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Citation Managers: Organizing Sources

Resources for using Citation Management Tools to organize and cite research.

Using Collections

Collections, or folders​, are an easy way to group and organize your research. They are located in the left hand panel of your Zotero library known as the Collections Pane. You can further organize within a collection by creating subcollections or sub-folders. For example, you can use name each collection with your Course Names (WRIT 101, PACBASIN 100, etc.) and your sub-collections with your assignment name (Paper 1, Impact of Climate Change on Farming in Thailand, etc.).


Create a Collection: in your library, right-click "My Library" and select "New Collection" in the dropdown menu or click on the Collection icon (manila folder) and enter a collection name in the popup box.

Zotero library menu with my library highlighted in blue and a black arrow pointing to new collection

  Zotero library menu with a red arrow pointing from the folder icon to a new collection pop-up box


Create a Subcollection: right-click any collection in the Collection Panel, and select "New Subcollection," and enter a name.

Zotero library menu with Capstone folder highlighted in blue and a red arrow pointing to New Subcollection in a popup menu


Delete a Collection: right-click a collection or subcollection in the Collection Pane and select "Delete collection" in the dropdown menu. This will delete the collection folder but keep your files in your overall Zotero library. Zotero will prompt you to confirm the deletion as a precaution and you can recover these from the Trash collection in case of a mistake.

  • If you would like to delete the collection AND all files within, right-click the collection or subcollection and select "Delete Collection and Items" in the dropdown menu. 

Using Columns

Your Zotero library can be customized using columns similar to in a spreadsheet. You are able to add or remove columns other than the default columns of Title, Creator, Item Type, and Attachments.

To add columns:
  1. Right click in any column header (ex. Title) to bring up the column menu to select the ones you want (see image below)
  2. To remove columns, open the column menu and click on the checked item to de-select columns.
Sorting by columns:
  1. Click the column header for how you want to sort your sources alphabetically A-Z. Click the column header again will sort the column alphabetically Z-A.

Zotero popup column menu with column heading options listed

Using Tags

You can tag (similar to hashtags on social media) the resources you add into your Zotero library to connect sources across collections. As you add tags to sources, you will be building your Tags Library located in the bottom left corner of the "My Library" page. Clicking on any tag in the Tags Library will bring up all of the sources you have with that same tag regardless of which collection they are located it. It's a good way to find similar sources. Please note that some sources can already have tags assigned to them by outside sources. They will have an orange tag icon while the tags you create will have a blue tag icon.

Zotero source tag view with arrows and call-out bubbles identifying tag library, pre-assigned tags, and self-created tags

To add a tag:
  1. Select a source. Over to the right, click on the "Tag" tab.
  2. Click the "Add" button. Create a tag with a keyword or short phrase. Tags are case sensitive: if you use "Diplomatic" with a capital D, it will be a different tag than "diplomatic" with a lowercase D. You can always rename tags.
  3. Use as many tags as you need for your research organization.
  4. You can remove tags in the same pane by selecting the minus icon next to any tags. 
To search tags:
  1. You can search for tags in your entire Zotero library ("My Library") or in a specific collection by scrolling through the list in the Tag Library or entering the tag name in the search box.
  2. To search for multiple tags, click "Ctrl" to select the ones you want from the list.
  3. To exit, you will need to de-select any tags in the Tags Selector pane.

Removing Duplicate Sources from Your Collection

Using source metadata, Zotero will automatically track files it believes are duplicates​ and store them in a pre-existing Collection called "Duplicate Items" in the Collections Pane.

  1. Click on the "Duplicate Items" in the left-hand Collections Pane to open that collection​
  2. Click on a source title to compare the source description (metadata) information. You will need to select each version to see what, if any, differences there are in the metadata. ​

    • To merge duplicates: select the source to be the master (it will be greyed out) and click the "Merge 2 Items" button​

    • To delete one: return to your library (search if applicable), right-click the source and choose "Move to trash" from the dropdown menu​

    • To keep both: no action needed, but recommend adding a note to explain why you have different versions

Zotero duplicate items folder with sample source duplicates in a green box with instructions to compare items in a red box