A citation manager is a tool that helps you store, organize, and cite references. Proprietary examples include Elsevier’s Mendeley and Clarivate’s EndNote. Zotero, on the other hand, is an open-source citation manager developed by a nonprofit organization. It is free to download Zotero and use it for up to 300 MB of storage. In addition to downloading Zotero for your desktop, you can also create a free online account and sync it with your desktop library so that you can access it from anywhere via the web. An online account also enables you to collaborate with others using shared group libraries.
There are a lot of citation management tools out there, but Zotero has some features that set it apart in addition to being free and open source. It makes adding citations to your library very easy, allowing you to add items in numerous ways, including by entering a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), PMID (PubMed Identifier), arXiv ID, or ISBN (International Standard Book Number) directly into Zotero, or by using Zotero’s browser plugin. The Zotero Connector browser plugin allows you to save items on the web to your Zotero library with a single click. Zotero also has a built-in integration with Retraction Watch that will notify you if you add a retracted item to your library.
A variety of plugins exist to enhance your experience using Zotero; some of these are created and maintained by Zotero (like the Zotero Connector), while others were created by third parties. A useful third-party plugin is Zotfile, which helps you to manage PDFs and—perhaps most importantly—allows you to maximize Zotero’s free storage space by storing full-text PDFs separately from your citations. Zotero has plugins for Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, and Google Docs to help you insert citations and create a reference list while you write.
Zotero provides extensive documentation on using the product, including a Quick Start Guide. HSLS also offers a Zotero class. Stay tuned for HSLS’s spring class calendar. If you have any questions about Zotero in the meantime, please send an e-mail to Rachel Suppok.