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Reference management

Zotero logo


Zotero is a free, open-source reference management tool that helps you collect and organize your references. In addition to the desktop application, you can create a cloud-based Zotero online account to use Zotero on multiple devices and share references with others. With Zotero you can:

  • store, organize and search all your references from your library
  • seamlessly insert references and bibliographies into, for example, Microsoft Word documents
  • change citation style in seconds when needed
  • read, highlight and annotate PDFs, and keep all your thoughts across multiple documents in one place
  • share references and folders with others

As always, it is important to store your work, sources and references in more than one place (back up file).

Using Zotero

The Zotero app and plugins

To install Zotero, download the desktop application from Software Center (University of Vaasa students and staff) or visit Zotero's home page (link to website) to download Zotero to your device. Zotero offers each user 300 MB of free storage, but additional storage can be bought via your Zotero account.

If you want, you can create a free Zotero account (link to registration page). An account makes it possible to sync your library if you are using several devices. An account also allows you to create group libraries to share with others.

When you have created an account, you will need to add it to your desktop application:

  • EditPreferences > Sync  > Settings
  • Add your Zotero username and password > Set up syncing
  • Choose Sync automatically


Zotero Connector is a plugin that allows you to save content from your browser to Zotero with a single click. Zotero Connector is used for browsers Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari. Zotero Connector and other plugins can be downloaded from the Zotero home page (link to website).

Adding references to Zotero

Attached files are automatically saved to Zotero. This default setting can be changed (EditPreferences > on the interleaf General uncheck the box Automatically attach associated PDFs and other files when saving items). In Zotero you can read, highlight and make notes in the saved PDF files.

Once you have added a reference to Zotero, you can edit it if necessary. When you have added a reference, it is recommended to always check the reference and add possible missing information right away.

References can be organized info folders and folders can be created and named. Files, comments and tags can be added to the references.

References can be imported to Zotero in following ways.


Importing references from the web

  • When you have installed the Zotero Connector to your browser, you can add references to your library from the web by clicking the Zotero Connector icon in the upper right corner (Chrome) while viewing the reference you want to add.

Exampel of the Zotero Connector icon


  • Choose the export option in the database (e.g. Export reference, Download citation) in order to add the reference to your Zotero library. It is recommended to use the RIS format!

Example of exporting references to Zotero from


Adding references manually

You can add a reference manually (File > New Item). A reference can also be searched for with an identifier (e.g. ISBN or DOI).


Importing files from computer

If you want to add references saved as files on your computer (e.g. a PDF of a journal article), import them from your computer (File > Import) or drag and drop the files to the middle section of your Zotero library.

The Zotero add-in

When downloading Zotero, the word processor plugin should automatically download as well. If you can not see a Zotero tab in Word, install it in the Zotero desktop application (EditPreferencesCiteWord Processors tab > Install/Reinstall Microsoft Word Add-in).

Click Document preferences to choose citation style and language for your references and bibliography and whether you want the bibliography to update automatically.


Adding citations in Word

Put the cursor where you want the citation, click on Add/Edit Citation. A red search box will appear. You can either enter the title etc. of the reference you want to cite in the red box or click the Z icon and choose Classic View to choose the reference from your library. Page numbers can be added in the box Page or directly in the citation in your document.

            Exampel of the use of Zotero in Microsoft Word


Adding a bibliography in Word

Put the cursor where you want the bibliography, click Add/Edit Bibliography and Zotero will create a bibliography of the cited sources. If the document does not update automatically, click Refresh.

Useful guides

How to use Zotero

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