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How to Add More Resources to Your Zotero Library

Zotero is an incredibly helpful research tool.1 But it’s only as useful as the information it contains. So, the more you improve what your Zotero library contains—whether by adding or correcting contents—the more useful the tool will become.

There are multiple ways to add additional resources to Zotero. Several of them allow Zotero to automatically input information from various places. But if the information you import is itself incorrect or just doesn’t import properly, Zotero won’t be able to use that information as it should. So, especially when you automatically import resources into Zotero, it’s well worth proofreading briefly what you’ve imported.

6 Ways to Add Resources to Your Zotero Library

As I use Zotero, I normally add resources to my library in one of the following methods.

1. Use the browser connector.

For all major browsers, Zotero makes “connectors” available. These connectors are extensions that allow Zotero to see what’s on the webpage you’re viewing and create an item from that webpage in your library. In most cases, Zotero is also able to tell when you’re viewing a webpage about a book or a journal article and create the item with the appropriate type.

To use the connector, click the button from the bar at the top of your browser. Or use a keyboard shortcut that you configure. For instance, in Firefox,

  1. Go to about:addons.
  2. Click the Settings (gear) button.
  3. Choose Manage Extension Shortcuts.
  4. Scroll down until you find the section for Zotero.
  5. Click in the Activate toolbar button box, and press the shortcut key combination you want to use to activate the connector (e.g., Alt+Z).

Then when you visit a page and want to create a Zotero item from that page, press this key combination. Zotero will open a small window where you can, if you wish, select the specific collection (or folder) to which Zotero saves the item.

2. Enter a unique identifier.

Above the library pane, Zotero has a magic wand button. Click this button, enter one or more unique resource identifiers, and Zotero will add each of those items to your library. This option works particularly well if you have a list of, say, ISBNs, but it also works with DOIs and other such identifiers.

3. Import from the clipboard.

In the file menu, Zotero has an option to import citation information from the clipboard. This function is also mapped to the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Shift+I.

So, if you copy bibliography information to your clipboard, Zotero can add it directly from there. This feature works with any supported bibliography format (e.g., RIS, BibTeX).2

Mostly, I make use of this feature like I discuss in these instructions and want to bring the bibliographic information for that resource into Zotero.

4. Add a PDF.

If you add a PDF, Zotero can try to automatically retrieve the metadata for that PDF and create a corresponding item. From my experience, this feature is hit-or-miss. But even when the automatic retrieval misses the mark, it’s still much easier to adjust or supplement what Zotero has found rather than to enter the information from scratch.

Zotero won’t necessarily be able to pull in metadata for every PDF. But if it seems like Zotero isn’t ever pulling in any PDF metadata, you can check the pertinent settings in the General area under File Handling. There, you want to ensure you have the option enabled to Automatically retrieve metadata for PDFs and ebooks.

Typically, I use this feature when there’s a new issue released of a journal that I subscribe to or watch. If I can’t import the bibliographic records for the articles in an issue directly via the browser connector, I’ll simply

  • download the article PDFs,
  • add those to Zotero, and
  • let Zotero pull in what bibliographic information about those PDFs it can.

The results in this kind of scenario are usually pretty good.

5. Scan a barcode.

If you use the Zotero iOS app, you already have the ability to scan a barcode (e.g., an ISBN) and have Zotero enter the bibliographic information for that barcode to your library.3 This feature isn’t yet available in Zotero’s android client.4 But it is available in the third-party Zoo for Zotero available in the Google Play store.5

This feature is hugely helpful when walking around book exhibits, like at the SBL annual meeting. Assuming you’re also in the position of not having an unlimited book budget, by scanning barcodes, you can easily make yourself a shopping list as you make your way through the exhibit. Then you can sort through the list to identify what you want to go back to purchase or what you just want to save for later as a bibliographic record in your library.

6. Create a record manually.

Of course, you do always also have the option to enter a record manually. This option is easily accessible from the button to the left of the magic wand above the library pane. From there, just choose what type of resource you want to create, enter the information for that record, and you’re good to go.

Proofread your records.

Without any bibliographic records in your library, Zotero isn’t much help. So, adding records is essential to making Zotero a useful tool.

But even after you add a record, you still need to proofread it. Anything that’s wrong in the Zotero record will also be wrong in your citation of that source.

For instance, I frequently find that

  • when importing citations from Amazon or Google Books, the publication year might be wrong and any series information might be missing;
  • when importing citations from Logos, any series information will be missing; and
  • when importing citations from journal databases, the proper journal abbreviation isn’t supplied.

But one of the great things about Zotero is that, once you get the citation information input correctly, you’ll continue getting correct citations every time you cite a given source.


As your Zotero library expands and you curate the content of its records, so does the usefulness of Zotero as a research tool. And in the end, Zotero can prove to be a tremendously helpful partner that saves you hours of re-searching (not to mention re-formatting) that you can then plow into more productive research.6

  1. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter. ↩︎
  2. “How Does the Import from Clipboard Feature Work?,” Zotero, 25 January 2021. ↩︎
  3. Dan Stillman, “Scan Books into Zotero from Your iPhone or iPad,” weblog, Zotero Blog, 5 November 2018. ↩︎
  4. Dan Stillman, “Available for Beta Testing: Zotero for Android,” Zotero Forums, 25 December 2023. ↩︎
  5. “Zoo for Zotero,” Google Play, n.d. ↩︎
  6. Zotero, “Winning Tagline: Research, Not Re-Search,” weblog, Zotero Blog, 26 November 2007. ↩︎

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