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Referencing: Zotero Referencing Software

What is Zotero?

Zotero is a free research management system designed to collect, store, share, manage and cite references. Zotero can:

  • Save references from sources such as e-journals, databases, library catalogues and (some) websites.
  • Keep track of your sources as you find them.
  • Insert correctly formatted citations into your documents.
  • Automatically generate bibliographies in the AUB Harvard Style.

Zotero is available in a full desktop version (for research projects) and a simplified web version (for quick bibliography creation) called ZoteroBib.

If you need help with Zotero, please contact your Subject Librarian

Using ZoteroBib

ZoteroBib is an easy, web-based version of Zotero that can quickly generate bibliographies for your essays. There's no need to create an account or install anything to use ZoteroBib.

Simply copy and paste URLs from the Library Catalogue, websites, databses and journal articles into ZoteroBib to generate formatted references.

Change the settings to ensure your references are formatted in the AUB Harvard Style - this style is programmed into ZoteroBib. The references are compiled in an alphabetical-by-author bibliography that can be copied and pasted into your essay. This list will stay in your browser's local storage until you choose to delete it, or you clear your browser history.

ZoteroBib is best used for short projects that only require a few references. It is not recommended for longer research projects - these should be done in Zotero Desktop. 

ZoteroBib is available at

Getting Started with Zotero

Step One: Install Zotero Desktop
Go to to download Zotero 6.0. It is available for both Mac and PC. The download should only take a few minutes to install and also includes a plug-in for Microsoft Word. 

Step Two: Install the Browser Connector
From the same page, install the Zotero browser connector. This is available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari. The Zotero Connector runs in your web browser, not as a separate program, and relies on the Zotero 6.0 Desktop Application to work.

Step Three: Set Your Referencing Style
Open Zotero and select Edit>Preferences>Cite. This gives you the list of referencing styles programmed into Zotero. Select 'Get Additional Styles' and search for Arts University Bournemouth to add our style to your Zotero favourites. 

Step Four: Create a Zotero Web Account
This is optional, but recommended. Zotero Web allows you to access your reference data online, from any computer. You can create a free account here. Open Zotero and select Edit>Preferences>Sync and login here to sync your Zotero Desktop to your new Zotero Web account. 

The Zotero screen is divided into three sections:

  • Your folders are on the left, allowing you to sort your references by topic or according to projects. 
  • In the middle you will find all the references you have added to Zotero. 
  • On the right, if you've clicked on an item, you'll see the reference data  - this is what Zotero will use to create the reference in your bibliography, so always check and for missing or incorrect information, and add or change it here as required.

There are buttons allowing you to create folders and add references, notes and attachments, and additional options on the top. 

Adding Research to your Zotero Library

Zotero can automatically generate reference data for sources, including books and eBooks, journal articles, newspapers and many websites. You must add this information into your Zotero library in order to create references for it. 

To add information into Zotero:

  • Download and use the Zotero browser connector, which allows you to capture referencing data directly from the web.
  • Other tools are available within Zotero that can assist with adding references  - see the relevant tabs above for more information about how to add different types of sources.
  • If you are unable to add sources by other methods, you can also add references in manually:

It is recommended that you double check each reference as you import it, in case any data is missing or incorrect. This can be common for websites. 

To edit any reference data that may have been incorrectly imported:

  • Click the item you wish to make changes to and then you can edit the data on the right-hand side of the screen.
  • The fields you have for each reference depends what item type Zotero has assigned it (book, journal article, web page, etc.).
  • Click into the item type field to change it, if required.

There are several ways to add book references into Zotero: 

  • Use the browser connector to capture book information directly from the Library Catalogue. When you have a book record on the catalogue open, the connector button will detect the data on the page and change into a book-shaped icon. Click here to send this data to Zotero:

    This will also work from other library catalogues, and some websites such as Google Books. 

  • Add books directly into Zotero using the ISBN. You will usually find this on the back cover of the book, printed under the barcode. In Zotero, click the Reference Wizard button. Simply type the ISBN in here and press return. Zotero will import the data. This may take a few moments. 

