Zotero is, at the most basic level, a reference manager. It is designed to store, manage, and cite bibliographic references, such as books and articles. In Zotero, each of these references constitutes an item. More broadly, Zotero is a powerful tool for collecting and organizing research information and sources.

IPBES has adopted Zotero so all experts must use Zotero:

  • To manage references

  • To add in-text citations as they write in word processors e.g. MS Word and Google Docs

Getting started

Install Zotero

To use Zotero and its functions and make importing items easy, you need to install:

  1. The Zotero desktop app

  2. The Zotero Connector for Chrome or Firefox – note that some experts have reported issues with Zotero on Safari.

Zotero should operate the same whether you are using Windows or macOS, although there may be slight differences in how the desktop app appears and how certain functions are accessed. Thus, the Zotero screenshots below may look slightly different from how the Zotero desktop app appears on a user’s screen. One difference is how to access the Zotero Preferences window to change or customize settings in the Zotero desktop app:

Windows, upper left corner: Click Edit > Preferences > Sync tab

macOS, upper left corner: Click Zotero > Preferences > Sync tab


Launch Zotero


Zotero can be opened from your operating system's dock or file manager like any other program

Register with Zotero

  1. Click “Log in” in the upper right corner and then “Register for a free account” (in blue font above the login fields)

  2. You can update your email address and personal information once you are logged in.

Join a group in Zotero

During the development of an assessment, private groups will be created at the assessment or chapter level depending on the needs of the assessment. Private groups means that only experts who are invited to the group will be able to see the group’s page. The private groups are completely hidden from group searches. They are not shown on members’ public profile pages and will not appear in search engine results. File sharing will be made available to allow group members to access and share files in addition to references. Invitations to the groups are managed by the assessment technical support unit.

Important terms

Relevant Zotero documentation: https://www.zotero.org/support/collections_and_tags


Zotero refers to a reference as an item; for example, when you add a reference to a Zotero library, you are an adding an item to that library.


Collection: A group or subgroup within a library that allows for hierarchical organization; a collection is like a folder on a computer and is represented by a folder icon. The same item can belong to multiple collections. An item can be imported directly into a collection or imported to the library and then added to a collection. Note that collections are not portable when copying items between different libraries. Collections are used to organize items belonging to a Zotero library.

Due to how Zotero permissions work, everyone has access to all the chapter collections. Please only work within your own chapter collection (and subcollections if applicable) and do not add or delete items from other chapters’ collections or subcollections


A tag is like hashtag or keyword and is used for more detailed characterization of an item than simply placing an item in a collection or subcollection. The number of tags that can be assigned to an item is unlimited. A library or collection can be filtered by a tag or a set of tags to show the items that have been assigned the selected tag(s). Note that tags are portable; if you copy an item from one library to another the item’s tag(s) will transfer along with the item.

Left pane

  • Libraries, collections, subcollections, duplicates

  • Tags are displayed in the lower left corner

Center pane

Items are displayed in the center panel:

  • Standard columns for the center panel are Title, Creator (i.e., the author of the reference), and attachment (paper clip icon)

  • To sort the center panel view: Click on the column heading to sort by that heading; for example, if you click on the “Title” column header, items will be arranged alphabetically by title; clicking the “Title” header again will sort the items in reverse alphabetical order

  • You can add additional columns to the center panel view by right clicking one of the column headers and selecting additional headers from the popup list; for example, you may wish to have a column for “Year” which displays the year the refence was published

Right pane

Information for a given item is displayed in the right panel when you click on an item in the center panel.

Important configurations

Config 1: Sign in to Zotero Client

Make sure you are sign in with the same email address that has been invited to an assessments library.

Config 2: Sync libraries

You need to be signed in on the Zotero client

Consider syncing only the libraries you use. This will minimize bandwidth requirements and improve the fludity of your work.

  • Go to preferences

    • Windows, upper left corner: Click Edit > Preferences > Sync tab

    • macOS, upper left corner: Click Zotero > Preferences > Sync tab

  • Click on Sync

  • Click on choose libraries

  • In addition to setting your library sync preferences, you should also configure preferences for file syncing. It is recommended to set the downloads to "as needed" as shown in the image below.

Config 3: Disable automatic tagging

  1. Open Zotero preferences and click on the General tab (gear icon):

Windows, upper left corner: Click Edit > Preferences > Sync tab

macOS, upper left corner: Click Zotero > Preferences > Sync tab

  1. Under Miscellaneous, uncheck the box for “Automatically tag items with keywords and subject headings” (Figure 4)

Config 4: Configure style language

  • In the Zotero Style Manager, click on the American Psychological Association 7th edition. If it is not in the list of styles, click the 'Get additional styles' button, then find the “American Psychological Association 7th edition” style and click ok.

