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Research Support: Zotero Referencing Software

What is Zotero?

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

This page lists some more advanced functionality useful for research. If you are new to Zotero, see the introductory guide here.

This page covers:

  • Alternative file syncing solutions
  • Using Zotero to generate referencing styles for publication
  • PDF file magnagement using Zotfile
  • Importing and exporting your Zotero Library

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

Alternative File Syncing

As Zotero is a desktop software, it stores files, such as article PDFs, directly on your computer. However, if you need to access your Zotero data from multiple computers, you will need to use file syncing. Zotero allows web-based file syncing up to 300mb using Zotero Web, but if you are storing a lot of files you should turn off web syncing, as this allowance will run out.

If you need to use Zotero's syncing features to manage a lot of files whilst working across multiple sites, you can transfer your Zotero data using another method, such as by using a cloud storage service (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.), but there are significant risks and limitations to this approach. The safest method is to change the Linked Attachment Base Directory, so you care able to store attachment files in an externally linked folder, so that links are functional on two computers. Instructions on how to do this, and other options for file syncing, can be found on Zotero's support site here

Be sure to frequently back-up your Zotero library when doing this, as there are some risks and limitations to alternative file syncing solutions. 

Referencing Styles for Publication

Zotero has over 9,000 referencing styles programmed into it, including all commonly used styles (APA, MLA, Chicago, Vancouver, etc.) and many bespoke house styles used by individual journals or publishers. To view all styles you can create a bibliography in, select Edit>Preferences>Cite. From here you can browse the most frequently used styles and select 'Get Additional Styles' to access others. You can search for the style recommended by the journal, or if the journal have their own house style search for the journal by title.

If you use the Zotero plug-in for Microsoft Word to add citations and generate reference lists to your documents, you can switch between referencing styles with the click of a button. This will also convert in-text citations to footnote or end note styles. This will allow you to write papers in the referencing style you're most familiar with, and convert it to the style requested by the journal or publisher.


Zoftile is a Zotero plug-in designed to assist in PDF file management, and to extract annotations from PDF files.

After highlighting and annotating PDFs, ZotFile can automatically extract the highlighted text and note annotations from the PDF.  To use this feature, you must annoate the version of the PDF that is saved to Zotero. Then right-click on the item on Zotero and select Manage Attachments>Extract Annotations. The extracted text is saved in a Zotero note, with citation details.

Instructions on how to download and install the software can be found on the Zotfile website.

Importing and Exporting

If you are switching to Zotero from another research management software (e.g. RefWorks, Endnote, etc.), you can easily import your previous data to you new Zotero library. You will need to export your reference data as a .RIS file and import this file into Zotero. Select File>Import and select the file you wish to import. 

You can also easily export your Zotero data into other research management software. Select File>Export Library, and then choose the most appropriate file format for the reference management software you are transferring to. Please note that Zotero is the only research management software that is supported by AUB and the only one with the AUB Harvard referencing style programmed in.