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Research Tips for Faculty Research Assistants

This guide supplements training for research assistants for law faculty.


Zotero is a source management software designed to work in tandem with web browsers. It markets itself as "a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share research." Some professors use Zotero and want their research assistants to use Zotero as well. Check with your professor to see if they want you to use Zotero.

If you need help with Zotero, contact Annalee Hickman.

Benefits of Zotero

  • Zotero is a cloud-based platform that allows seamless sharing of sources between the professor and the research assistant(s). ​
  • Zotero is an application that can be downloaded on PCs and on Macs.
  • Zotero is free for up to 300 MB of source storage. However, for more than the base-line storage, it costs money for the user who originates the shared library on Zotero. The other users who have the library shared with them can access all the sources in the shared library with their free accounts.
  • Zotero syncs effortlessly.
  • Zotero can save a PDF copy of a source. Professors can open the source directly this way, rather than having to search for it online themselves. Also, when you highlight things in the PDF, it saves the highlights, and the professors can view your highlights.
  • Zotero allows you to make notes for each source within the Zotero app.
  • Zotero has a Google Chrome extension to allow easy inputting from several popular research websites into Zotero to include relevant metadata, URLs, and automatic PDF downloads.
  • Finally, Zotero uses smart technology to output a Bluebook format for footnotes. A professor merely has to link to a Zotero result in their Word document, and Zotero will provide a Bluebook format citation (once, of course, the Zotero-Bluebook add-on as been installed onto their Word application).

How to Set-Up Zotero

Setting up Zotero requires four components: (1) creating an account; (2) downloading the Zotero application to the computer you will use to do research; (3) installing the Zotero extension to your Google Chrome browser; (4) adding the Zotero plugin for Word; and (5) adding the Zotero Bluebook Style.

  1. How to Create a Zotero Account
    1. Go to
    2. Click "Log In."
    3. Click "Register for a free account."
    4. Use your law school email address to sign up.
    5. Verify your account.
  2. How to Download the Zotero Application
    1. Even if waiting for the invitation to join your professor's group library, you can download the Zotero application.
    2. To do so, go to Make sure you are logged in (It is in the top right-hand corner.).
    3. Click the download button on the homepage.
    4. Download Zotero to your Mac or PC. 
  3. How to Sync Zotero
    1. Open the Zotero application that you downloaded on your computer.
    2. Go to preferences to sign in to your account. 
    3. In preferences, make sure you are syncing to all your libraries.
  4. How to Join Group Libraries on Zotero
    1. Tell your professor to add you to their Group Library by giving them your Zotero username and the email address you used to create your Zotero account.
    2. Accept the group library invitation you received through your email.
    3. Click "join" when opens up from the email. 
    4. Once I have synced my Zotero application on my computer, whenever I am added to a new group library, I generally close the Zotero application down, wait a few minutes, then open it back up again. Somehow, this helps it sync more effectively to make the new group library show up. 
  5. How to Install the Zotero Chrome Extension
    1. Even if waiting for the invitation to join your professor's group library, you can go to the Groups tab, then click "Download" in the top right-hand corner.
    2. To do so, go to Make sure you are logged in (It is in the top right-hand corner.).
    3. Click the download button on the homepage.
    4. Download the Zotero Connector to your Google Chrome browser.
  6. How to Add the Zotero Plugin for Word
    1. This should be done automatically when you download Zotero to your computer. 
    2. Check by opening up Word. You should see the Zotero tab at the top, where you see Insert, Design, etc. 
    3. If you don't see it, go here: and follow the instructions.
  7. How to Add the Zotero Bluebook Style
    1. Go to:
    2. Select the style that has the most recent date. Currently, that is: Bluebook Law Review from June 21, 2019.
    3. Open the downloaded file.
    4. Your Zotero should open up and ask you to install it. Click install.
    5. You should be good to go!

How to Use Zotero

Once you have done the four steps above for setting up Zotero, you are ready to start using it. Here is a walk-through of how to use it.

  • To make full and most efficient use of Zotero, sources logged must be meticulously entered and reviewed for accuracy. Correct Bluebook citations and PDF locations are dependent on this.
  • The best and easiest way to use Zotero is to use the Zotero extension in the Google Chrome Web Browser. The icon appears in the top right corner of the browser as a page with the corner folded down. When you hover your cursor over it, it says “Save to Zotero.”
  • 1. First, open the Zotero app on your computer. The extension will not work unless Zotero’s application is open on the desktop. Then, make sure the folder for the project you are currently working on is selected in Zotero. This ensures the files are saved to the correct folder.
    • If you can’t find the file because it didn’t sort into the folder you were wanting, check the “Unfiled Items” section. Each project has this option just above the trash option.
  • 2. Next, click on the Chrome extension for Zotero when you are on a web page or have pulled up a PDF of a source you want to save.
    • The extension will expand telling you where the source is being saved to. It will say “Saving to” for a few seconds. Wait until it says “saved” before moving on.
    • Note: The Chrome extension for Zotero really only works well on HeinOnline. For any other webpage, it is probably better to manually insert the source on Zotero, fill out the metadata (information) you need to make a Bluebook citation for the source and then attach the PDF yourself.
  • 3. After it is saved, go to Zotero. Locate the source you just saved and make sure all of its information (metadata) is correct. This includes the type of source, title of the source, author, journal, page number, volume number, and date, among any others that are relevant to the type of source you are logging. This information can be seen on the right of the program when the source is selected.
    • Zotero makes mistakes sometimes, so checking this metadata is imperative.
  • 4. If any information is incorrect, manually change it so it is correct.
    • Some websites do a really good job of placing all the necessary metadata where it needs to go. HeinOnline is an example of this (but there are still mistakes on occasion.) Other websites may give no information, so be prepared to log in manually the metadata for a source if needed.
    • If the Zotero extension in Chrome gives you a PDF automatically in Zotero, open it up and makes sure that it gave you the PDF and not a webpage snapshot. If it didn’t give you the PDF, delete that attachment and manually upload the attachment. To do so, download the PDF to the computer, and then attach it.
    • To log a source manually (such as a book that doesn’t have a webpage and is too big for a PDF), click on the green plus sign above the list of sources. It will ask you what type of source and give you a blank source of that type. You will then need to input all metadata manually. You can even attach PDFs or other file types manually if you right-click on the source.
  • You can pull quotes from a source or explaining why you pulled that source. The best way to do this is to add a note to the source, letting you place any text you want to inside.
    • There are two easy ways to add a note. First, in the metadata section to the right of the source, there is a tab on top that says “Notes.” Click on the tab, and click add to add a note.
    • The second way is to right-click on the source and select “add note”.
  • How to Use with Cases:
    • Find the case on Westlaw. In the top left-hand corner, Westlaw usually has a PDF of the case from the national or regional reporter, which is usually the official one Bluebook wants you to cite to. Download that PDF. Do not just download a PDF of the case on Westlaw because that doesn’t show the exact pages from the reporter.
    • Then manually input the metadata for the case. You only need to input the metadata that is necessary to make a Bluebook citation for a case.
    • Then manually attach the PDF from the official reporter.
  • For all sources that have a PDF, you can open the PDF in Zotero and make highlights, which will be visible to the professor when they open the PDF in Zotero. It is good practice to highlight quotes that you added to the notes.
  • The following is a list of websites that work particularly well with the Zotero extension (meaning you rarely need to add metadata manually):
    • HeinOnline

Video Tutorials

How to Create a Zotero Account
How to Download the Zotero Application
How to Sync Zotero
How to Use Zotero Group Libraries
How to Join Group Libraries in Zotero


How to Install the Zotero Chrome Extension


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