Getting Data into Zotero – OHIO University Libraries

Zotero is your own personal database. In order to be useful, it has to have data. There are several ways of getting data into Zotero.

Importing from Other Tools

We anticipate that many of our users will be importing their citations from RefWorks, which we will no longer support after June 30, 2013.

Start by exporting your citations from RefWorks (or some other system). We recommend that you do this one folder at a time, and import into Zotero one folder at a time.When exporting from Refworks,

  1. use the BibTeX Export Format in RefWorks;
  2. save the exported file as plain text. Do not save it in Word or RTF format;
  3. import the .txt file from under either the File menu in standalone Zotero, and the Actions menu (looks like a small gear) in the Firefox Add-on.

See this page in the Zotero documentation for more details.

Firefox Extension/Browser Connectors and Standalone Apps

The main way to add new items to Zotero is to either…

  • use Firefox with the Zotero extension installed and active, or
  • install the Zotero browser connector for Firefox, Safari, or Chrome.

As long as you’re doing one of these things, your browser will let you know when you are on a site that has recognizable citation information. Any of several icons will appear in your browser’s URL area when it item is ready to be added to Zotero. For example: zotero-url-bar-book-icon (the little icon on the left represents a book) or zotero-url-bar-folder-icon (the folder represents a group of items in a set of search results; click on the folder to select which items to add). The icons in your browser’s Address bar will vary depending on the type of source you’re viewing. This process should work with:

  • Library catalogs (ALICE, OhioLINK, WorldCat, etc.)
  • Research databases (ArticlesPlus, EBSCOhost, JSTOR, ProQuest, etc.)
  • Newspaper and magazine websites
  • Amazon
  • YouTube
  • Blogs

Items will be stored in whatever folder you currently have open in Zotero; note that there is also a folder for Unfiled Items.

The Magic Wand

zotero-toolbarUse the magic wand tool to input articles. It is the third item from the left on the Zotero toolbar. To use it you need to have one of these numbers:

  • ISBN (International Standard Book Number, an international system for identifying books by number. It was developed around 1970, and so is not available for older books.
  • DOI (Digital Object Identifiers, used to identify various electronic sources, especially journal articles and primarily in the sciences and social sciences)
  • PMID (PubMed Identifier, used for all records in the PubMed database).

Just click on the icon and enter one of those numbers. Zotero will look up the information for the item and create a new record instantly.

Enter Data Manually

If neither of the two methods above work, you can create a record from scratch. Click on the little green-and-white plus sign icon (second from left) and you’ll see a long list of types of information sources (books, book sections, journal articles, etc.). Choose the one appropriate to your source and you’ll see a fill-in-the-blank area in the right pane of the app or Firefox extension. Fill in as much information as you can; the quality of your citation depends entirely on what you put into it.

Drag and Drop

You can also drag PDF files directly into Zotero and ask it to search it for the metadata (citation information). To do this, right-click on the item’s PDF icon in Zotero and choose the option “Retrieve Metadata for PDF.”  While often helpful, please note that creating a record this way may need more cleaning up than data you grab from a website or library database because it pulls from Google Scholar. For more information on this, see Zotero’s documentation page.


The Zotero Bookmarklet is a bookmark you add to your browser to save the page you are reading to your Zotero library. Bookmarklets for both desktop and mobile browsers are available for download from the Zotero Bookmarklet page. The process for installing and using the Zotero bookmarklet varies depending on the browser you are using.

Adding Attachments

Zotero can also store files associated with citations, i.e., you should save the full text PDF of articles you find along with the citation.

  • If you use library databases on campus, the PDF file will be automatically attached if it is available in the database.
  • Otherwise, download the file and attach it to the citation using the paper clip icon in the toolbar.
  • Your Zotero account comes with 300MB of storage. If you need more than that, you can set up your own storage or pay them to store more.


Need more help with this? See