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Citation Management with Zotero

Learn to use Zotero to manage your references and associated digital files.

Convert from RefWorks to Zotero

If you have an existing RefWorks account, you can import your library into a new Zotero account. Some important things to know in advance:

Existing documents

  • Zotero will not recognize the citations you've added in your RefWorks documents, either with Write-n-Cite or RefWorks Citation Manager, so make sure you're done with any in-progress documents before you leave RefWorks behind.
  • If you're using Write-n-Cite, use the Remove Field Codes button to turn all in-text and bibliography references into plain text before switching to Zotero.


  • You'll need to import one folder at a time in order to keep your citations organized.

Personal Notes and User fields

  • These won't transfer to Zotero, but you can copy and paste that information after importing your references.

Digital File Attachments

  • If you've attached PDFs to your citations, they won't transfer into Zotero.
  • The best strategy to import those PDFs is:
    • Import your references.
    • Download the PDFs to a folder on your computer.
    • Drag and drop each PDF onto your new citation in Zotero.

Transfer Your Library from RefWorks to Zotero

There are two steps to moving from RefWorks to Zotero:

  1. Export your RefWorks library (or part of it).
  2. Import the library into Zotero.

Let's start with Zotero

  1. If you haven't already, go to the Get Started tab and follow the instructions to create a Zotero account, download the client, and configure your preferences.
  2. You may wish to set up the ZotFile plugin before you go further. See that tab for more details.

Now go to RefWorks

Option 1:

If you want to keep your folders organized as they already are, right-click a single folder (1) and choose Export (2). Select Bibliographic Software (3). This should download a text file. If it opens in a new tab instead, go to the browser menu and choose "Save as" to download the txt file.

Steps to export a single folder from Legacy RefWorks

Option 2:

To export your entire library at once, click Export in the Quick Access menu directly under your folders. Then select Bibliographic Software in the Export References pop-up window. This should download a text file. If it opens in a new tab instead, go to the browser menu and choose "Save as" to download the txt file.

Export entire library from Legacy RefWorks

Choose how to Export References

Head back to Zotero

  1. Go to the File menu and choose Import.

    Choose File or Gear and then Import
  2. Zotero assumes you want to import from a file. Click Next.

    Click Next
  3. Select the text file with your RefWorks citations in it.

    Choose file
  4. Make sure "Place imported collections and items into new collection" is checked. Even though the box has information about File Handling, it will NOT import any of your PDFs. Click Next.

    Click Next to import to a new collection
  5. Click Finish.

    In the Import Complete box, choose Finish
  6. Rename the new Collection (see the Organize & Find References for more details about Collections) to match the RefWorks folder it came from (or to whatever you prefer).

And now RefWorks again

  1. If the folder of references you just imported had any digital files, such as full-text PDFs, download those files now. You'll probably want to rename them to something you can easily identify, so you can match them with the new items in your Zotero library.

And finally, Zotero

  1. Open the folder on your computer where you stored your downloaded digital files.
  2. Select the file that is the full-text of one of your references, drag it into Zotero, and drop it on top of the matching reference.
  3. Zotero will attach the file to the refernece; if you've set up ZotFile, it will also rename it based on your ZotFile preferences, and store it in your preferred folder location.

If text-based instructions are not for you, this video provides very clear instructions for how to export your references and import them into your Zotero client.

Health Sciences and Engineering Librarian

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Kari Mofford
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Claire T. Carney Library
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285 Old Westport Road
Dartmouth, MA 02747