Adding bibliography to library

Option 2: Add item using the Zotero connector

The Zotero Connector is a very useful tool for adding items to Zotero as it allows you to import items directly into Zotero with one click while browsing the web.

Zotero recommends adding items via a web browser rather than adding them manually. When adding an item from the web, Zotero automatically extracts the item’s metadata and downloads the PDF if available. This reduces errors in the item information.

  1. Make sure you installed the Zotero Connector

  2. Make sure the Zotero desktop app is open

  3. Complete your browser search for an item (i.e. reference)

  4. When you find an item you want to add to your chapter collection, click on the link for the item to go to the item’s webpage – for example, if you search for a journal article, click on the link that takes you to the journal’s page for the article

  5. Click the Zotero save button in the upper right corner of the browser screen, to the right of the address bar

The Zotero save button resemble different icon forms depending on the type of item the current webpage is displaying – for example, the save icon for a journal article is a lined sheet of paper and the save icon for a book is a blue book

A webpage can be saved even if Zotero does not recognize the information on it – the save icon will be a gray webpage

  1. After you click the save button, a popup window will appear showing which Zotero collection the item is being saved to

  • Make sure you are saving to your chapter collection or a subcollection for your chapter within the Nexus Assessment library

  • If you want to save the item to a different collection or subcollection than the current selection, you can change the selection in the popup window (Figure 13)

Option 3: Add item manually


Citing in MS word

Once you have the document open the Word desktop app, do the following to add a citation:

  1. Open Zotero desktop app if it is not open already

  2. In the Word document, place the cursor where you want to add the citation

  3. Click on the Zotero tab in the ribbon at the top of the document

  4. Click the “Add/Edit Citation” button in the Zotero ribbon

  5. The first time you click the “Add/Edit Citation” button, the Zotero – Document Preferences window will pop-up; select the following options:

  • American Psychological Association (APA) 7th edition

  • Language: English (UK)

  • For Store Citations As, select Fields

  • You can select Automatically update citations; if you find that this slows down the citation process, you can deselect this option and click “Refresh” in the Zotero ribbon to manually update the citations

  • Click “OK”

  1. You can also set the citation style and language in the Preferences window

  • To set the citation style, open the Preferences window > Cite tab > Styles tab > select American Psychological Association (APA) 7th edition

  • To set the language, open the Preferences window > Advance tab > select English (UK) in the Language field

Zotero uses Citation Style Language (CSL) to properly format citations in many different bibliographic styles. IPBES has adopted the American Psychological Association 7th edition style. To use this style:

Managing Zotero library items


For more information about tags, please see here: https://www.zotero.org/support/collections_and_tags

Tags for the library or collection currently displayed in the Zotero center pane are shown in the tag selector box in the lower left corner of the page (see Figure 3).

You can search the library’s tags by typing in the field at the bottom of the tag selector box. To return to seeing all tags in the library or collection, click the “X” to the right of the search field.

Adding tags

Note that some items may have tags automatically added upon import into Zotero. After you add an item to your chapter collection or subcollection, you can add tags to an item.

  1. Click on the item in the center panel– a panel to the right will display the bibliographic information under the “Info” tab

  2. Click the “Tags” tab in the right-hand panel – any tags currently applied to the item will be displayed

  3. Click the “Add” button

  4. Start typing the tag name in the field that appears – as you type, a list of matching existing tags will be displayed

  5. Continue typing your own tag – press the Enter/Return key to apply the tag or select an existing tag from the list and press the Enter/Return key

Removing tags

  1. Click on the item in the center panel– a panel to the right will display the bibliographic information under the “Info” tab

  2. Click the “Tags” tab in the right-hand panel – any tags currently applied to the item will be displayed

  3. Click the minus sign button (“-“) next to the tag you want to remove

Filtering by tags

To filter items in the current display by tag, click on the tag or tags you would like to filter by. The center pane will then display the times that the selected tag(s) apply to; in the tag selector box, tags not selected will be greyed out. Click on a tag again to deselect and remove the filter. To deselect all tags, click on the arrow next to the multi-colored squares at the bottom right of the tag selector box and then click “Deselect All” from the menu that appears.

Tag multiple entries

You will need the Zotero Tag plug in for this (https://github.com/windingwind/zotero-tag)

  • Download the latest release (.xpi file) from the Releases Page Note If you're using Firefox as your browser, right click the xpi and select "Save As.."

  • In Zotero click "Tools" in the top menu bar and then click "Add-ons"

  • Go to the Extensions page and then click the gear icon in the top right.

