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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Changing citation managers
  2. Uploading Excel citation collections
  3. Leaving or changing institutions or schools
  4. Title capitalization problems
  5. Title italics problems
  6. Comparing citation management tools
  7. Synching with a Cloud Storage System
  8. Using Zotero with a VPN

1. Can I transfer my references from another citation manager to Zotero?

Yes, you can. has general instructions here and also has more detailed instructions for switching from EndNote to Zotero here. You can also export your Zotero library to another citation manager if you find that Zotero does not meet your needs.

2. I already have a large collection of citations on an Excel spreadsheet. Can I convert it to a Zotero library?

Unfortunately there's no way to do this automatically. Zotero can only import the following bibliographic file formats:

    • Zotero RDF
    • MODS (Metadata Object Description Schema)
    • BibTeX
    • RIS
    • Refer/BibIX
    • Unqualified Dublin Core RDF

The best way to do import references from an Excel spreadsheet is to search for your references online and add them one at a time into your Zotero library. If you have PDFs along with your citations, you can try importing the PDF files into your library and have Zotero search for the metadata. If there is metadata attached to the PDF or if Zotero can find the information through Google Scholar, then it will create a new item and attach the PDF to it automatically. 

3. What will happen to my account if I leave UW-Whitewater?

Your Zotero account is independent of your affiliation with UW-Whitewater.  In fact, anyone can use Zotero and create an online account for free.

4. Title capitalization is not always correct when I format my bibliography or import a reference. How can I change this automatically?

Most databases use inconsistent title capitalization. Sometimes a title will be exported from a database:

  • In Title Case Like This    [or]
  • In sentence case like this

In order for Zotero to format the title correctly for any citation style, you want the title of the reference in your Zotero Library in Sentence case, that is, with the first letter of the title capitalized as well as any proper nouns or acronyms.

Example for an article title: Common core standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects.

To easily create sentence case:

  • Right-click (or control-click for Mac users) on the title field.  You can then choose to have the title in Title Case or Sentence case.

book title in Zotero showing something in Title Case -- right click to change to Sentence case

  • This is also a good time to manually clean up any "junk" that is in the wrong field -- above, notice how the authors' names are entered incorrectly in the Title field, as well as correctly in the Author and Contributor fields. Click in the field again and use the keyboard to correct the entry.
  • Then, manually capitalize any proper nouns that remain in lower case. Zotero does not automatically recognize all proper nouns.

the above record, correct to sentence case capitalization

If the capitalization is still not correct when Zotero inserts a citation into your paper or a reference into your bibliography, then the Citation Style Language (CSL) may not be correct for your particular citation style. You can ask if the style needs to be updated by posting in the Zotero forums.


5. Title italics is not always correct when I format my bibliography or import a reference. How can I change this automatically?

Binomial (scientific) names, foreign language words and phrases, or titles of another work within a title need to be italicized when Zotero exports the final citation into a text document. Zotero does not automatically recognize italics when importing records. 

  • In Zotero Standalone, click on the field of the reference where the italics should be
  • Put the HTML tags <i> </i> around anything that you want italicized
    • The Zotero record will show the HTML tags, but the tags do not show up when the citation is inserted into a word document, or if you copy and paste (or drag and drop) the citation into a text document.

image of a record in Zotero, highlighting the <i> and </i> tags around the italicized part of the title

This article title displays italics correctly when inserted into a text document:

Yang, F., Qureshi, J. A., Leonard, B. R., Head, G. P., Niu, Y., & Huang, F. (2013). Susceptibility of Louisiana and Florida populations of Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) to pyramided Bt corn containing Genuity®Vt Double ProTM and SmartstaxTM traits. Florida Entomologist96(3), 714–723.

  • A book title in APA, MLA, or Turabian already is italicized. So using these tags in the Title Field for a book will reverse the italics, as is correct:

 image of a book record in zotero, highlighting the <i> and </i> tags


The book title displays italics and reverse italics correctly when inserted in a text document:

Applegate, C. (2005). Bach in Berlin: Nation and culture in Mendelssohn’s revival of the St. Matthew Passion. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

6. What is the difference between EndNote, EndNote Web, RefWorks, Mendeley, and Zotero?

These are all citation managers. See UW Madison's chart showing the differences: Mendeley/EndNote/Zotero Features Comparison.

7. Can I sync my Zotero Library by placing my Zotero database in a cloud storage system such as Dropbox?

No, you cannot do this without potentially corrupting your Zotero database. You can sync your data over multiple computers by creating an account on and setting up Zotero sync.

8. Can I use Zotero with a VPN from off-campus?

Zotero does not work well with web-based VPNs (such as as the VPN webpage is what the Zotero connector is searching for bibliographic data instead of the "inner" Library webpage. In order to efficiently use Zotero with a VPN, you will need to download and use a desktop application for the VPN. For UW-Whitewater users, more information about downloading and using desktop versions of the VPN are located at ICIT's website.

If you just need to add a few articles while using a web-based VPN, try manually downloading the PDFs to your computer, then dragging and dropping the PDF into your Zotero library. Then you can right-click on the PDF and select Retrieve Metadata for PDF. If no metadata can be found, right-click on the PDF and select Create Parent Item from Selected Item.


Need more help?

Contact Diana Shull,, for a 1-on-1 tutorial or to set up a workshop for a class or small group.

Getting Help from

Take advantage of the support documentation available at the Zotero website.

Zotero is an open-source project that has a large community of dedicated users active in Zotero Forums, an online discussion board. You can post your question or problem and Zotero administrators as well as users will answer your questions. Make sure to search the forums for your topic first, as someone else may have previously posted with the same questions/problem.

Zotero also maintains a "Tips & Tricks" webpage.