The left column includes My Library, which contains all items. Clicking the button above the left column creates a new collection, a folder into which items relating to a specific project or topic can be placed.
Items in collections are aliases (or “links”) to a single copy of the item in your library. As such, one item can be placed in multiple collections. For example, a commentary on Leviticus (an item) could be placed in a Biblical Commentaries collection and it could also be placed in a collection on Leviticus at the same time.
You can also create subcollections to organize your research hierarchically by right-clicking on a main collection. For example, you might have a collection called Leviticus and have subcollections under it like Commentaries and Day of Atonement. However, if you place an item in a subcollection, it is not automatically placed in the parent collection.
Items can be added manually by clicking the New Item button in the Zotero toolbar, then selecting the appropriate item type (book, journal article, book section, interview, podcast, thesis, etc). There are 33 item types to choose from at present. Metadata (creator, title, publisher, etc.) can then be added by hand in the right column. For example, you may have conducted original interviews that you'll use as references in a research paper, but you can't grab their metadata from a database or website because they're unique. So you'll have to create the item and metadata yourself. Like Billy Graham did for his interview with Karl Barth in this fictitious example:
If you are using Zotero for Firefox or the Chrome or Safari connector, it is simple to add new items from information available on the internet. If a save icon appears in the toolbar or address bar, Zotero can automatically create an item of the appropriate type and populate the metadata fields. If a full-text PDF is available, it will usually be automatically attached to the item. Importing from some websites will also attach useful links (e.g. to the PubMed entry) or Supplemental Data files.
The save icon appears where your other browser extensions are listed--to the right of your browser's address bar. While the pictures below are from Chrome, the same icon appears in relatively the same spot in FireFox and Safari. Here are some examples of the item type icons:
Book (may appear when you're in library catalog or on Amazon)
Journal Article (may appear when you're in an article database on EBSCOhost or PubMed)
Clicking on the icon will add the item to the collection that is currently open in Zotero.
If you're on a search results page, the save icon is a folder because the webpage contains multiple items that Zotero recognizes.
Clicking the folder will open a dialog box from which items can be selected and saved to Zotero. As with individual items, these items will be saved directly to the collection that is currently open in Zotero. The example below is from an EBSCOhost database.
Important: It's important to note that, while Zotero is really powerful at formatting citations, you still need to make sure that the bibliographic information of each item is correct. When you add items to your library, you should glance at them to make sure Zotero captured all the relevant information in the appropriate fields so that it create proper citations and bibliographies. For example, in the below image the place of publication did not get imported for whatever reason from an online database, so I manually added it. Little corrections like this are very common.
Items can have notes, files, and links attached to them. These attachments appear in the middle column underneath their parent item. Attachments can be shown or hidden by clicking the arrow or plus sign next to their parent item.
Any type of file can be attached to an item. Items such as the PDF of an article or images of artwork will be opened in external programs (i.e., Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, etc.). Attach files with the Add Attachment (paperclip) button in the Zotero toolbar, by right-clicking on an existing item, or by drag-and-dropping. Files do not need to be attached to existing items. They can simply be added to your library.