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Guides thématiques

Zotero : manage your references and your bibliography


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Finding your way around

  finding your way around

You’re going to be collecting bibliographic references for several months or even years. This can add up to a staggering number of items in Zotero!

Fortunately, you can structure and classify your Zotero library, keeping the bibliographic reference, the screenshot of the webpage where you found it, your notes, and the full text PDF file all together.

In general, you should always reread all the collected data. Here are some tips to help you.

creating collections

creating collections

You can organise your library by creating collections and subcollections (with as many levels as you like).


The icon for collections is a folder, but a Zotero collection is more like a view than a folder: 

  • an item may appear in several collections, but only one copy of it exists;
  • dragging a document from collection X into collection Y adds it to collection Y but does not remove it from collection X;
  • deleting a collection does not delete the items in the collection;
  • removing an item from a collection does not delete it from the library.

There are several ways to add an item to collection:

  • select the desired collection when you save the item in Zotero;
  • drag the item into the collection;
  • drag + Shift the item into the collection to remove the item from one collection and assign it to another.

It's easy to...

  • create a temporary collection, for a project for example;
  • export the collection (in RIS, CSV, etc. format) by right-clicking, and generate a bibliography;
  • browse collections using the classic Add Citation dialog of the word processor plug-in.


  • the collections appear in a very small window;
  • you have to select an item and press Ctrl (or Alt on Mac) to highlight the collections it’s assigned to;
  • collections are not recursive, which means that items added to a subcollection do not automatically appear in the parent collection(s). You can change this setting as follows: type about:config in the Firefox address bar > search for extensions.zotero.recursiveCollections > enter the value true.


using tags

Tags (often called "keywords" in other contexts) make it easier to search the library and can also help you organise your work.

You can retrieve them at the same time as the item (author keywords, library catalogue indexing, etc.) and/or add them to an item yourself.

A tag does not exist independently:

  • to create a tag you must add it to one of the items it applies to;
  • when the last item with a given tag is deleted, the tag is also deleted;
  • in the Tags tab of an item, you can create several tags simultaneously by separating them with Shift +Enter or by copying a multi-line file (this way you can import a whole thesaurus).


You can edit your tags:

  • from the tags menu, by right-clicking on a tag to delete or rename it. The tag is automatically updated in all the items it is assigned to;
  • to apply a tag to a set of items, drag the items to the tag.


You can differentiate the nine tags you use the most by assigning them a colour and a keyboard shortcut (right-click on the tag).



  • the tag assigned shortcut 1 will always appear first in the tag selector.
  • a small coloured square will identify the corresponding items
  • just type 1 to add or remove the tag from an item or items.

The advantages of tags: 

  • you can create many tags with no risk of duplication, thanks to auto-completion;
  • you can immediately view and modify the tags assigned to an item using the Tags tab;
  • selecting one or more tags filters the list of items to display only those the tag is assigned to.


  • tags do not appear in the classic Add Citation dialog of the word processor plug-in;
  • automatically retrieved tags can sometimes be a nuisance: you can disable automatic tags in Preferences > General.

Managing attachments

managing your attachments

Zotero lets you store not only your bibliographic references, but also your notes and attached files.
Please note: You can only store files in PDF format directly in Zotero. It’s not possible to store images or videos, but you can add links to them.

  • Automatically retrieve PDFs

In Preferences > General > File management: this option allows you to retrieve the attached file at the same time as the item (reference of an article + PDF of the full text, for example).

It only works for full-text academic platforms such as Cairn, Jstor, and Political Science Complete.

You can disable this feature (which requires an Internet connection) at any time.

  • Automatically rename PDFs

When a PDF is attached to an existing Zotero item or metadata is retrieved from a PDF, Zotero automatically renames that PDF file based on the metadata of its parent item.

You can disable automatic renaming in Preferences > General.

  • Personalising your PDF reader

If Zotero opens PDF files with your system’s default viewer, you can set another PDF viewer for Zotero’s files.

