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Zotero at University of Waterloo: FAQ

This guide will help you use the free online citation and research management tool Zotero to organize citations from Library catalogs and databases.

Installation and Operation

1. Why doesn't the Zotero toolbar display in Word 2016 on my Mac?

First try reinstalling the toolbar under Zotero Preferences > Cite > Word Processors. Be sure that your Word application is completely shut down before doing so. After installing, open Word and check to see if it is there.  If it is not, it might be because your copy of Word 2016 is not up to date. In your Word Help menu, select "Check for Updates." You may need to do this more than once to ensure that all the updates are installed. 

In Word 365, go to File > Account and under Product Information, choose Update Options > Update Now.

2. Is there a spell-checker in Zotero notes?

Zotero recognizes spelling errors in notes (only for English), but doesn't provide other spell-check functionality, like suggesting corrections. If you want to remove the red squiggles highlighting your spelling errors, you can go to Preferences > Advanced > Config Editor and change the value of extensions.spellcheck.inline.max-misspellings to 0.

Importing references

1. Why is the capitalization incorrect in my bibliography?

When you import a reference, Zotero saves it exactly as it appears in the online resource. You can change that to Title Case or Sentence case by right-cicking on the title and choosing an option under "Transform Text." You are advised to choose Sentence case because this can be easily converted by Zotero to Title Case if the style you choose requires this. But it is not as easy for Zotero to convert Title Case to Sentence case because some words might need to remain capitalized (such as proper nouns). 

screen shot of transform text menu

2. Why doesn't the Zotero translator (Zotero icon in the browser) correctly import the reference?

screen shot of save menuThere are some pages you will visit that won't have adequate metadata for Zotero to translate, in which case you will need to manually enter the data. However, if you are having this difficulty with a catalog or database, look for the option to select and/or save the item. Then choose the option to view the items (usually a folder or link near the top of the screen). If you are given the option to Export or Save, your options may include Export to Zotero. If not, choose either BibTeX or RIS.

In Zotero, choose File > Import and navigate to where the RIS or BibTeX file was saved. It will import the references into a new folder, where you can review them for accuracy. You can then drag them into a collection.


3. How does Zotero handle abbreviated titles? Article information displayed with publication and journal abbreviation fields highlighted

When you use a citation style that requires abbreviated journal titles, you have two options. 

1) If you are using Zotero with a Word Processor, in the Document Preferences you can choose to  "Use MEDLINE journal abbreviations." This option will only appear when you select a style that uses journal abbreviations. When you create a bibliography, Zotero will generate the abbreviations from the information that appears in the Publication field. 
2) If you uncheck that option, then Zotero will generate the abbreviations from the information that appears in the Journal Abbr. field. Ideally the abbreviations should include periods, since Zotero can remove them when the citation style dictates that, but cannot add them.

Many databases that abbreviate journal titles in their records will automatically populate Zotero with the full journal title in the Publication field and the abbreviation in the Journal Abbr field. If the database does not do this, it is recommended that you edit the record yourself. A guide at the University of Denver Library provides a useful list of tools for identifying titles from abbreviations.


Editing Citations and Bibliographies

1. Why can't I edit my citations using my word processor instead of Zotero?

Zotero gives you options for adding notes before and after your citations, adding page numbers, and combining more than one reference into a single citation. If you use the Zotero options, when you change a citation style or correct item data in your Zotero library, Zotero will be able to automatically update the citation. If instead you manually edit the citation, Zotero can no longer automatically update the citation and will give you a pop-up warning. It will prompt you to either discard all your manual changes, or maintain the citation as is, which will prevent any future automatic updates of that citation. 

2. How can I remove references from a bibliography?

When creating a document in your word processor, there may be times when you want sources cited in your document but not in the bibliography. Use the Add/Edit Bibliography command and remove items from the right pane of the window using the left arrow.

Edit bibliography screen

Attempting to edit a deleted reference will prompt an error message, so this step should be done in the final stages of editing your document.

3. How can I remove the author's name from author-date in-text citations?

In some author-date styles, when the author's name is referred to in the text, it is removed from the citation, e.g., "according to Romanov (1987), this is correct."  When you insert a citation into your word document, check "Suppress Author." This option appears when you are inserting citations using the Classic View. If you are using the default method for inserting a citation, double-click on the citation in the citation dialog after you select it.