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Zotero is a research assistant, a research organizer, and a bibliographic tool.

Organizing Library and Taking Notes

Collections and Tags

Collections allow hierarchical organization of items into groups and subgroups. The same item can belong to multiple collections and subcollections in your library at the same time. Collections are useful for filing items in meaningful groups (e.g., items for a particular project, from a specific source, on a specific topic, or for a particular course). You can import items directly to a specific collection or add them to collections after they are already in your library.

Tags (often called “keywords” in other contexts) allow for detailed characterization of an item. You can tag items based on their topics, methods, status, ratings, or even based on your own workflow (e.g., “to-read”). Items can have as many tags as you like, and you can filter your library (or a specific collection) to show items having a specific set of one or more tags.

Tags are portable, but collections are not. Copying items between Zotero libraries (My Library and group libraries) will transfer their tags, but not their collection placements. Both organizational methods have unique advantages and features. Experiment with both to see what works best for your own workflow.


Quick search can be used in three different modes:

  • “Title, Year, Creator” - matches against these three fields, as well as publication titles
  • “All Fields & Tags” - matches against all fields, as well as tags and text in notes
  • “Everything” - matches against all fields, tags, text in notes, and indexed text in PDFs

Advanced searches offer more and finer control than quick searches.


By default, items are arranged alphabetically by the first column (whichever you have selected). You may toggle between ascending or descending order.


In addition to items and file attachments, you can also store notes in your Zotero library: child notes, which belong to a specific item, and standalone notes. Notes are synced along with item metadata. Standalone notes work the same as child notes, but are not directly related to any item in your library. Standalone notes will appear alongside any other items in your library.

As with any other item in Zotero, notes can be tagged and related to other items. Both features can be accessed via the bottom of the note editor.