Zotero: Managing Research Materials in a Better Way

Struggling to manage all your academic papers and still spending hours manually editing the citations and references list? Don’t worry. In this blog, we will introduce a reference management tool called Zotero, which will assist you in reading, citing, referencing, and managing academic papers more efficiently.

1. What is Zotero? 

Zotero is a free, useful tool to help you collect, organize, annotate, cite, and share research. With various functions connecting with web browsers and Microsoft Word, as well as powerful plug-ins, Zotero is easy to use and helps you in managing your reference in a more time-saving, efficient, and structural way.

2. Why do users choose Zotero? 

2.1. Reasons for choosing Zotero

  • Zotero gathers citations for both non-PDF and PDF content. Its “Find Available PDFs” feature works with many databases and websites, and works well with many catalogs. You can also enable the retrieval of PDF metadata, which allows you to create citation records by retrieving metadata contents from the files. 
  • It makes citing and writing reference lists very convenient. 
  • Zotero has built-in PDF reading and annotation tools
  • Zotero is open source. 
  • It provides 300 MB storage for the free version, with additional storage available for purchase 

2.2. Main differences between EndNote and Zotero 

   EndNote Reviews: 170+ User Reviews and Ratings in 2022 | G2
Price Free for current HKU staff and students Free for all 
Operating systems Windows, Mac Windows, Mac, Linux 
Online storage Unlimited Paid service over 300 MB 
PDF importation Automatic Automatic 
PDF annotations in the software Shape Shape
Compatible text processing software Word, Pages, OpenOfficeWord, LaTeX, OpenOffice, Google Doc, LibreOffice
Bibliographies by sections or categories Shape Shape 
Public sharing of references Shape Shape 

See complete comparison tables from the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison: 

3. How does Zotero manage research materials better? 

3.1. Build your Online Library 

You can construct a library with a simple and concise user interface in Zotero. It will store all the paper you want in one place, and you can easily find them. 

3.2. Get All Papers in One Click 

When you browse the papers in Google Scholar or other databases, you may retrieve available full-text papers at once by using the integration services of Zotero. In your Zotero library, after selecting the saved titles you want, launch the Zotero Connector plug-in on your web browser. All the selected titles you want will be stored in Zotero by clicking “Find Available PDFs”. 

3.3. Efficient Reading 

You can use Zotero to read PDFs and make annotations, comments, and screenshots on them. 

3.4. Get More Information about Papers 

With powerful plug-ins, Zotero can also get citation and analytical information of the saved titles in your library, such as citation count, DOI, number of mentioning, contrasting, and supporting papers, and the Scite Report, etc. Let’s take Zotero-Scite Plugin as an example: 

Please first download and install the Zotero-Scite add-on in your Zotero. 

3.4.1. See classification tallies based on Smart Citation data 

Right-click on the top bar (which includes “Title”), and select “Supporting”, “Contrasting”, “Mentioning”. 

The number of supporting, contrasting, and mentioning papers are displayed 

3.4.2. Quickly go to the Scite report page

Right-click on a source, and select “View Scite report.” 

The Scite report will be displayed in a new web browser window: 

For more information regarding Scite, you may read our blog post introducing Scite Dashboard.

You may find more plug-ins for Zotero at the end of this blog or click here: https://www.zotero.org/support/plugins   

3.5. “Feed” Providing the Latest Information 

Feed is a great way to discover new research. With feeds, you can subscribe to updates from a journal, website, publisher, institution, research group, or other source and quickly find new articles or works. If you find an item in a publication’s feed that you want to save and read further, you can add it to your Zotero library with the click of a button.   

To add a new feed to Zotero and keep you updated on a journal or website, please search “[the website you want to add a feed on] RSS” on Google, such as “Nature RSS” or “The Economist RSS”. 

Then copy and paste the RSS link to Zotero, and you will see the most up-to-date papers or news showing up in Zotero. 

4. How does Zotero boost your academic writing? 

4.1. Citing/Referencing  

In Microsoft Word, Zotero also helps you to generate citing and reference lists within one click. 

With Zotero Connector, you can add citations and references in Google Doc. You may refer to the detailed steps here: https://www.zotero.org/support/google_docs 

4.2. Extract Annotations  

You may add some annotations in Zotero papers and want to extract all of them to a file.  

To enable this function, we need a plug-in called Zotfile: http://zotfile.com/ 

After installation of the plug-in, open the PDF file of your saved titles directly from Zotero. Implement underline, comments, and highlight annotations on it. 

Then right-click on the related entry in the Zotero software interface and select “Add Note from Annotations” from the pop-up dialogue box. You would then be able to access all your annotations. 

4.3. Collaborate Freely when Co-writing 

Adding a group library enables you to collaborate remotely with project members, set up web-based bibliographies for classes you teach, and you can: 

  • Share your work or sources you have discovered with others who are working in related subject areas. 
  • Collaborate with colleagues, publicly or privately, on ongoing research. 
  • Discover other scholars and researchers with similar interests and the sources they are citing. 

5. Plug-in List 

To learn more, check the Zotero official website:  https://www.zotero.org/support/