What is metadata?

Metadata is data that describes an item. For example, author, title, journal title, date, and the DOI or URL, are common pieces of metadata needed to create a citation.

Verify Checklist

It's good practice to verify the metadata for each item at the time you add it to your library. This practice will also help you become familiar with your citation style so that when you cite in your paper, the process of creating a complete and well-formatted citation will be easier.

 Do you have an Info Tab with metadata?

WITH metadata:

with Info Tab and metadata


with metadata


​WITHOUT metadata. Can't be used.

no metadata

 If item does not have an Info Tab with metadata, did you create a Parent Item and add the metadata?

retrieve metadata
  • Right click > Retrieve Metadata for PDF or
  • Right click > Create Parent Item > Add metadata


 Do you have all the pieces of metadata?

  • Check against the examples given in the Citation Guide. Examples:
    • Journal articles: Author(s), Article Title, Journal Title, Volume and/or Issue, Date, Page Range, DOI or URL
    • Books: Author, Title, Short Title, (Editor), Place of publication, Publisher, Date
    • Government Reports: Author, Title, Document ID#, Place of Publication, Publisher, Year, Page(s), URL
    • Websites: Author, Title, Organization, Date, URL

 Have you selected the right Item Type?

  • ​Sometimes the Item Type selected in Zotero doesn't produce the correct formatting for your style. For example, in Chicago NB, you would choose the Book Item Type for a government report. See Tips for Fixing Formatting in Chicago NB

 Did you use the Style Preview function to verify against the Citation Guide examples?

Add / Remove Styles

Add a style:

  1. Go to Preferences > Cite > Get additional style
  2. Search for the style name
  3. Click on the name

Remove a style:

  1. Go to Preferences > Cite
  2. Highlight the style(s) you don't need
  3. Click the minus button

Add or subtract styles

Use the Style Preview function to verify formatting

  • style previewHighlight the item
  • Go to Preferences
  • Cite tab
  • Click Style Preview








  • Select the Citation Format in the drop down. Choose:
    • author date for APA, Chicago AD, INFORMS
    • note for Chicago NB
    • numeric for IEEE

style preview citation format

  • Compare with Citation Guide examples, and make necessary edits in Zotero.