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Zoekadvies Engelse taal en letterkunde: Reference Management

Tools for reference management

There are dozens of dedicated reference management tools. The best known and most widely used are:

  • Mendeley, a free tool primarily built around a full text workflow, with good synchronisation between the desktop application and web interface, with a built-in PDF-reader and strong social functions.
  • Zotero, a free, independent and open source tool, with very good ability to recognise and capture bibliographical data on webpages.
  • RefWorks, a complete tool, licensed by Utrecht University, supported by many search engines and databases with fast and reliable direct export options, but, being a pure web service, sometimes a bit slower and without a good full text workflow.
  • EndNote, also very complete and professional, licensed by the Utrecht University, very suitable for processing large numbers of references and with good sharing options.


Zotero is a free user-friendly programme that helps you with collecting, organising, citing and sharing references to -and often including the full text of- sources (articles, books, data etc.).

In Zotero you basically start without an account and you save your references locally on your own desktop computer/laptop. When you want to synchronise and share your material with others you need to create an online account.

Because your Zotero library is on your computer, make sure you always make a good back-up!

Zotero is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.


Recently a new version of Zotero was released, Zotero 6, read more about it in the Zotero blog

Source: Boston College Libraries,

Zotero Support:

Install Zotero:

  • Go to Zotero and create an account. You need an account if you want to share the publications you found and if you want to use Zotero on several devices.
  • Install: 
    • UU-staff: Follow the explanation on UU intranet (under Reference Management).
    • UMCU-staff: Zotero cannot be installed on UMCU devices.
    • UU-students: Follow the steps below for installing on your own computer
    • Installing on your own Windows computer? Go to Zotero download, download and install Zotero for Windows on your computer (latest version is 6.0). NB Zotero does not easily work with Chromebooks, you need to install Linux first).
    • Install the Zotero Connector: Go to Zotero download, download and install Zotero Connector for your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari).
    • Installing on your own MacBook: Download via the Zotero download page, choose MacOS. In version 6.0 the Zotero Connector for Safari is already bundled with the Zotero 6 desktop app (the connector requires Safari 15 on macOS 11 Big Sur or later). See:
    • Open the .dmg and drag Zotero to the Applications folder. After installing Zotero you can eject and delete the .dmg file.
      Activate the Zotero Connector in Safari via Preferences > Extentions. Check the box left of the Zotero extension. 

  • Start Zotero on your computer, go to edit>preferences and modify the following settings:
    • Go to sync, and connect there to your Zotero account (step 1).
    • Go to Advanced>Files and Folders and there select a folder on your computer where you want to save PDFs of articles
  • Activate the library lookup functionality (=UBUlink) by starting Zotero-stand-alone and then under: Edit > Preferences > Advanced >openurl enter the following URL: "" (with the question mark but without the inverted commas).

It's possible to only have an online account and you can add to the library online, but the online library is significantly more limited in its capabilities. For example Word processor integration, several search functions including advanced search, saving items into collections using the browser connector, any add-ons you may want to use, etc. aren't available online only.

Get going:

Create one or more folders (collections) in Zotero. Click on File > new collection >

Tips & tricks

  • When downloading the Zotero extension on Chrome ( Zotero Connector) it may happen that the Connector logo disappears under the Chrome extension logo ( the jigsaw piece in the top right hand corner of your screen). By 'pinning' you can move the Connector to the task bar.
  • Zotero saves all your data locally, on your computer. If you want to use Zotero on several devices, have a look at the options for synchronising
  • Saved files such as PDFs, are automatically saved in the Zotero data directory. Next Zotero will automatically manage the data, including deleting them if you delete the matching item in your Zotero library. You will find your data directory by clicking on the “Show Data Directory” button in the Advanced tab of your Zotero Preferences window (all under the Edit button).
  • If you do not want the tags (keywords) of the original publications to be included when exporting references, go to general and deselect the option automatically tag items.

For more information and support:

See also:

In order to import references you must have opened Zotero!

Option 1: from the source itself

If you find an article online, you save the title data and (frequently) the full text with the help of the browser extension. Do so preferably from the article itself, in that way you include the largest part of the infomation.

Zotero icon connector


Option 2: from a database of search engine

If you search for literature in a search engine (Google Scholar, Scopus etc.), you can also save the references in Zotero by means of the browser extension. Select the publications you want to import in Zotero. Please note!: Only if there is a direct link to a PDF in the source, will it be automatically imported in Zotero. In the picture below that is only the case for the first two titles. Please be aware that you do not always get all title data from Google Scholar. That is why you always need to check them in your Zotero item.

Zotero in Scholar


Option 3: Semi-manually

Zotero has a way to add a reference, only by an ID. Use the magic wand and enter one of the IDs indicated:

Zotero uses the ID to find the data and add the reference. Check if the information is correct and complete.


Option 4: manually

If exporting from a database is not possible, you can also add sources manually.
Go to Zotero and click on the New item logo in the folder where you want to add the title  Choose the right type (book, article etc) and enter all relevant data.