  • Select Install Add-on from file.

  • Browse to where you downloaded the .xpi file and select it.

  • Restart Zotero, by clicking "restart now" in the extensions list where the plugin is now listed.

Once you have the plugin installed simply, right click any item in your collections to add/remove tags in batches

Managing duplicates

For more information about duplicate items, please see here: https://www.zotero.org/support/duplicate_detection

Given the number of nexus assessment authors, it is inevitable that the same item will be added to the same collection more than once or to multiple collections (i.e., multiple Zotero chapter folders). Thus, there will be duplicate items in the group library and possibly in a given collection or subcollection.

Detect duplicates

Click on the “Duplicate Items” collection in the left-hand panel under the Nexus Assessment library. The items Zotero thinks are duplicates will be displayed in the center panel. You may find it helpful to then sort the items by title. Note that Zotero finds duplicates within a library, not a collection.

If you decide to detect duplicates, always MERGE duplicates (see below) rather than deleting them. Merging retains all of the collections and tags associated with an item. Please do not delete a duplicate – this removes the item and its information and you may end up removing an item or an item’s information from a chapter other than your own.

Merge duplicates

To merge items in the “Duplicate Items” collection:

  1. Select an item in the center pane

  2. Zotero automatically co-selects the other items that it thinks are duplicates – all of the duplicates for the selected item will be highlighted in light blue

  3. In the right pane, click the “Merge Items” button

  4. If the information fields for the item do not match completely across the duplicates, you can:

  • Select one item to be the master item from the list at the top of the right pane

  • Select the version of mismatched fields to include using the icons to the right of each field

Moving Documents with Zotero Citations Between Word Processors

It is important to retain citation links in the final versions of documents.

Authors have different preferences for their choice in word processors. Many experts prefer to use Google Docs because it facilitates online collaboration and it is easy to use. The drafts and and final documents are however, reviewed in MS Word so it is important to convert documents between different processors carefully to retain citation links.

If you use the Zotero word processor plugin to add citations to your document and then open the document in another word processor, the Zotero citation links will be lost. To retain active Zotero citations when moving between programs, you can use the plugin to convert the document to a temporary format that can be safely transferred and then restore it in another supported word processor.

Word to Google Docs

  1. In Word, use File → Save As… to create a copy of the document as a .docx with a new filename (e.g., “My Document - Transfer.docx”).

  2. Click Document Preferences in the Zotero plugin and select “Switch to a Different Word Processor…”.

  3. After the document has been converted, save the changes (File → Save).

  4. Use File → Open… from within a Google Doc to upload the file.

  5. Select Refresh from the Zotero menu in the opened Google Doc to continue using the document.

Google Docs to Word

  1. In the Google Doc, use File → Make a Copy… to create a copy of the document.

  2. In the new document, select “Switch word processors…” from the Zotero menu.

  3. Select File → Download as → Microsoft Word (.docx) and save the converted file.

  4. Open the downloaded file in Word and click Refresh in the Zotero plugin to continue using the document.

For more information please refer to https://www.zotero.org/support/kb/moving_documents_between_word_processors

Generating a bibliography list

To create a reference list based on the citations added to the document:

  1. Place the cursor where you want to add the reference list

  2. Click on the Zotero tab in the ribbon at the top of the document

  3. Click the “Add/Edit Bibliography” button in the Zotero ribbon

  4. The reference list is automatically added to the document


Some common issues when initially using Zotero:

Cannot view group library in Zotero Desktop Client

Make sure you are logged in with the same email address that received the invitation to join a group.

There is no Zotero tab in the Microsoft Word ribbon

  • There is no Zotero tab in the Microsoft Word ribbon

  • The Zotero Desktop Client is not open

Word could not communicate with Zotero

  • The Zotero desktop app is not open – open the desktop app

  • There is a slight lag in the communication between Word and Zotero – try again

Citations are being overwritten

There is a Zotero open citation dialog box – try minimizing any open windows or applications to see if there is an open dialog box; if so, close the box

Additional information and guidance

List of Zotero documentation: https://www.zotero.org/support/

Help and troubleshooting: https://www.zotero.org/support/getting_help

Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.zotero.org/support/frequently_asked_questions

Knowledge base: https://www.zotero.org/support/kb

Zotero Forums: https://forums.zotero.org/

The Zotero Forums are searchable and can be very helpful if you have a unique or strange issue that cannot be resolved by the more common troubleshooting options.


Please contact the assessment technical support unit if you have questions regarding getting files into the assessment/chapter library, organizing the assessment/chapter Library and taking notes, generating bibliographies,citations, and reports.

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