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Zotero Module

Adding Sources to Zotero

The easiest way to add items to your Zotero library is to use the Zotero Connector for whichever web browser you use. You can download the connectors for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera on the Zotero download page.

When you have both Zotero and the Zotero Connector downloaded, you'll see source-specific icons in your web browser as you view sources in your research. The way this icon looks will change, depending on the type of source you're viewing. The folder icon appears when there are multiple sources on a webpage, such as when you're looking at a list of search results in a library database. You'll see the book icon when you're looking at information about a book, such as in the library catalog or on the book's Amazon page. The article icon will appear when you're looking at a scholarly journal article. There are many more, but these are the most common.

Depending on the browser you use, this icon will appear in different places:

Click this icon to add whatever source you're looking at to your Zotero library!

Other ways to add sources

Help! What if the source-specific icon doesn't appear in my web browser?

Zotero uses something called metadata to determine the information about a source you're looking at. Sometimes this metadata isn't right, or doesn't work properly. In these instances, you can capture information by selecting the Save to Zotero (Web Page) icon  or the Save to Zotero (Embedded Metadata) icon  in the browser when it appears. You can also right-click on this icon to access other options for saving the page.

These two methods described here will grab a "snapshot" of the current page, as well as some very basic information about the page. For the bibliographies and works cited pages you create with these items to be correct, you'll have to add more information manually within Zotero.

Adding items manually

Often you will need to add items by hand. This is especially important when using archival or other print materials not available on the web, or when working with nonstandard item types, such as reports, images, podcasts, or forum postings. 

To manually add an item to your Zotero library, select the New Item icon , then select the appropriate item type from the More menu. Note that the most recently-used item types appear at the top of the New Item menu.

Adding items by identifier

Sometimes the easiest and most accurate way to add an item to your Zotero library is to use the Add Item by Identifier feature. Click the Add Item(s) by Identifier icon  then type in the ISBN of a book or a DOI or PMID of a journal article. Zotero will look for the corresponding item and create a complete record automatically.

Adding attachments

It's easy to attach files (like PDFs) to items in your Zotero library. Just drag the file into your Zotero client. Dropping a file onto a collection, or in between library items, will copy it into your library as a standalone item. Dropping it onto an existing item will attach it to that item. This is the easiest way to attach a copy of an article to its entry in your library.

Another way to add an attachment is to first select the item in your library, then click the attachments icon , then select Attach Stored Copy of File. This will attach the PDF to the item and store it in your Zotero library.

Organizing Your Library

As you add more and more items to Zotero, it will become increasingly important to keep your library organized by topic, project, or class. Zotero makes this easy with Collections.

To create a collection, click the New Collection icon . Collections are like file folders on your computer, but a reference can be in more than one collection at a time. In other words, a book on the sit-ins movement could be filed in your "Civil Rights" collection, your "Southern History" collection, and your "Social Justice" collection without having to make three copies of the reference.

Special Caution

In order for Zotero to produce accurate citations and bibliographies, it is extremely important that you ensure that each item is given complete and accurate metadata in Zotero, including classifying each as the correct item type. Often this will require manual edits. If Zotero contains incomplete or inaccurate information, your citations will be inaccurate.


It's easy to add PDFs to your Zotero library and automatically import their citation info. This is especially useful for students that already have a bunch of PDFs from their research saved to their computer.

  • First, go to the Zotero Preferences menu (Edit > Preferences in Windows, Zotero > Preferences in macOS).
  • In the Search tab, click to enable PDF indexing. Zotero will download and install a small plugin. This may be already installed on your computer.
  • Next, just drag your PDF files into Zotero, or select Store Copy of File under the New Item menu .
  • Right-click on a selection of one or more PDFs and choose Retrieve Metadata for PDFs. Zotero will retrieve their citation data from Google Scholar and turn them into citable items with PDF attachments.

If Zotero can't find a match on Google Scholar, don't worry--you can still save the citation from another catalog or article database, then drag the PDF onto the citation to make it an attachment, or select Create Parent Item from the right-click menu and input the metadata manually.

Right click on any PDF attachment on an existing Zotero item and select Rename File from Parent Metadata to clean up the file name.


Many items on this page were taken from and informed by Kyle Denlinger's Zotero Guide, licensed for use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.