Scr + Zotero (Building Reference List?)

Hi all,

This may be more of a Zotero question than a Scr but I’m hoping those who use both will have some solution/idea.

I have read lots of posts about this but I’m not sure which ‘method’ is right for me and hoping to get some clarity. All through my undergrad, I used Word + Zotero and it worked fine and I loved that at the end of my writing, it build my reference list for me.

Now that I’m about to start working up a Master’s thesis, I knew that Word was going to be a pain to use, thought about OneNote, but again… so many things that could have done better, etc., lo and behold I find Scrivener. All looks amazing - except no integration of referencing.

What I have taken away so far is I can copy & paste the in-text citation from Zotero to Scr, no problem. (Johnson, 2021). Great. I’ve also seen the ODT scan and tried it however, what I found was it didn’t add the parentheses around the author and year, leaving it to look like Johnson, 2021 which I’m not about to go fix up on a thousand in-text citations.

But my burning question is how the heck do I build a reference list automatically like one does with Word+Zotero with one click? Currently my horrible plan looks like this:

  1. Copy & paste (Johnson, 2021) from Zotero to Scr as plain text.
  2. Finish entire thesis and export to Word.
  3. Go find every citation, cut it and then insert it back into the document using Zotero’s plug-in [add citation button] so that it “links” to the source file in Zotero.
  4. Spend however long it takes doing this.
  5. Then use “insert bibliography/reference list” button.

The in-text citations are easy enough to manage but is there any work around either in Zotero or Scr to recognise the citations and build the reference list with one click like it natively works in Word?

Thank you muchly!


There are many possible routes. Most recommendations do suggest to use ODT scan — I think you didn’t configure it right as it should be creating properly formatted in-text citations:

A simpler method is to use RTF:

Both these methods require an intermediate format and manual scanning after every compile.

Now it is possible to get citations + bibliography directly from Scrivener without any intermediates, and that requires using Zotero alongside Pandoc. The benefit is a beautiful ODT/DOCX/PDF without any fussing during compile. The downside is a bunch of setting up and some ability with the command line. This uses the Better BibTex plugin for Zotero and Pandoc’s CSL style system. You use temporary [@citation] citations in Scrivener, and compile to Markdown and post-process with Pandoc:

Hi nontroppo,
Thank you for the comprehensive reply. You are right - the first time, I did not set up the ODT properly. I re-installed Libre and did a bunch of messing around and it finally worked but I am keen to give that 3rd option a try, thanks for sharing the links!

Kind regards,

Note that you don’t have to write your work using markdown. For simple formatting Scrivener can convert from rich text, and for more advanced formatting you can use styles – they can be automatically converted to markdown at compile time. Scrivener also automates the post-processing, configuring the commands that it will run for each compile.

Hi nontroppo,
I have been trying to figure out the integration between Scrivener and Zotero to create a bibliography, but I am striking out and need help. I am quite advanced on a document in which I inserted citations by dragging and dropping from Zotero into scrivener and not creating place holders are the easier method to suggest.

Now, I have over 400 pages of writing with a lengthier amount of references and none of what I have tried seems to work. The compilation method I used is to from Scrivener to LibreOffice, followed by running the ODF scan and open the result back in LibreOffice to set the desired citation style. From there, I am stuck as to how to create the bibliography.

I see your possible suggestion above, but I am on the lower end of skill regarding coding, so I am absolutely petrified to cause a problem that would compromise what I have so far. Would you have suggestions on how to make this easier?

Can you create a small project with a sample of what you have in Scrivener (i.e. you can create a new scrivener project and copy a paragraph or so from you main document). I don’t use Zotero but have it installed so I can take a quick peek.

What format are you dragged temporary citations in, as this can depend on what plugins and settings you’ve used. There are multiple routes and its hard to know which one you’ve used / which one may work. Did you use the recommendation in thar Princeton guide: Set Zotero’s default output format to Scannable Cite

Personally I use and recommend Bookends over Zotero as the citation and scanning system is more reliable overall and as Bookends has a super helpful developer. I know that isn’t going to help you for this project, but honestly, reliable citation and reference management is worth the price for anyone writing academically…

Thank you so much for getting back to me. Because of the way Zotero works, producing a specific code for each citation you have in your library, even if I share a project with citations, it will not work on your end.
Here is the process I follow to insert citations into a scrivener project:
1 – Add a handful of sources to your library (using the browser connectors Zotero offers: Zotero | Downloads)
2 – Highlight the word where you want to introduce the citation and press the citation button in the Scrivener inspector
3 – From your Zotero library, drag the source over to the open citation box created (you will see a + sign in green)

Sorry if you already knew this…

Yes, I used the method that involves ODF Scan.

Thanks for the recommendation on Bookends. I will look into it for the next project.

Are you using the scannable cite format as directed by the install instructions for ODF scan?

I set that up and just drag-n-dropped some refs to get text like this in Scrivener:

This is blah text { | Adolphs, 2009 | | |zu:1940082:ZSI4CXZ8}, and others { | Anderson, et al., 2000 | | |zu:1940082:JS9Q8MVN}{ | Asadollahi, & Knudsen, 2016 | | |zu:1940082:2FYYYEDH}.

I then used multimarkdown > openoffice in the compiler to create an ODF file blah.odt, then scanned this using ODF Scan in Zotero and got a document blah (citations).odt with formatted citations, which when pressing the “add bibliography” zotero plugin button (the third from the left) generates the bibliography: