Skip to Main Content

Citation Management for Academic Research: Zotero

This guide juxtaposes the affordances and constraints of popular citation management systems Mendeley, EndNote, RefWorks, and Zotero.


Primary User Base

Zotero is a free resource that can be accessed by anyone with a computer and a desire for a good reference manager. While it is hard to track how many users Zotero has and exactly who uses Zotero, it is definitely a popular resource, boasting hundreds of thousands of user account registrations.

Upload and Annotate

To quickly upload documents into Zotero, users can add the Zotero Connector “Save to Zotero” button to their web browser. With the “Save to Zotero” button, Zotero will extract bibliographic information from the desired page and send it to the user’s Zotero library. In addition, citation files saved as BibTeX, RIS, and Zotero RDF can be uploaded straight into Zotero. Along with saving the metadata to items like books, articles, films, webpages, artwork, etc., Zotero allows users to add notes, files, and links to these items. These notes and links include, among other things, PDFs, snapshots of/links to webpages, and tags to make categorizing and finding articles easier. 

Word Processor Integration

Zotero offers a word processing plug-in for Microsoft Word, LibreOffice and Google Docs that allows for easy citing while writing. As the user inserts in-text citations, the Zotero plug-in will simultaneously create the needed bibliography at the end of the document. With the Zotero plugin users can easily reformat their entire document into a different citation style.

Installation Required

For full functionality, users should download Zotero 5.0. This download is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. Zotero is primarily a program that runs on a personal computer, but when using other computers, users can go to to access their Zotero library and upload metadata for their research. Their research will then sync with Zotero 5.0 installed on their personal computer. Along with Zotero’s word processing plugins, mentioned previously, there are many other Zotero plugins that can be added to increase functionality, software compatibility, and productivity based on user preferences. A few examples include Zotfile, which can extract highlighted and annotated portions of a PDF and save it in Zotero, and Zotero Storage Scanner, which can scan your Zotero storage for duplicates or missing attachments. 

Collaboration Features

With Zotero, users are able to co-write a paper with a colleague, distribute course materials to students, and build collaborative bibliographies. Users can also share their Zotero library with an unlimited number of colleagues at no cost.

Price to Students

Zotero’s basic software which includes 300 MB of storage is free, but students can pay for extra storage. 2 GB of storage costs $20/year, 6 GB costs $60/year, and unlimited storage costs $120/year.

Access After Graduation?

Because Zotero is available to the public and free for all users, students will be able to access it after graduation.