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Reference management tools: Save references

Save references

Most databases let you save a reference directly to your reference manager. Look for options that may say "Export", "Import" or "Save to" and choose to save to the reference manager you are using. Use Connector to quickly save ordinary web sites as references!

Different ways to save references

  • Save and export when you're using a database
  • Use Connector, the browser add-on
  • Search and save using Zotero's own database
  • Drag-and-drop a fulltext pdf; references will (in most cases) be extracted automatically. Attn! Avoid this if you are not making use of the institutional license (i.e. unlimited storage) as this is quick to devour the free storage (300 Mb) provided by Zotero for sync and share. 
  • Manual entry should not be forgotten and can be very effective

Which method should I use?
Feel your way! You won't manage using only one method as none covers all databases. More complete metadata is usually received by using the databases' dedicated "Save reference" buttons. Do however try Connector as that, too, will come in handy. Attn! Always make sure that the metadata is correct in the references you import!


Adding references (items) to Zotero:

  1. Zotero Connector. The add-on becomes a "save button" in your browser. If you use multiple browsers, you need to install the add-on for ever browser separately. Remember to pin the add-on. Depending on where you get your reference and what type of reference it is, the button changes its appearance, e.g. an article or a book.
  2. You can add references through ISBN, DOI, or PMID. Look for the wand symbol in Zotero. You can also download/export posts in different formats from databases and upload them in Zotero.
  3. Import PDF's through drag and drop directly into Zotero.
  4. If needed, references can be added manually, e.g. book chapters. Click on the green circle with a white plus sign in Zotero and fill in the needed information.


  • Some sites are saved as "Generic webpages”, this happens when Zotero is unable to read the necessary information from the site.
  • It is possible to manually edit the reference in the metadata panel by clicking on it, for example changing a reference from a book to an article, or adding/removing information.  
  • If the Connector button is shown as a folder it means that you can save several references at once. 
  • Zotero must be open on your computer for the import to work. Be mindful that you check and, if needed, complete the information in the references after import.

More information: https://www.zotero.org/support/adding_items_to_zotero


Tags sometimes follow with downloaded items but can also be added manually. With the help of tags you can easily find items within a specific subject area or theme.

Zotero on mobile devices

Do you need to use Zotero on the go? There are functioning third party solutions.

  • iPhone and iPad with IOS 12 or newer can with the Shortcuts app scan ISBN barcodes and add them to your Zotero library. Instal the Scan Books To Zotero function. Instructions here.
  • IOS older than 12 and Android devices can put in ISBNs on this site to add items to the library. Note that you need to be logged in to Zotero.org for this feature to be available.
  • Zotero Bookmarklet works on all edvices and saves items to your library. Install instructions here.
  • With the help of Zotfile you can syncronize PDFs with all devices and also make annotations. Read more on the Zotfile site.
  • ZotEZ² is a client with which you can syncronize your Zotero library on an Android device. The app is free but some functions (for example sorting) comes with a price tag. Read more on the ZotEZ² site.

VIdeo: Save references in Zotero (4:21)


You can create collections (folders) for your different projects. Right click My Library and select New Collection. You can also create Subcollections by right clicking a collection.