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Building Your Zotero Library

1. Open up a Firefox window. Click on the “Zotero” logo to get to the half-and-half view.

Zotero's half-and-half view.

2. Create a new folder for each collection of citations.

Arrow points the way to the "Create A New Collection" button.

3. When you’re inputting citation records, make sure that you highlight the folder you want them to show up in.

If I want to put my citations into "Test," "Test" has to be highlighted.

4. Start inputting citations. First, here’s how to do this with a database that has a Zotero translator, such as UTNetCat:

Pick your database

Perform your search

Look for the icon in the URL bar that indicates that the site is talking to Zotero and ready to send its metadata (could be a folder, or a square blue “book”, or a white rectangle with “text” that’s meant to look like a piece of paper, or a scroll-y newspaper-looking icon; whatever it is, it’ll show up in the same place in your URL bar):

Example of the icon that indicates that Zotero and your database are on speaking terms.

Click on the icon

Watch Zotero harvest the metadata

If you’re using a website or database that has a Zotero translator, Zotero will determine what kind of item you’re creating (magazine article, journal article, book). You may want to double-check to make sure that Z. guessed rightly.

Now check to see whether your citation record has the full text of your item attached. Some databases will provide you with a PDF of the full-text item, attached to your item record. You’ll see an arrow next to your item record. Click on the arrow to reveal the attachments

Click on this arrow in order to reveal what's attached to your new item record.

If you want to be fancy, you can now change the name of the PDF attached to the item record, so that it’s specific to your item. Do this by highlighting the PDF, and then right-clicking (or, on Mac, control-clicking) on it. Select “Rename Item from Parent Metadata” from the resulting menu.

How to rename a PDF attached to a citation record.

If your database didn’t automatically download and attach your item’s full-text version, and it offers you the chance to download your item separately, do so, then attach it manually to your citation record by using the paper-clip icon on Zotero’s toolbar.

Attaching documents from your desktop to a Zotero citation record.

5. If you’re visiting a website that doesn’t have a Zotero translator, and you want to save a snapshot of the webpage, navigate to the webpage you want to save, and choose the “Create New Item From Current Page” button from Zotero’s toolbar:

Saving a snapshot of a webpage.

Now check to see that Zotero took a snapshot of the page by expanding the arrow next to the item record. Note the URL below; when you’re looking at a snapshot, this will change tol include “Zotero attachment.”

A snapshot of a webpage. Double-click on the snapshot attached to your item record.

Since this record was made without the help of a translator, Zotero won’t provide you with enough metadata to make a good record. Look around on the webpage and input as much other metadata as you can find into the fields on the right.

In this case, for example, Zotero missed the name of the author of this post, so I'll input it manually.

6. In the rare situation in which you need to input an item without any help from translators, click on the green “+” icon on Zotero’s toolbar to reveal the list of types of items available for new records:

Your options, when you need to create an item record without automatic help.

Occasions I can think of when you might need to exercise this option would be if you are citing a chapter from an edited anthology—for example, if you want to cite Ellen Seiter’s essay about consumption from Jenkins’ edited collection. In that case, you’d need to input the record manually, since the record available through UTNetCat is for the collection as a whole.

7. Attach a note. If you want to take notes on your item, make sure the item record is selected (highlighted), then click on the yellow sticky-note icon on Zotero’s toolbar. Pick “Child Note.”

Zotero will attach a note to your item, and you can type away in the field to the right.

A record with a child note attached.

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