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University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Citation Managers for Research Organization

Adding Items

Adding Items via Browser Connector

As you scan around the web and run searches, you'll likely identify blogs, scholarly articles, and more item types that you'd like to save for later perusal and potential use in projects. The browser connector will try to read the metadata in the structure of the page and recognize item types that you might like to save. 

Clicking on the connector icon will tell Zotero that you'd like to save the item. Note that you'll need to have your Zotero desktop application open for the connector to function properly. Additionally, Zotero will place the items in whatever folder you have open at the time. This can easily be changed, just something to note. 

Example from PsycInfo:

In this example, note that it's currently saving to "My Library," but there is a dropdown arrow next to it allowing you to change the folder. 

Ebsco Database Visual Example

There is a PDF automatically downloading with this citation. Opt into having PDFs automatically download with items when available in your Zotero desktop under Zotero >> Preferences. Once the preferences window is open, click to "Automatically attach associated PDFs and other files when saving items" under the General tab >> File Handling category. 

Ebsco visual example with PDF

Example from Blogspot:

Zotero has templates for importing common blog sites and will add them as the item type "Blog," signified by the icon below. 

Blogspot Visual Import Example

Example from ArXiv:

Preprint databases like ArXiv list quality metadata but are imported as Journal Articles, instead of preprints. Currently, there is no separate item type for preprints. There has been talk of adding this category on the Zotero forums, so we might expect it with a future release. 

ArXiv visual example

Example from Austin Public Library Blog:

Though this resource is a blog, the Zotero connector is not recognizing it as more than a website. A website is the default save option and needs the most attention in terms of supplied metadata after the import is completed. 

Austin Public Library Blog Visual Example

Though this method of saving items is quick, it may also be one of the most variable options in terms of the metadata Zotero is able to retrieve. This largely depends on how the host website has structured and made the metadata available to programs like Zotero. While academic databases typically have well-structured data, you may encounter some that do not.

Adding Items via Identifier

This method of adding items can be very quick and seamless. Because Zotero is identifying the items and pulling them from a standardized database there is a higher likelihood that items added via this method contain more consistent and better metadata than adding via the browser connector. Though, it is still recommended to look through the data fields to ensure every field is present that you would need when citing the item.

1.) Go to your Zotero desktop library. On the top panel, above your center pane there are some tool icons. The add via identifier looks like a little wand with a tiny green plus-sign circle next to it. Once you click on it, a small box will appear with instructions to "Enter ISBNs, DOIs, PMIDs, of arXiv IDs to add to your library."

Add items by ID Visual Example

2.) Enter an identifier. In this example, I entered the PubMed ID (PMID) "29681547." 

PubMed ID Visual Example

The option to enter a list of Identifiers is also available. The list should be separated with carriage returns or commas.

Add list visual example


Adding PDFs from Desktop

This is a good option if you haven't been using a citation manager and have a folder with PDFs that you'd like to start organizing. Those PDFs can be selected and dragged into your Zotero desktop application. Then, Zotero can be prompted to try and identify metadata that may be associated with that PDF. 

1.) Identify PDFs on your computer and select them. Drag the items into your Zotero desktop application, drop them in the center pane. 

PDFs in library visual example

2.) Select those PDFs and right-click, prompting a menu to appear. From that menu, select "Retrieve Metadata for PDFs."

Retrieve Metadata visual example  

3.) Parent items will be created for the PDFs that have the metadata embedded. The PDF will be stored as a child item.

Post metadata retrieval visual example


When won't this work well? 

  • You have older PDFs
  • You have content that was scanned by an individual and made into PDFs
  • You have a lot of archival content

If you have a lot of older PDFs that may predate the time when embedding PDF metadata was standardized as common practice you may want to consider other methods of getting a standard record for the items to which you can then attach existing PDF files.

Adding Items Manually

Adding items manually is the last process you will ever find me recommending. This is primarily because it takes significant amounts of time and is prone to human error as it involves data entry. However, there are a few cases in which it's the best option:

  • You have rare or unique items to cite like personal interviews or archival material

1.) There is a button along the top of your Zotero desktop application, it appears as a green circle with a white plus sign in the middle. It's positioned right before the add items by the identifier button. Click this button and a dropdown menu will appear allowing you to select the type of item you'd like to create. If the item is not listed, click more to reveal the full list of item types. 

Add manually visual example

2.) Once you've selected the item type, a new item will be created without any data. You can fill in all the data that is necessary. 

Enter manually visual example

Adding Items from BibTex, RIS or Other File Type

If you have or plan to create a BibTex or RIS file containing standardized information from a database download, this feature is for you. This is also the recommended method for initial citation import when working on a systematic review.

1.) Identify (or download) an RIS or BibTex file on your computer. 

2.) On your Zotero desktop application navigate to File >> Import. This will prompt a dialog confirming that you want to import from a file. (The other option is from Mendeley, another citation manager program). Click continue and select the file you've identified in step one.

Import navigation visual example

3.) A dialog box with a few options will appear, including the option to create a new collection of the items contained in the file, and file handling details.

Zotero Import File Types:

nbib - generated from PubMed

BibTex - generated from Web of Science & Google Scholar (among others)

RIS - generated from Google Scholar as "Refman" (among others)

Here is a list of all the standard file types Zotero currently supports for import.

UT Library Lookup Tool

After you create or import a citation in Zotero, you can use the Library Lookup feature to find the full-text item on the UT library website. Click on the green arrow Locate button in the Zotero window, and you will see an option for Library Lookup. This uses your authentication as a UT student, staff, or faculty member to search our databases for the citation. 

Library Lookup Visual Example

For this to work, you need to add the Open URL Resolver Information for UT Libraries. To check this information, follow the path in the toolbar menu: Zotero > preferences > advanced > Open URL Resolver. Copy and paste this link in the URL space:

Setup Custom URL Visual Example

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