Journal article references can be added to Zotero, using the following methods:

  • Imported using the browser connector. When you find an article online, the browser connector should be able to detect the reference data on the page. When it does, it will change into a small paper-shaped icon. Click here to send this data across to Zotero:

    Where possible, Zotero will also download a copy of the article PDF for you, and attach it to the item record in Zotero. 

  • Added using their Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number. All journal articles are issued a unique DOI. This is usually displayed near the beginning of the article or somewhere on the record on the database. In Zotero, click the Reference Wizard button, and copy and paste the DOI here to retrieve the reference data. 

  • Upload journal article PDFs into Zotero. Simply drag and drop the PDF from your saved files into Zotero and it will convert the data it finds into a reference. If it does not do this automatically, right click on the PDF in your reference list and click 'Retrieve Metadata for PDF'. 

Zotero can import data from some, but not all, websites. The quality of the reference generated depends on the quality of the data on the webpage. You need to be vigilant when adding website references, as important referencing data (particularly author names or dates of publication) can be missed. 

  • Web references should be added using the browser connector. When websites offer high-quality data, the browser connecter button will change into an icon. For example, ​Zotero can usually read the reference data on newspaper and news media websites, and the button changes into a newspaper-shaped icon. Click here to send this data across to Zotero:

  • When this button does not change, you can still attempt to send the reference data into Zotero. You will likely have to add some information to the reference, but these references are often almost complete. If nothing else, Zotero will capture the URL and accessed date: 

    Where possible, Zotero will also create a snapshot of the webpage at the time you visited it. If the website changes in the future, you will still have a record of the information on the page as it was displayed at the time you originally saw it. 

Creating a Bibliography

You can quickly generate bibliographies in Zotero by selecting individual items in your library, or by selecting whole folders. 

Select all the items you wish to include in your bibliography and right-click, or right-click on a folder to create a bibliography from all items in that folder, and select 'Create Bibliography from Items' or 'Create Bibliography from Collection': 

A new window will open. Select 'Arts University Bournemouth' as your referencing style (if this is not appearing click 'Manage Styles'>'Get Additional Styles' to add it). Choose 'Bibliography' as your output style and 'Copy to Clipboard' as your output method:

You will then be able to paste your bibliography into your document.

Zotero is best used with Microsoft Word. The Word Plug-In allows you to automatically insert correctly-formatted citations directly into your documents as you write. The Zotero tab should automatically appear in MS Word after you have installed Zotero. 

Select 'Document Preferences' to set your reference style to the Arts University Bournemouth style. 

When you need to insert a citation from a source in your Zotero library, click 'Add/Edit Citation'. You will then be able to search for the reference you wish to add. Zotero will format this in the correct way for AUB referencing. If you need to add page numbers to your citation, type these in manually. 

When you’ve finished writing, and have inserted all the citations you need to use, click 'Add/Edit Bibliography' and Zotero will generate a list of formatted references in alphabetical order, based on the sources you have cited throughout your work. 

File Syncing & Backing Up

As Zotero is a desktop software, it stores files, such as article PDFs, directly on your computer. There is no limit on this storage.

Zotero does allow web-based file syncing up to 300mb. If you are storing a lot of files, you should turn off web syncing. Your reference data will still be saved to Zotero Web, but this will prevent PDFs and other files from syncing and using up your allowance.

To turn off file syncing, go to Edit>Preferences>Sync and uncheck both 'Sync attachment' options. 

As Zotero uses your computer's storage, you should create a back-up copy of your Zotero library, in case of any loss or damage to your computer.

Go to File>Export Library. Zotero will create a copy of your library, including attachments and any notes, and save this as a .RIS or a Zotero RDF file. Save this somewhere external to your computer, such as the OneDrive. In the event of any problems to your library, you can import this file back into Zotero, under File>Import, to restore that version of your Zotero library.

Be sure to create back-ups frequently, whenever you add new information to Zotero.