What is it?

Zotero is a social reference manager similar to Mendeley. You can collect references, organise them in playlist-like collections, create correct citations in any style necessary, sync your reference library across devices, and collaborate with your peers in private or public groups. This last element is also what differentiates Zotero (and Mendeley) from traditional reference managers such as EndNote or RefWorks, which allow you to perform the same bibliographic tasks, but lack the social component. Zotero is available as a Firefox plugin and as standalone desktop application that can work together with any browser. Zotero synchronises your reference library over all your devices and allows you to access it online via zotero.org as well. Zotero is a free service, with paid plans for additional storage space beyond the standard 300 MB.

What can it do for me?

Zotero is a free reference manager service, which allows you to use it across platforms and devices. Since it's free, you won't lose any data if you move to a different place of employment, which might use different institutional software. It allows you to organise your references, PDFs, and other files in collections, create citations in numerous styles, and collaborate with other researchers. You can cite while you write when using Word or OpenOffice and add citations to other documents by dragging the references from Zotero.

Privacy issues?

Zotero was developed by a team at George Mason University as an Open Source project and as such takes privacy very seriously. So you share as much or as little with them as you choose. They even have three different pages detailing what gets stored where and why and how to opt out of sharing more than absolutely necessary.

Pro’s & Cons


  • Zotero is free
  • It's platform-agnostic
  • It's easy to use
  • Unlimited groups


  • The standard amount of storage space is very limited
  • No 'cite while you write'-integration with Apple software

Who in Leiden?

Kim Beerden (Institute for History, Antiquity)
Roman Koning (Faculty of Medicine, Molecular Cell Biology)
Magnus Persson (Faculty of Science, Leiden Observatory)
Anna Tijseling (Institute for History)
Vincent Traag (KITLV)