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Zotero: Importing

Zotero is a free extension for your web browser that acts as a citation management system. You can save, organize, format your citations in your paper, and more.

Importing Citations: Alternative Methods

Although grabbing citations from a database or web site is the most common way to build your Zotero library, there are several other ways to import citations. Consider these tips for advanced Zotero users!


If you need to import a large number of citations from a database on the EBSCOhost platform, check our handout below for instructions:

DOI Wizard

If you know an item's DOI number, you can add its citation to your Zotero Library using the DOI wizard.

Example: DOI is 10.1007/s12144-020-01174-5

Click the "magic wand" icon from the Zotero client toolbar.
Copy your DOI and paste it into the box, then hit Enter on your keyboard.

The magic wand is also called "Add item(s) by Identifier."

Zotero will grab the DOI information from the web and add the item to your library. NOTE: The DOI Wizard creates a citation only! It does not upload full text. 

Import RIS file

RIS is a generic file format for citation data. You can convert large groups of citations to RIS format in order to do a batch upload into Zotero; for example, if you are migrating citation data from a different citation management program such as EndNote or RefWorks.

Some databases allow you export large sets of citation data as RIS files. For a specific example, see our instructions about EBSCOhost on this page. 

In the Zotero client, look under File > Import... for options to import files of RIS data.

Import from Clipboard

BibTex is another common format for citation information. This trick is helpful for citations you find in Google Scholar.

In Google Scholar, click the Cite icon for the item you want.

Sample result from Google Scholar with the "Cite" icon highlighted.

At the bottom of the Cite dialog box, click BibTex.

Google Scholar "Cite" dialog box with BibTex option highlighted.

A few lines of code will appear. Select all the lines, then copy them. (Ctrl + A, then Ctrl + C)

Sample bibtex code display

In Zotero, click the File menu, and choose Import from Clipboard.

Zotero "File" menu options with "Import from Clipboard" highlighted.

Zotero will create an item entry from the code. 

CAUTION! Google Scholar citations often contain errors! You will need to edit the new item by hand to correct any mistakes. Case in point: The example above is a journal article, but Google Scholar has formatted it as a book chapter citation. 

NOTE: Using this method will create only a citation; it will not import the full text. 

Drag & Drop PDF

If you have a PDF that was born digital and comes from an academic publisher, it probably has its citation metadata encoded within the PDF. ("Born digital" means the PDF was not scanned from a paper copy, and well-known academic publishers include Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, SAGE, Emerald, Taylor & Francis, and many others available from the CSUSB libraries.)

This trick works well if you have a lot of saved PDFs, but don't have their citation information in your Zotero library.

  1. Open the Zotero client. Display the Zotero folder/collection where you want to put the new item.
  2. Open the folder on your computer where you saved the PDF. 
  3. Drag the PDF from your computer folder and drop it into Zotero. If the PDF file has the needed metadata, Zotero will automatically create a citation entry for it, then attach a copy of the PDF to the citation.