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mZotero can be used to import metadata from various sources
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Last Update

This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, May 2017


See also Author impact metrics | Citation management | EndNote Web | Mendeley | Quosa | RefWorks | Scholarship 2.0 | Zotero vs. Mendeley

Zotero is an open-source, free reference management tool that works within your browser. According to Marimbo (2011), Zotero is ...an open-source, cross-platform, all-in-one reference manager, document archiver, citation manager, and collaboration tool. According to Stanford University, "...Zotero 4.0 is a web-based, open-source citation management tool that is designed to store, manage, and cite bibliographic references, such as books and articles. In Zotero, each of these references constitutes an item. Items can be everything from books, articles, and documents to web pages, artwork, films, sound recordings, bills, cases, or statutes, among many others. Zotero is both a desktop application and a bowser extension with plug-ins to word processing programs". It was developed by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. The name is derived from Albanian meaning "to master". Zotero gathers, organizes and cites sources, papers, fulltext pdfs, web pages, images and other objects.Zotero 3.0 was launched in 2011 and runs outside of Firefox and other browsers and integrates with scholarly research databases.

In summary, Zotero's features include:

  • Ability to extract bibliographic information and citation data from a range of digital sources
  • Annotate (tag) and organize citations; flexible notetaking with autosave for enhanced description
  • Save information about references, author, title, journal, DOI, and other details
  • Create collections; share with others using Groups
  • Store files, images, links, and .pdfs; save screenshots of web pages
  • Export bibliographies into any text editor using a number of style guide formats
  • Use plugins for advanced bibliographies in word processing programs (MS Word; OpenOffice.org)
  • View records in personal collection when offline
  • Cite records in any language
  • Collect citations as you roam the internet
  • Save your content to your "library" in a single click
  • Share research materials with colleagues using online group libraries
  • Zotero 3.0 does not run in your browser pane; Firefox is not required
  • Grabs citations with one click; if not installed, connectors can add items to your library (hosted on Zotero's servers)
  • Users are allocated 100MB free storage with range of options to upgrade: 1GB storage costs $20 per year, and 5GB costs $60

Scholarship 2.0

Thinking of a tool such as Zotero in a networked way makes web 2.0 tool-building not dissimilar from traditional scholarship. True scholarship does not exist on its own and does not exist as disconnected writing. It is a part of a network of thought and all that is active and relevant. In academic endeavours, it is critical to review the existing literature, use citations and put an argument into a context of other ideas and sources (and web 2.0 media). Creating scholarly software that works within the digital ecosystem must be similarly integrative.

One feature of Zotero that enhances its ability to be "social" is the new Zotero Groups. This allows multiple Zotero users to collaborate on one or more collections of citations, add to and change them and the other members of the group are then provided with an updated list the next time Zotero "syncs." And with its new "cloud" storage (online backups of your Zotero collections) and Zotero allows you to access your citation collections from any computer running Firefox.

More about Zotero


Use surges for Zotero in 2010 followed by Mendeley
  • Bibliographic records may be imported from other reference tools (EndNote, etc.) in five common formats, including BibTeX
  • Import records for non-traditional sources such as wikis and websites, and many resources you already use
  • Works well in Google scholar; compatible with medical databases such as MEDLINE, PubMed, and HighWire Press
  • Imports records from several major databases that won't work with RefWorks and EndNote, including Factiva and USPTO.
  • Helps to organize web screenshots and pdfs; make pdfs searchable by choosing to index them in preferences
  • Automatically retrieves pdf metadata, like title and author information.
  • Program lives where you already do most of your research, in the Web browser.
  • Export your bibliography in HTML, and publish a "smart CV."
  • Great for creating bibliographies in OpenOffice.org and MS Word using a custom plugin
  • Synchronizes collections among multiple computers & backs up data.
  • Offers option to create user profiles and groups, so you can share your collection(s).
  • Detects proxy servers automatically, making off-campus access to library databases easier.
  • Operates in more than thirty languages


  • Some citation errors are said to occur during importing without recommended solutions
  • Currently only for use as a Firefox extension; online version is supposedly coming
    • Doesn't work in Internet Explorer or Google Chrome
  • Doesn't handle large collections very well; program may stall when attempting a large sync
  • As with any citation manager, you must check records to ensure accurate importing
  • No way to find duplicate records; must be deleted manually - a time-consuming problem
  • Cannot import items from written references lists; desired citations must be individually retrieved

What Zotero users say

  • Easy to use "user-friendly" and intuitive; introductory videos help users to learn basic tasks quickly
  • Zotero is cost-free and involves no licensing; documentation at Zotero.org can be reused
  • Zotero.org provides community to support software
  • recommended by institutions such as MIT, Stanford, and Yale
  • Best reference management tool at CiteFest 2008
  • Open and extensible means it may be a resource for students; a way to contribute to open-source communities
  • Zotero project developed by scholars with commitment to openness; Zotero makes no claim of ownership or control over users’ work
  • UMich’s School of Information got funding to launch information literacy game, Bibliobouts, built around Zotero
  • Licensed platforms (RefWorks, EndNote) provide users with similar services but license may end once students graduate
  • Committed to data portability and interoperability through open standards; software vendors that employ site-licensing have vested interest in locking users into proprietary formats.
  • Zotero makes it easy to migrate data to and from other tools

Academic library documentation

EndNote lawsuit

In 2008, Thomson Reuters sued the Commonwealth of Virginia and George Mason University, based on the claim that Zotero's developers had, in violation of the EndNote EULA, reverse-engineered EndNote and provided Zotero with the ability to convert EndNote's proprietary .ens styles into Citation Style Language (CSL) styles. George Mason University responded that they would not renew their site license for EndNote and that "anything created by users of Zotero belongs to those users, and that it should be as easy as possible for Zotero users to move to and from the software as they wish, without friction". The journal Nature editorialized that "the virtues of interoperability and easy data-sharing among researchers are worth restating. Imagine if Microsoft Word or Excel files could be opened and saved only in these proprietary formats, for example. It would be impossible for OpenOffice and other such software to read and save these files using open standards—as they can legally do."


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