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ME2V15005 Intermedialiteit: 0. Reference Management (using Zotero)

LibGuide for the course Intermedialiteit (ME2V15005)

Preliminary note

The interface of the Zotero browser extension might be slightly different, depending on you browser. The interface of the Zotero desktop application on a Mac Operating System differs from the application on a Windows OS. The guidelines on this page are based on Zotero in combination with a Chrome browser and a Windows OS.

For Mac users:

Setting up Zotero

Before you can start using Zotero, follow these five steps:

  1. Go to Zotero and create an account. You will need this account to work in groups and to synchronize your Zotero library on multiple devices.
  2. Go to Zotero, click download now and download and install Zotero 5.0
  3. Go back to the Zotero download page, and install the browser extension for Chrome or Firefox
  4. Start Zotero, go to edit|preferences and then to 'advanced', then to the files tab to select a folder on your hard drive where you store/save your PDFs
  5. In edit|preferences on the 'general' tab, deselect the option to automatically tag items.
  6. In edit|preferences on the 'sync' tab, make sure your Zotero account (step 1) is linked to the Zotero application. 

Use Zotero with Chrome or Firefox! Safari is not compatible at the moment

Additionaly you can

  • From the same download page install the plugin for Microsoft Word (this supports citing while you write your paper). We will not use this functionality during this course.

Getting publications into Zotero

Getting publications into Zotero is easy using the browser extension. Perform a search and simply hit the Zotero button in your browser.

Zotero button in Google Chrome



Zotero button in SafariThis option is available for:

  • Google Scholar
  • Google Books (one title at a time)
  • UU entrance to WorldCat
  • Film and Television Literature Index
  • International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance
  • JSTOR and many other publishers

More information, for instance on adding stuff manually, on the Zotero support page.

Adding pdf's to your publications

You can add the full text pdf's of the publications to Zotero. 

  • Using the browser button
    When you add a publication to Zotero using the browser button, the pdf of the article will also be added to Zotero (when there's a direct link to the pdf on that page).
  • Manually
    First save the pdf to your computer.
    Right-click the title in Zotero and choose 'add attachtment, attach stored copy of file'.

Organising literature in Zotero

You can organise the literature using Zotero standalone using:

  • Collections
    • Right-click My Library top left to make a collection.
    • You can simply drag and drop titles from your library to these collections.
  • Tags
    • Select a reference in your library
    • using the pane on the right add a tag
  • Notes
    • Select a reference in your library 
    • using the pane on the right add a note (for instance a short summary of why this title is relevant to you)
  • Summary
    • Select a reference in your library 
    • using the pane on the right add a summary to the title information
    • In some cases, the title you added to Zotero already comes with a summary (from the publisher)

Check the Zotero support pages for additional help.

Create a bibliography in Zotero

You can automatically create a bibliography (that is: a list of references to publications) using a specific citation style (that is: a list of rules that tell you how to refer to a publication):

  1. Right-click the collection and create a bibliography
  2. Choose the citation style you want to use (for this course we use the Chicago Manual of Style.)
  3. Choose the output option that suits you (for instance clipboard)

Remember, Zotero is just software. When the references in your library are incomplete or false, you will have to fix this first.

Zotero Groups

You can create Zotero Groups to collaborate with others and share your library.

  1. Go to Zotero Online, create a new group
  2. Choose a name for the group and select the membership settings (choose "private membership" for this course!)
  3. On the next page, choose member settings and send invitations to people to collaborate on your library

Your group might not be visible yet in the desktop application. Try using the sync-button on the upper right corner to solve this.


Zotero trouble shooting

If you have problems using Zotero, ask a fellow student or send an email to the subject librarian Margriet Fokken. Recurring issues will be added to this list.

  • Cannot install Zotero 5.0 (e.g. on a Chromebook or a public computer)
    You can use Zotero without the standalone version, you will have to work with the online version. Just create an account at Some advanced functionality of the standalone version might be missing in the online version.

  • Zotero does not seem to be compatible with Safari

The newest version of Safari is not compatible. Zotero is in the process of updating the Safari connector. For up-to-date information visit the page on system requirements here.

  • Cannot add a title to Zotero
    Zotero probably can't "read" the web page you're on. Try to find the same title in Google Scholar or WorldCat and import it from there. 

  • Cannot add a title from library catalogue to Zotero
    Importing a title doesn't always work on the title description page for a single publication. In the menu at the top op the page choose 'titellijst / results list' and import the title from there. 

  • Cannot add a pdf to a publication (in a Group)
    Go to Zotero Groups and change the 'library settings'. The 'file editing' should be changed to 'any group member'.

  • Zotero 5.0 has a Dutch interface, I want to change this to English.
    In edit|preferences on the 'advanced' tab, change the language to English.

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 guidance on choosing a reference management tool, for a comparison chart of functionality and for a quick-start tutorial/training for Mendeley, RefWorks and Zotero visit the full  Reference management LibGuide.

Tools for reference management

Would Einstein have liked reference management tools?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, and with almost unlimited sharing functions; there is a UU-license. Install info is on the training tab of this LibGuide


To help you choose the tool that best suits your needs, take a look at our comparison tables.

Whatever tool you choose, it is always relatively easy to switch at a later stage and import your references in another tool.