Safari and Google Chrome as a stand alone program. It also has an extremely powerful Microsoft Word/Open Office/Libre Office plug-in which makes learning style almost obsolete!

Install Zotero for Firefox

  1. Go to Click on the big red “Dowload Now” button on the right-hand side.
  2. Go down the list until you see “Zotero for Firefox.” Click on it. It will download the program to your desktop.
  3. If you have a Windows computer, your computer will ask you whether you want to restart Firefox. Wait! We have another program to install.

Install the Office Plug-in

  1. Go back to the site and go down the list until you see “Word Processor Plugins for Zotero for Firefox.” Click on it.
  2. This will take you to the Word Processor plug-in site. Scroll down until you see the plug-ins for MS word on Windows or Mac. There is now a plug in for LibreOffice, OpenOffice & NeoOffice as well. Click the highlighted blue area for your word processing program. This will download the program.
  3. Restart Firefox.

Sign into/Sign up for Zotero

  1. Go back to and, if you don’t have a Zotero account make one. If you do have a Zotero account, sign in. This is located in blue letters on the right hand corner of the first page.
  2. Check to see if everything is working! Make sure that the bottom of your Firefox page has the small “Zotero” in the corner.
  3. Click on the “Zotero” on the bottom corner of your Firefox screen. This should open your Zotero library. Click on the tiny picture of people with a “plus” sign. Make sure you are signed in.
  4. If you had a Zotero account previously, click on the small green looped arrow on the right-hand side of the Zotero library box to make sure your library is synched with the Firefox add-on.

Make a Zotero Bibliography

  1. While still in the Zotero Library box at the bottom of your Firefox screen, click on the picture of a folder on the left side. This will add a folder to your library. Call the folder “English”
  2. Now, if you wish, you can close the Zotero library box by clicking, once more, on the “Zotero” name in the bottom left corner of your Firefox screen. (You don’t have to.)
  3. Go into the Firefox page and type the address, <>. This will open Google Scholar, the academic search engine for Google.
  4. Now type “computers in the classroom” in the search box. Google should return your results immediately.
  5. Look closely at the Firefox address bar. To the Right of the address for your search, a small file folder icon will appear. Click it.
  6. When you click the icon, a list of the items appearing on the first page of your search results will appear with a check box next to each item. For the purposes of this demonstration, click all of them, then click “OK.”
  7. A small box with a red outline will appear with the words “saving.” These items have just been transferred to your “English” library folder. If you click on the “Zotero” name in the right corner of your Firefox screen, you will see them listed there.
  8. In your Zotero Library folder, highlight the items you have just added. Right click on the highlighted items.
  9. Near the bottom of the dialogue box that appears, you will see “Create Bibliography from Selected Items.” Click it.
  10. A drop-down box will ask you the style you want for your bibliography. For the purpose of this demonstration, choose “Modern Language Association.”
  11. Below the style choice, you will see a list of options for saving the bibliography. “RTF” stands for “Rich Text Format”–what most word-processing programs use. “HTML” is for web pages. “Copy to clipboard” is the same as a clicking “copy” before saving something to “paste.” Choose “Copy to clipboard” for this demonstration.
  12. After you have chosen your style and the way in which you want your bibliography saved, click “OK.”

Create a Zotero Bibliography in Word

  1. Open an office document.
  2. Title the document “Works Cited” and return twice.
  3. Position your cursor where you want your bibliography to start. Right click and choose “paste.”
  4. The bibliographic information for your Google Scholar search will appear, alphabetized, and in proper MLA style.
  5. Stare at the screen for a moment thinking to yourself, “Wow. I wish I knew about this when I wrote all my papers in High School!”

Create Document Citations in Word

  1. Open a new Word document.
  2. Type some random stuff. A few lines–just for the demonstration.
  3. Place your cursor at a point where you would like to add a citation.
  4. Look at the top of your Word screen. In addition to the regular Word choices, you will see a new menu called “add ins.” Click it.
  5. Choose “Zotero.”
  6. On the far right-hand side you will see four tiny icons. Float your cursor over each to see what it says. Choose the one that says “Add citation.”
  7. A dialogue box will appear that will ask you what citation style you would like. Choose “Modern Language Association” and click “OK.”
  8. A red box will appear. Start typing the name “computers in the classroom.” A list of sources with that title will appear. Choose one, then click the return/enter key.
  9. The citation will be inserted in MLA style.

Change Document Preferences

  1. Now go back to the “Add ins” menu. Float your cursor over each choice until you see “Set Document Preferences.” Click on it. It will ask you what documentation style you want. Click “Chicago Manual of Style (full note).”
  2. You will notice that your citation has changed to Chicago style. This is handy when you prepare a document in one style, then your publisher wants to have to submit it in a different style. Warn students that they will sometimes need to move the periods. For example, MLA citations are within the periods and CMS notes are outside the periods.

Why is Zotero good for you?

  • It teaches you good research/citation skills.
  • You must look at library sources and Google Scholar sources if you want to easily add items to the Zotero library. Regular Google sources don’t work as well, so you learn to look beyond Google.
  • You build libraries that can keep expanding–especially in your field.
  • You must create a bibliography first–before you make citations. This is the proper way to research, and it reinforces that idea.
  • It is so easy that your use of citation increases.

There’s a Zotero group library link for your English class located on the class WIKI. Please add your research materials to this library.  You can also add any favorite websites or tools!


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