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History Research Guide

Resources for research not limited to any particular course topic and tools to support history scholars.

About Zotero

Zotero is both a desktop application and a browser extension that easily manages your sources. It collects citation information, organizes sources, and creates bibliographies in almost all citation styles.

This guide will take you through the basics of installation, capturing citations, creating bibliographies, and it will provide some tips and tricks that will help you get the most out of Zotero.


This is by far the most difficult part of using Zotero for most students. Depending on the preferred browser and computer (Mac or PC), the process will be slightly different. Zotero was originally created as a browser extension for Firefox.

Zotero is now only available as a standalone application that can work with Chrome, Safari, or Firefox browser extensions.To download Zotero, go to, and select the big red button that says "Download Now."

Then choose which version you want to install based on which browser you use and follow the steps provided by the Zotero website.



It is a good idea to look through the preferences after downloading Zotero to get a better idea of how you can customize the application to better fit your needs. In order to view the preferences, click the gear icon on the top left of the Zotero panel.

Once you open preferences, browse through the different tabs to familiarize yourself with the options available. There are a few important things you need to change in order to get the most out of Zotero. Each important feature is shown below.

Arrow pointing to gear icon to access preferences


I. General

Check the box “Automatically attach associated PDFs.” This will store all available PDFs so you can access them at any time through Zotero.

In Zotero, Red box around option to “Automatically attach associated PDFs.”


II. Sync 

Create a Zotero account if you haven't already created one when you initially downloaded Zotero. Also make sure the box "Sync automatically" is checked. This will ensure that your library will sync up with your online account so you can access your citations from any computer, even if the computer doesn't have Zotero downloaded! Just go to and log in with your account information.

Red box around Create Account link in Zotero and arrow showing to check Sync Automatically..


III. Advanced

Add the following line into the "Resolver" box as shown in the screenshot below:…. You can also simply click "Search for Resolvers" if you are on campus. Two options will show up, always choose the one that says "Cal State San Marcos." This will ensure that Zotero recognizes you as a student at CSUSM and allows you to access library items paid for by your tuition!

Advanced box options in Zotero.


Once you have updated the preferences, it is time to start capturing citations!