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Using Sources & Avoiding Plagiarism: Cite with Zotero

Why Use Zotero?

Zotero logo

Zotero is a free, open source, easy-to-use citation management tool. Use Zotero to:

1) Save your references in one place

Zotero allows you to save sources online directly to a personal library. A good way to avoid plagiarism is to keep track of the sources you are using. By making sure you have a record of your sources, you can quote and cite without forgetting about or misattributing a source.

2) Take notes about your sources

Another good way to avoid plagiarism is to note what ideas from a source you are using. As you read a source, take notes on what you might use in later writing. Make sure in your notes to distinguish what ideas are the author(s) and which ideas are your ideas or commentary.

3) Automatically cite sources

Zotero saves you time by formatting citations for you. Zotero can cite with all the major citation styles and more. However, you still want to check Zotero's citations for accuracy. Zotero's citations are only as good as the information saved in your Zotero library, which can result in formatting issues in your citations.

How to Set Up Zotero

  1. Go to
    • Select register
    • Fill out the registration form
    • Authenticate your account via your email
    • If you want to use Zotero after graduation, you may want to register with a personal email account
  2. Download Zotero 5.0 at
  3. Download the Zotero Connector, for Chrome, Firefox, or Safari
    Zotero 5.0 and Zotero Connector download screen
  4. Open Zotero on your desktop
  5. Sync Zotero to your account 
    • In your Zotero library, select Zotero-->Preferences-->Sync (Mac); Edit-->Preferences-->Sync (Windows)
      A screenshot of the Zotero preferences screen
    • Enter in your account information
    • Click Set up Syncing
    • Click the Green sync button in the upper-right hand corner to manually sync

               A screenshot of the green Zotero synch button

6. Start adding references!

Want to find out how to organize, share, and cite your sources with Zotero? Check out our Zotero guide!

How to Add Sources to Zotero

Make sure you have installed the Zotero Connector.

Once installed the connector will appear as an icon in your browser toolbar.

Sample Zotero icons

Various Zotero icons. Icons will change based on your current webpage (i.e. an article in JSTOR will show the article icon)

To add a source to Zotero, click on the Zotero icon in your browser toolbar.

Location of Zotero save reference icon

Zotero will save relevant information about the source into your Zotero Library, such as:

  • Author name
  • Item title
  • Page numbers
  • Journal title/volume (if applicable)
  • URL
  • PDF (if it is available from where the item was saved)
  • Tags and subject terms relevant to the item

This information will help you organize and access the source at a later time and provide citation informaiton.

Note: Depending on the website/database you are using, the information saved from Zotero might not be perfect. It is important to check what is saved into Zotero to make sure it is accurate.


Citing with Zotero

There are two ways to cite references using Zotero: Quick-Citing and the Word Plug-In

Word Plug-In

This Zotero feature requires Microsoft Word (if you do not have Word, skip to Quick-Citing below)

  1. Open Word, or restart Word
    • Once you install Zotero, the Word Plug-in will cite automatically)
  2. Locate the plug-in in Microsoft Word
    • Look for a toolbar, similar to the ones below
      • Depending on your version of Microsoft Word, this might be in different places—look either under Add-Ins, under Tools, or for a small pop-up window

A screenshot of the Zotero 5.0 cite screen

A screenshot of the word plug-in in Zotero 4.0


  1. Start citing
    • Create an in-text citation using the insert citation button [#1 in figure above]
      • Select a citation style
      • Search or select the citation in your Zotero Library
    • Generate a bibliography [#2 in figure above] (this requires at least one in-text citation)
      • To change the style you cited in, click on the Doc Preferences [#3 above]
      • If you need additional styles you can download them at the Zotero Style Repository:


  1. Right-click or Control click on a source in your Zotero Library (use shift to select multiple sources) 

  2. Select “Create a Bibliography from Item” from the drop-down list 

    • To create an in-text citation, use the Citations output
    • To create a reference list, select the Bibliography output
  3. Choose an output method (Copy to Clipboard is easiest for pasting directly into a document)
    • ​​Paste into a document or open the document (if output was RTF or HTML)


ZoteroBib is a interactive web tool that lets you create citations using a title, URL, ISBN, DOI or other identifiers to create citations and bibliographies.

Go to to use the tool.

Meet with a Librarian

Meet with one of the Davidson research librarians to answer your research questions.

Questions? Need help? Ask Us
Davidson College Library, Box 7200, 209 Ridge Rd., Davidson, NC 28035-7200
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