Wikipedia:Citing sources with Zotero

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zotero is a free and open-source program that can facilitate adding references to Wikipedia articles. This essay will walk you through installing and setting up Zotero, generating citation information, and inserting it into a Wikipedia article. For general information on creating references and citing sources on Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Citing sources.

Adding sources via visual editor also uses Zotero, see the help page for visual editor, and Citoid.

Getting started[edit]

Go to the official Zotero website and download the latest release. It is a stand-alone program for Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux, which can interact with Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge through browser plug-ins, called connectors.

If you would also like to use Zotero to add references to text documents, you can use the bundled plugins in LibreOffice, Microsoft Office and Google Docs.

After installing everything, restart your browser if needed.

When you open the Zotero application, you will see three large panes. The left pane keeps track of different folders of references, called collections. By default, it has only a single root folder called My Library. If you want to make a collection, right-click on the root folder and go to New Collection. The middle panel will show information on all the references in the collection you have selected, and the right panel will show information on any reference you select.

Subcollections can similarly be created using the right click and selecting New Subcollection. The middle pane shows all items in the selected collection or subcollection using selected bibliographic data, such as title, creator and year. The right panel provides details of all bibliographic data and allows notes to be added to any item. Bibliographic items can be labelled using keywords, called tags, to facilitate organization and various user needs.

Full documentation for Zotero is available on Zotero's support pages.

Adding references to Zotero[edit]

Now you can add a reference to your collection. To see how this works, you can go to a book listing on WorldCat. On the right side of the address bar in your browser, you should see a small book icon. Clicking on it will save the book's bibliographic information to the current folder in Zotero. This will work even if you don't have the Zotero window open. If you know what item you need to reference, it doesn't matter where you find a listing for it – you can also generate a reference from the book's listing on Amazon, for example.

Zotero works for many types of references. You can add this BBC story this patent or this print. For some pages, like this Wired article, Zotero doesn't know how to build a specific reference, but will do the best it can. Adding this page creates a reference which includes the correct title and abstract, but doesn't pick up the author or publication date. This is because no one has yet written a translator specific to, but new ones are being created all the time. In the meantime, you must edit the reference to fill in the rest of the information manually.

Adding references into Wikipedia articles[edit]

First, set your default export style in Zotero to the Wikipedia Citation Templates format (or whatever format the particular article uses, since Wikipedia does not have a house citation style). To do this, open the Zotero window, click on the gear icon, and select Preferences. Click on the Export tab, which looks like a clipboard. Using the Item Format (Default output format) in Zotero verions before 6.0) drop-down menu, select Wikipedia Citation Templates and click OK/Close. Alternatively, set a site specific style as described at preferences:export and Zotero and Wikipedia/ Wikidata in the Zotero documentation.

Now open an edit window for the Wikipedia article to which you want to add a reference. Add the information you want to reference (or find it if already present), and add empty <ref></ref> tags where the reference should go.

In some situations it is possible to cool an object by heating its exterior.<ref></ref>

Now open up Zotero and drag the reference you want in between the ref tags. This should result in something like this:

In some situations it is possible to cool an object by heating its exterior.<ref>{{Cite journal
| last1 = Papini | first1 = Jon J.
| last2 = Dyre   | first2 = Jeppe C.
| last3 = Christensen | first3 = Tage
| date = 2012-11-29
| title = 'Cooling by Heating'—Demonstrating the Significance of the Longitudinal Specific Heat
| journal = Physical Review X
| doi = 10.1103/PhysRevX.2.041015
| volume = 2
| issue = 4
| pages = 041015
| url =
| accessdate = 2013-02-05

To keep it human-readable, leave the formatting as it is, so that there is one item per line. (There is no reason to "save space" by putting all the information of the reference on a single line; no space is actually saved, and it just makes the reference less human-readable).

One can add a new line between "<ref>" and "{{Cite journal" to make the citation stand on its own. Be careful, though, not to add a newline before the "<ref>", as this would result in a space being displayed in the text before the reference, and this is almost never wanted. But adding a single new line ("\n") right after the "<ref>" code does not result in any space being added in the beginning of the reference and might aid the editors in reading it.

Save the page and you will get something like this:

In some situations it is possible to cool an object by heating its exterior.[1]

And that's it!

You can also copy the citation information to the clipboard by hitting Ctrl+Shift+C when you have an item selected in Zotero (Ctrl+Alt+C in Zotero before version 5.0).

Adding a bibliography to a Wikipedia article[edit]

Mostly for biographies of academics to produce a selected list in their field in the form of a reverse chronological Bibliography (Journal articles) list.

  • open section on Wikipedia to edit
  • in Zotero: Select articles in right window (rev. chronological sort, newest to oldest)
  • right click, pick Export Items (blue up-arrow in Zotero 5.0.92)
  • format: Wikipedia Citation Templates
  • save as a text file, then copy and paste into Wikipedia article
  • note: only one ISSN is allowed, see issn=_value

Example: Utsa Patnaik selected bibliography

Zotero userbox for your user page[edit]


  1. ^ Papini, Jon J.; Dyre, Jeppe C.; Christensen, Tage (2012-11-29). "'Cooling by Heating'—Demonstrating the Significance of the Longitudinal Specific Heat". Physical Review X. 2 (4): 041015. doi:10.1103/PhysRevX.2.041015. Retrieved 2013-02-05.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]