Reference management software: Zotero

The use of footnote references in Zotero comes with some difficulties, and it is good to be aware of problems that may occur. Below, two different ways to work with footnotes in Zotero are described. They are not exclusive, but can be combined.

Inserting and formatting footnotes with Zotero

Inserting a footnote

In order to insert a footnote, you place the cursor at the place in the document where you want the footnote. Choose Add/Edit Citation from the Zotero tab in Word. Find the item you want by typing the author's name in the dialogue box that appears. When you press Enter, Zotero automatically inserts a footnote with the chosen item. You can also insert multiple items by writing them after one another in the dialogue box.

Note that the above only works if you are using a footnote style! Select a footnote style below Document Preferences, e.g., Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition (full note). If it is not clear from the name of the style whether it is a footnote style, try to find the style at > Search by name > View style; the type of style is listed below Citation format.

Writing text in the footnote

In order to add text before the item cited in a footnote, use the field Prefix. You find the field when clicking an item in the citation dialogue, which appears when you click Add/Edit Citation. Text that is supposed to follow at the item can be added in the field Suffix. Thus, all text in the footnote is written in the citation dialogue.

This way of working is best suited for short footnotes which, except for the cited items, do not contain much text. An advantage is that Zotero can automatically transform the entire footnote into an in-text parenthesis if you choose to switch from a footnote style to a parenthetical style. There are, however, a couple of issues that it might be good to know about:

  • In many reference styles, sources are separated by a semicolon, which may not be compatible with the grammar of the footnote text (e.g., "[item A]; and [item B]"). The separating mark cannot be replaced by a blank space by use of the fields prefix/suffix.
  • When editing the footnote text, it may be difficult to get an overview of the contents in the fields prefix/suffix, especially if the text is long.
  • The text in the fields prefix/suffix cannot be formatted in Word, but must be formatted by use of html tags typed in the fields, e.g., "<i>cf.</i>" for an italicised "cf.".

Inserting and formatting footnotes in the word processor

Inserting a footnote

First insert a footnote manually, using the function References > Insert footnote (or short command Ctrl + Alt + F). Then place the cursor in the footnote at the bottom of the page, click Add/Edit Citation, and insert the cited item as usual.

Writing text in the footnote

You can add text in the footnote by typing it in the document outside the grey field constituting the citation. Add a new item in the same footnote, separated from the first by text, by placing the cursor where you want it and click Add/Edit Citation.

This way of working is best suited for texts with longer footnotes, containing more elaborate discussions. There are, however, some disadvantages:

  • Zotero will not be able to transform the footnotes to in-text parentheses if you switch to a parenthetic reference style.
  • You must never write in the grey field in the document, constituting the citation! This will give you an error code when updating the citations, and you will be asked wither to discard your manually inserted text or abstain from updating the citation in the future (including alternations in the reference style, changes in the item metadata etc.). See FAQ.
  • In many reference styles, the footnotes automatically ends with a full stop, which may not be compatible with the grammar of the footnote text (e.g., "Ohlmarks, Heimdalls Horn. argues"). The problem can be avoided by removing the full stop by editing the reference style (see Finding new styles...). In this case, you will have to add a full stop at the end of each footnote manually.