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Zotero: Organize

Learn how to cite your references with Zotero, a free citation tool.

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Organizing Your Zotero Library


With Zotero you can add descriptive keywords, "tags", to items, links and notes. Together with collections, tags can help you organize your Zotero Library. Tags unlike collections are portable and they will get transferred when creating an RIS file to import in another citation management tool.   However, tags do not have a hierarchy; unlike collections you cannot create subcollections. 

When items are saved to a Zotero Library via a web translator, tags are sometimes automatically attached (unless you change the preferences). The tag selector is located at the bottom of the left column. It shows all the tags that have been attached to the items shown in the center column.

Tags bottom left column, when particular tag is selected the items will be displayed in the middle.

The search bar at the bottom, allows you to search for tags. You can see all the tags in your Library, by clicking on the color icon next to the search bar. 

Add your own tags to items by selecting the item in the middle screen, then on the right side screen go to the "Tags" tab, click on Add and input your tags.

Select item you want to add tag, on right screen go to Tags tab and click on Add input your tag.

You can rename a tag across all items by right-clicking the tag (control-clicking on OS X) and choose “Rename Tag…”. To delete a tag from all items, right-click the tag and choose “Delete Tag...”. You can also color code tags, up to six tags can be assigned colors.  Colored tags make it easy to quickly scan a collection or library and see which items have been assigned a certain tag.

Select tag right click to assign color, rename tag or delete tag.

Taking Notes

In addition to items and file attachments, you can also have notes in your Zotero Library. There are two types of notes:  child notes, which belong to a specific item and standalone notes, which are not directly related to any item in your library, and  appear alongside any other items in your library. 

Add a child note by selecting item in middle screen, on the right screen go to "Notes" tab, click on "Add" and input note. 

Right screen Note tab allow you to add notes to items 

Or use the "Add Note" icon represented by a yellow post note and plus sign. Makes sure you have selected an item before otherwise, it will not allow you to select "Add Child Note" option.

Add note icon represented by yellow posted note and plus sign allows you to add child notes or standalone notes

The "Add Note" icon would also allow you to add "New Standalone Notes".

Organizing References

One of the main advantages of citation management tools is the capability to organize your references.  Zotero by default stores all your references, including new citations in "My Library".  You can organize your citation by creating "collections", which are folders you can named them however you want and even have a hierarchy order by creating "sub-collections". There is no limit on how many collections or sub-collections  you can create.  References can be in more than one collection at a time and this does not mean you will have duplicate of a reference. Those items not affiliated to a collection can also be found in the "Unfiled Items".

My library icon contains all your references, under my library you will have listed the collections you have created. When you click on a collection or my library collection the references in that collection will be listed in the middle page.  

Collections and Subcollections

Create collections by clicking on the "New Collection" button represented by folder and plus sign icon. Or you can right click "My Library" and choose "New Collection". Give your collection a name and the collection will appear as a folder under "My Library". Subcollections can be created by dragging and dropping a collection onto another collection, or by right-clicking an existing collection and choosing “New Subcollection" then give it a name. 

Folder plus icon is new collection click on it and name collection. For sub collection you can right click an existing collection and select new subcollection.

Add items to your collections by simply dragging them from your "My Library" to specific collections. By default items will be added to the new collection but won't be removed from the original location.

You can also add new items to a specific collection, by selecting the folder first and then add the item to your Zotero Library.  This way the information will be automatically saved into the selected collection.

To move items between collections instead of simply adding them to the new collection, press and hold Cmd (OS X) or Shift (Windows/Linux) and then drag the item onto a collection. Items can only be moved between collections; since “My Library” always shows all of your citations (other than those in the trash).

Rename/delete collections and delete items: To rename a collection right click the collection and choose “Rename Collection…”, and input the new name. To delete a collection right-click a collection and choose “Delete Collection…”. Deleting a collection does not delete the items from your Zotero Library.  If you want delete items from your collections you must go the specific collection and select the item you wish to delete, right click and select  "Remove Item from Collection".  Deleting items from collections does not delete them from you Zotero Library, if you want to delete items, you must do so from "My Library", the deleted items will be moved to the "Trash" icon.  

Finding References in Your Zotero Library

Sort your references by various properties, such as title, creator (author), or the date they were added to your library. To change the way items are sorted, click on any of the headers at the top. For example, if you click on “Title”, all your items will be sorted alphabetically by title.

You can change the sorting properties by clicking the sort icon (), at the top right corner of the column headers.Then select the properties you would like to be able to sort by. We recommend adding the "Date Added", so you can sort items by the date you added them to your Zotero Library.

Sorting header is located in the center screen of your Zotero Library. It will be at the top of all your items.

Find items in your Zotero Library by conducting a search. The "Quick Search" box at the top-right of the center column allows you to search in specific fields such as title, creator; or search in "All Fields & Tags" and "Everywhere". As you type, only those items in the center column that match the search terms will remain. If you need a more control search such as searching within collections use the "Advanced Search" by clicking the magnifying glass icon.

A Quick Search on top right corner of the center column allows you to search by title author, in other fields, and everywhere. The advance search can be accessed by clicking the magnifying icon. Advance search allows you to be more specific in search such as searching in subcollections.