This can be useful if you are happy with your default system for most PDFs, but prefer to use another application for annotations.

Go to Preferences > General.

  • Adding a file later

  The paperclip button (or right-click on an item) can be used to link a file to an item in two ways:

Attach Link to File... a link is added to the file stored somewhere on the computer;

Attach Stored Copy of File... the selected file is copied to a sub-folder of the zotero\storage folder: the files are copied to Zotero’s system folders.

  • Accessing Sciences Po's PDFs: link resolver

To consult and cite Sciences Po’s digital resources remotely, set up the library’s link resolver.

To do so, go to Preferences > Advanced > General > OpenURL, Search for resolvers, and select the one for the library.

  • Using notes

You can attach notes to any item in Zotero.

There is a small text editor integrated into the software, which lets you take reading or other notes and format them at the same time.

Click the Notes tab, then Add. A window appears: type your note. It will be saved automatically.

All the notes related to an item can be found in the tree view.

You can also quickly print your notes: right-click > Generate Report from Selected Item(s).

Annotate your PDFs in Zotero

annotate et highlight your pdf in zotero

With Zotero 6, you can highlight and annotate your PDFs directly in Zotero, without using another PDF reader.

From your library, open a PDF associated with a reference.

A tool for highlighting and annotating the text is then provided, directly in the Zotero interface.

You can then extract these annotations and turn them into reading notes.



Note : You may add previously annotated PDFs from outside Zotero, and extract the notes in the same way.

Managing and correcting

Viewing and sorting

viewing and sorting

The central pane of your library presents the items in columns (Titles, Creator, Date).

You can sort items using each of these columns.

By clicking on this icon it is also possible to display new columns for presenting items (type, publication, publisher, language, date, etc.).


cleaning up your data

Cleaning up your data

When data is retrieved automatically, you may need to switch the order of the author's first and last name.

To display this option, simply right-click (or ctrl + left-click) on the name field. You can do this with all Author-type fields (including Editor, Translator, Composer, etc.).

If the author is an organisation, you can merge the first and last name fields (Switch to single field) so that you are not left with empty fields when you generate your bibliography.

You can change the case in a data field.

The option, accessible by right-clicking (or ctrl + left-click), offers two possibilities:

  • Title Case
  • Sentence case

 “La Boîte à outils des historiens” has explained how to use HTML tags to apply typographical changes to a few words within a field.

These are the tags you can use:

<i> and </i> for italics

<b> and </b> for bold

<sub> and </sub> for subscript

<sup> and </sup> for superscript

<span style=“font-variant:small-caps;”> and </span> for small caps

Zotero does not manage duplicates as you go and will let you save the same item 100 times. But you can search for duplicates afterwards. Zotero uses the title, DOI, and ISBN to determine duplicates.

If the items to be merged differ from each other, Zotero will ask you to select a “master” version to keep and you can transfer information from the other version(s) to the master.

Attachments and notes are not deleted when merging; they are all transferred to the master version.

The retained item will appear in all collections or subcollections in which the duplicate was originally present.

Saved searches

saving your searches

  Using the quick search bar, you can search for a word in the items and/or the full text of your library at any time.

  Advanced search lets you do more complicated searches within your library.

Please note: Zotero’s search engine does take accents into account...

  Saved searches are equivalent to classification inputs that update automatically.

The advanced search form lets you create complex searches with the option to combine all fields, including the Tag and Collection fields.

Before creating a collection or a tag, check whether you can arrive at the same result with a saved search.

need help?

Contact us!

Anna Couthures-Idrizi, Sophie Forcadell, Marie Mittelette & Noémie Prevel


or come to the research library (no appointment necessary)

Thursday from 12 pm to 4:30 pm // Wenesday, 12 pm to 13:30 pm, 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm

Dernière mise à jour: Jan 3, 2024 1:52 PM