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Zotero setup: Importing pdf files into your Zotero library

How to install Zotero and its associated plugins, as well as, how to use Zotero efficiently.


If you already have a substantial collection of pdf files stored on your computer it is easy to save them in Zotero. In addition Zotero is able to search Google Scholar for metadata that can be used to create bibliographic citations for you pdf files.

Step by step instructions

  • Locate and select the pdf files you would like to import to Zotero:

  • Drag these files into your Zotero library:
  • You should now see your pdf files in your Zotero library:
  • To search Google Scholar for the metadata that Zotero can use to create bibliographic citations out of these pdf files, select all of the pdf files in your Zotero library, right click on these files, and then select Retrieve Metadata for PDFs

  • In the example here Zotero was able to locate bibliogrpahic information for 2 of the 6 pdf files. Older pdf files or pdf files you have created by scanning documents will not have the metadata necessary for Zotero to locate bibliographic citations in Google Scholar.
  • Unfortunately there are still four pdf files that need to have references created for them:
  • While you are creating a reference for one of the pdf files that Zotero could not locate any metadata for you amy want to look at the actual file. To do this simply click on the View File button in Zotero
  • You will now see the pdf file directly above your Zotero library displayed in Firefox:
  • Now go to the create new reference button and select the appropriate reference type for the pdf file. In this example the reference type Journal Article has been selected:
  • Next enter the bibliographic information for the pdf file into Zotero:


  • Now drag the pdf file over the bibliographic citation you have just created:
  • The pdf file is now included under the new citation that has just been created for it:

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