What is Zotero?

Zotero is a reference management program that allows you to collect, organize, annotate upon, and cite research sources.

What is the purpose of Zotero?

Zotero allows you to collect citations then organize, manage, and reference sources through bibliographic and in-text citation supports. Zotero also allows for collaboration between groups so that sources can be collected and shared with others.

How to use Zotero

Using a web browser plug-in, Zotero users can capture, import, and archive information and files on sources such as books, journal articles, or websites. Zotero captures bibliographic information on sources allowing you to save information on the source. You can also add notes and tags to your references to keep track of themes or ideas relating to the work. Within Zotero, sources are organized into libraries, which can be private, shared with a specific group, or made public.  

Tool Evaluation

Evaluated: June 2017

Functionality overall rating: 2 starsFunctionality

Rating Rationale
Scale rating: 3 stars


Zotero can be scaled to accommodate any size class with the flexibility to create smaller sub-groups. There are no restrictions to the number or size of groups.

Ease of use rating: 3 stars

Ease of Use

Zotero has a user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate and personalize

Tech Support/ Help Availability rating: 2 stars

Tech Support/Help Availability

Technical support and help documentation is available in the form of web pages or videos. See Documentation and Forums

Hypermediality rating: 3 stars


Zotero allows users to communicate through different channels (audio, visual, textual) and allows for non-sequential, flexible/adaptive engagement with material. Sources can be PDFs, webpages, images, audio or video files, etc.

Accessibility overall rating: 2 starsAccessibility

Rating Rationale
AODA Friendly rating: 2 stars

AODA Friendly

Zotero has some limited capacity to be fully accessible for users or for materials to be made AODA-friendly. There are some known issues with the compatibility of screenreaders

Assistive Technology rating: 2 stars

User-focused participation

Zotero has some limited capacity to address the needs of diverse users, their various literacies, and capabilities

Required Equipment rating: 3 stars

Required Equipment

Proper use of Zotero does not require equipment other than a computer and access to the internet

Technical overall rating: 1 starsTechnical

Rating Rationale
Integration/Embedding Within OWL rating: 1 star

Integration/Embedding Within OWL

Zotero can only be offered in OWL through a link or static representations of the tool (i.e. PDF), rather than a functional version of the tool itself

Operating Systems rating: 3 stars

Operating Systems

Users can effectively utilize Zotero with any standard, up-to-date operating system (i.e. Windows 10, Apple OSX, etc.). There is a standalone desktop app available for Mac users only.

Web Browser rating: 2 stars

Web Browser

Zotero for Firefox, a Firefox extension, is the original way of using Zotero. Zotero Standalone, a separate browser-independent application, is available for Chrome, Safari, Opera, or Bookmarklet

Additional Technical Requirements rating: 2 stars

Additional Technical Requirements

Zotero requires downloadable software. See Zotero Download Page

Mobile Design overall rating: 2 starMobile Design

Rating Rationale
Mobile Operating Systems rating: 2 stars

Mobile Operating Systems

Zotero was designed for desktop or laptop use. There is no official mobile Zotero app for mobile devices.

Mobile Functionality rating: 2 stars

Mobile Functionality

The mobile version of Zotero.org allows users to access and edit their Zotero library on tablet or mobile phone, however functionality may be impacted

Offline Access rating: 2 star

Offline Access

Zotero Desktop (available for Mac) allows for offline access to a user’s Zotero library however links to webpages and online PDFs will be affected as will syncing capabilities

Usage and account set up overall rating: 1 starsUsage and Account Set Up

Rating Rationale
Sign Up/Sign In rating: 1 stars

Sign Up/Sign In

All users must register with Zotero, creating a username and password with a provided email address.

Cost of Use rating: 2 stars

Cost of Use

300 MB of storage is provided with a free account. Users can purchase more storage space at an annual price

Archiving Saving and Exporting Data rating: 3 stars

Archiving, Saving, and Exporting Data

Users can archive, save, or import and export content or activity data in a variety of formats

Data Privacy and Ownership rating: 2 stars

Data Privacy and Ownership

Users maintain ownership and copyright of their intellectual property/data; Zotero’s Privacy Policy states that through cookie technology or otherwise, they may track and collect information on your computer and software

Social Presence overall rating: 2 starsSocial Presence

Rating Rationale
Collaboration rating: 2 stars


Zotero has the capacity to support a community of learning through asynchronous but not synchronous opportunities for communication, interactivity, and transfer of meaning between users

User Accountability rating: 2 stars

User Accountability

Instructors cannot control student anonymity (users create usernames) but Zotero provides some solution for holding students accountable for their actions (groups can be managed by adding or removing members)

Diffusion rating: 2 stars


Student familiarity with Zotero is likely mixed, some will lack basic technical competence with its functions

Instructor Presence overall rating: 2 starsInstructor Presence

Rating Rationale
Facilitation rating: 2 stars


Zotero has limited functionality to effectively support an instructor’s ability to be present with students via active management, monitoring, and engagement

Customization rating: 3 stars


Zotero is adaptable to its environment: easily customized to suit the classroom context and targeted learning outcomes

Learning Analytics rating: N/A

Learning Analytics

Zotero is not designed to provide learning analytics

Cognitive Presence overall rating: 2 starsCognitive Presence

Rating Rationale
Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s) rating: 2 stars

Enhancement of Cognitive Task(s)

Zotero enables functional improvement to engagement in the targeted cognitive task(s)

Higher Order Thinking rating: 2 stars

Higher Order Thinking

Zotero may engage students in higher order thinking skills (given significant consideration to design, facilitation, and direction from instructor)

Feedback on Learning rating: N/A

Feedback on Learning

Zotero is not designed to provide feedback to others

View the rubric for an explanation of this evaluation
Leave feedback to comment or request that the tool be re-reviewed

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