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Practical instructions for installing and using Zotero citation manager.

How Zotero can streamline your research process

Your Zotero desktop library contains everything you need to read and annotate PDFs. You can:

  • extract highlighted text to your library as quotes, complete with page numbers
  • extract marginal notes from a document to a Zotero notes field
  • create multiple new notes associated with specific items in your library
  • extract your notes to a word processor

Extracting quotes and annotations

When Full-text PDFs are added to your Zotero library, they will be "nested" under the main item entry in your library. You can tell an item has nested content by the small > arrow that appears beside the item. Click the item to find the PDF. (The Zotero Connector will automatically grab full-text PDFs during citation extraction whenever they're available. See Collecting material for more information.)


When you double-click a PDF in your Zotero library, it automatically opens in the library in a new tab. You can have multiple PDFs open and switch back and forth between the PDFs and your standard library view.


Within the PDF viewer, you can highlight text...

... and add "sticky note" comments:


Now, here's the really cool part!

You can extract all those highlights and notes you just created into a separate file in Zotero:

  1. Once you've read through the article and finished annotating, return to your main library view (no need to save; it happens automatically)
  2. Right-click on the PDF and choose "Add Note from Annotations"
  3. Zotero will generate a new Note for your annotations (these appear in the right-hand column, in the same place as the Item Info). Highlighted text will be automatically formatted as a quote, including citation with page number. The generated note is fully editable and customizable.

Creating a summary note

You can create notes associated with any item in your Zotero library. To do so:

  1. Click on the main library entry for the item you want to create a note for (not a nested item like a PDF)
  2. In the right-hand Info pane, select the "Notes" tab 
  3. Click "Add"

You can add as many notes as you want to the same item. Notes you've created will appear "nested " under the relevant item.

Extracting notes to Word

You may want to extract your notes from Zotero to a word processing program. You can do this using the same Word/LibreOffice/Google plug-in you use to create citations and bibliographies (more on setting that up here).

These instructions are for Word. The process for the other programs is very similar, but contact us if you get stuck.

  1. Open a blank document.
  2. Under your Zotero menu, choose "Add Note".

  3. A yellow pop-up box will appear. Start typing any word in the title or body of your note to find the one you want.

  4. Press enter and the full text of the note will appear in your document.

Pro tip: If you think you will be extracting notes from Zotero, consider giving your notes a descriptive name, or at least including the title of the associated article/item within the body of the note. If you call all your notes "My notes", it can get quite confusing to track a specific one down!