Tips & tricks

  • The icon of the browser extension/Zotero Connector in the task bar changes along with the kind of item type ( for instance an article or a list of results)
  • When you have a large number of results to export to Zotero, use a RIS file. Select all the sources of your choice in your database, choose 'Export' and next the option 'RIS file'. Go to Zotero and choose 'Import...' under the 'File' button. Browse to your RIS file, select the file and double-click or open the file.
  • Is a PDF not immediately imported the first time around, but you find one later on? Save the PDF on your computer and add it to your item by using the paperclip icon (Attach stored copy of file)
  • Do you already have a PDF, but no metadata yet? Use the "Retrieve pdf metadata" option of Zotero. It does not always work, so check your metadata and complete them where necessary.

For more information and support see: 

In Zotero you can organise your sources in several ways and add information them:

  • Collections
    • Right-click on My Library or choose File>New Collection (top left) to create a collection.
    • Drag titles to this folder
  • Tags
    • Click on a title in your collection
    • In the right screen you can add tags 
  • Notes
    • Click on a title in your collection
    • In the right screen you can add notes
  • Abstract
    • Click on a title in your collection
    • In the right screen you can add abstracts under info
    • Often there is already an abstract, it was imported automatically the moment you added the title to Zotero (this depends on the available metadata in the location where you found the article).

Tips & tricks

  • You can order your titles in several ways: for instance by title, author or the date on which the publication was added. Click on the column title to change the order. Clicking several times changes the sorting order (from A/Z to Z/A for instance. You can add columns (such as Date added, Notes etc) by clicking on the sorting icon (). See also Zotero itself.

For more information and support see:

  • Select the option 'Duplicate items' in the list under My Library.
  • Select the title you want to deduplicate
  • Zotero puts the item containing the most information at the top as Master item (the item that remains). Do you want to keep another version? Select it from the list.
  • Next select Merge items.


For more information and support see:

1. The bibliography

You can make a reading list (bibliography) of a complete folder/collection or of a few specific titles from a collection.

- Click in the left screen on the collection/folder of your choice and choose "Create Bibliography from Collection" under the right mouse button(or Ctrl-click in case of a Mac), or select a few specific titles and choose "Create Bibliography from items"
- Choose a citation style
- Click on OK and tick the  Bibliography box. Now you can choose from:

  • save as RTF (rich text file)
  • save as HTML (for use in a web browser)
  • copy to Clipboard (after which you can paste the list in any word file)
  • print (directly to a printer)

If you choose RTF or HTML, your bibliography is saved on your computer (in your Downloads folder).

For more information see
If you want to know more about the citiation styles Zotero has to offer, go to


2. Citing in Word

You can also include your Zotero library in Word. While writing you could add in-text citations to your text,after which the bibliography at the end of your text is automatically updated. Modifications and improvements to items in your Zotero library will be carried out in your documents by a simple procedure.

To do this you need to install the Zotero Word Plug-in (NB close Word when you are downloading, to avoid problems).

For more information and support see:


3. Citing in Google Docs

Google Docs support is part of the Zotero Connector for Chrome and Firefox.
You need to have Zotero opened to be able to use it in Google Docs.

A Zotero Connector for Safari supporting working with Google Docs is not available yet (available 'in the near future').

For more information and support see:


Tips & tricks

  • ICT problems with these plug-ins? Please contact IT Service desk
  • In Zotero you also have the option to make simple (html) overviews of the item metadata, notes and attachments of selected items. You can print them, put them on the web or send them by email. See Reports

Creating groups in Zotero is a good way to share collections and to collaborate within a project or course.

In Zotero you basically start without an account and you save your references locally on your own desktop computer/laptop. When you want to synchronise and share your material with others you need to create an online account.

  1. Go to Zotero Online, create a new group
  2. Choose a name for your group and select the membership settings (private, public closed, public open)
  3. Add members to your group

If you don't see the group in Zotero, select synchronising in the right hand top corner.

You can always leave a group via the "Leave" button, top left on the group page.
Only group owners can delete a group. Log in on Zotero Groups, go via "Manage profile" to the "Group Settings" page and choose 'delete'. 

There are no limits to the number of group members. Groups are set apart from your standard, personal collections in My Library, so you can have them both separately. You can drag items from one group to another.
NB. Because the collections are set apart, updates to an item in one group are not automatically carried out to that same item in another group.

For more information see 

See also: 

Zotero saves your references locally on your own desktop computer/laptop. When you want to  use Zotero on several devices, have a look at the synchronisation options.

We strongly recommend you to make a backup  of your Zotero database. Synchronising alone is not enough.

You can also export your references by right-clicking on the item or on the collection and to select Export Collections or Export Items.You can also export your entire library to a file by choosing Export Library in the Files menu, choose an export format (for instance RIS or BibTex) and save the file. Later on, you can import this file again (or into another programme).

See also: 

Reference management

Reference management is the way you systematically collect, store, organize, annotate, share and cite sources. Those sources can have any form: articles, books, images, data, multimedia and more. You can collect and store the full text/files or just the bibliographic metadata (title, author, publication year etc.) describing these.

If you use a lot of sources and especially if you often write papers etc. citing these sources it is wise to use a tool that manages recurring tasks and thus makes your workflow easier and more reliable. A big time saver of those tools is the automatic generation of bibliographies with cited literature, in the citation style of your choice (APA, MLA, Nature, Vancouver and more).  These tools are called reference managers or reference management tools. They come in many forms:

For more for more information on EndNote, Mendeley, RefWorks and Zotero visit the  LibGuide Reference management.