Collections allow hierarchical organization of items into groups and subgroups. You can create as many collections as you like to store and manage your projects.
Collections are more like music playlists. An item can belong to multiple collections. Adding an item to multiple collections doesn't duplicate the item, it is like you are adding a link to the item to that collection. You still have one copy of that item in your library.
Collections are useful for filing items in meaningful groups (e.g., items for a particular project, from a specific source, on a specific topic, or for a particular course). Every item resides in My Library, which is like a master collection.
Create collections and add items to collections
Click the “New Collection…” button above the left pane in Zotero to add a new collection. You can also right-click on “My Library” and choose “New Collection…” to add a new collection.
To add items in your library to a collection, select them in the center pane and drag them onto the collection in the left pane.
Saved searches are like smart collections. They automatically update to include all the items in your library that meet the search criteria.
It shows items that Zotero has identified as duplicates. Use this collection to review and merge duplicate items.
Zotero uses the title, DOI, and ISBN to determine duplicates.
Items that are not in any collection can be found in the "Unfiled items" special collection.
Understand Zotero's three column interface
The left column contains your full library (“My Library”) and your individual collections, which are subsets of “My Library”. The file cabinet.
The middle column shows the items in the collection that is highlighted in the left column. The file folder.
The right column shows information about the item that is selected in the middle column. The individual record.
Using tags to organize your Zotero library
Tags are descriptive terms (or personal keywords) to an item to make it more easily searchable.
You can tag items based on their topics, location, source, methods, status, ratings, or even based on your own workflow (e.g., “to-read”).
Items can have as many tags as you like, and you can filter your library (or a specific collection) to show items having a specific set of one or more tags.
Add tags and filter items by their tags
To add a tag to an item, select the item in the center Zotero pane, then click the “Tags” tab in the right-hand pane. Click the “Add” button, type the tag name, and type Enter/Return.
You can filter items by their tags by clicking on one more tags in the tag selector that is located at the bottom of the left Zotero pane. Only items that have all of the selected tags will be shown in the center pane.
Delete or filter automatic tags
Tags that are automatically imported from databases can interfere with your own process for tagging and organizing your items. To hide or remove automatic tags from a library, click the option button next to the tag search bar below the tag window:
You can prevent Zotero from downloading automatic tags in the Settings, General tab: