About APA Citation Online Tools

As anyone who has ever written a paper for a college class knows, there are certain style rules and guidelines to be followed depending on which discipline you are in. Such style rules ensure consistency in formatting and publishing and address details such as comma placement, capitalization, references and in-text citations. One of the most commonly used styles is the APA style, which is the style preferred by the American Psychological Association. APA style is style that is generally used for disciplines such as the social sciences, education and psychology.

For many college students, learning APA style can be tricky. The specifics of the style often trip up even the best writers, since it is difficult to remember whether titles should be in italics or not, how references should be alphabetized and how to cite citations, which can vary depending upon where they appear.

According to the APA, the style originated in 1929, when a group of psychologists, anthropologists, and business managers decided to establish a simple set of procedures, or style rules, to bring uniformity to the elements of scientific writing to increase the ease of reading comprehension.

Some of the procedures they decided upon can be challenging. Plus, there are various online tools and style generators out there that can help. We’ve gathered a few of them here.

Online Citation Machines

It takes just a few clicks to find any number of reliable citation machines that help writers be sure their papers conform to APA style. In general, a citation machine website helps students and professionals properly credit the information that they use. As any good student knows, proper credits are essential to presenting a strong paper, because they cite the sources used, giving credit where credit is due and not plagiarizing.

Avoid Plagiarism at All Costs

In a reference paper, article, blog post or any other published work, writers must give credit to their sources. Failing to do so, even if you have completely reworded the information or summarized the information, is considered to be plagiarism. A good rule of thumb is to cite sources extensively, because even if you think you have an original thought, you may actually be paraphrasing something you’ve read elsewhere. It is safe to say that you cannot cite too many sources.

Citation Machine Ensures APA Conformity

Citation Machine is a free online tool that students, researchers, teachers and publishers can use to see how well their paper conforms to APA style guidelines.

The site is extremely clear about the two types of APA citations and provides a good summary. The first kind of citation is called an in-text or parenthetical citation. These citations must be included when you use information from someone else’s work in your own paper. They are used in the main body of your paper and must be placed immediately after the information you have borrowed.

The second kind of citation is a reference citation and is included with all other full citations at the end of your paper on the last page. They are alphabetical and listed one after the other. They’re the full citations for the in-text citations included in the body of your paper.

BibMe Details APA Style

BibMe is another free online citation generator for APA style. Along with citation guidelines, it spells out ways in which paper elements such as publication dates and titles should be structured. For example, publication dates should place the date that the source was published in parentheses, after the author’s name. If no date is available, you should write n.d. In parentheses, which stands for no date.

Book titles should capitalize just the first letter of the first word in the title. Do the same for the subtitle. The first letter of any proper nouns should be capitalized and italicized. Each should end with a period.

Check Every Last Detail

Learning APA style on your own can be daunting. Fortunately, you can learn more about it while making sure that paper is correct and that you properly cite each and every one of your sources by using online tools developed for this exact purpose.

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how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

Editing CSL Styles - Step-by-Step Guide

Csl visual editor.

An open source, visual CSL editor has been developed in a collaboration of Columbia University Library and Mendeley. You can find the editor here and a usage guide here . If you have trouble editing styles you can still ask for help on the Zotero forums. You can report bugs here - make sure you're reporting reproducible errors. The github issue tracker is not the place for questions.

Manually Editing CSL styles

In many cases you may still want to manually edit CSL styles. This guide provides easy to follow steps.

1 - Start with the Right Style

Start by checking the Zotero Style Repository . If you want to improve an existing CSL style, make sure that you start from the most recent version (the repository shows the date and time each style was last updated). If you want to create a new style, find the style that most closely matches what you need using the previews in the style repository. Typically the best way to find a most similar style is the “ search by Example ” function of the visual style editor.

2 - Edit the Style

Download the style you want to edit to your computer, and open it in a (plain) text editor like Notepad on Windows, TextEdit on Mac OS X (select “Make Plain Text” under “Format”), or gedit in Linux. Other options are Notepad++ for Windows, TextWrangler for Mac OS X, oXygen XML Editor , Emacs in nXML mode , and jEdit , which all support XML syntax highlighting (CSL is an XML-based language) and in some cases also real-time validation against the CSL schema .

how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

See the documentation page of the CSL project website for information on making CSL changes (in particular, make sure to take a look at the CSL specification . Below we discuss a few common and simple style edits to get you started.

Change the Style Title and ID

Important: Before installing your edited style, you must change the style title and ID at the top of the style code. If you don't change these, your modified style will be overwritten the next time the original style is updated.

The style title and ID are stored within the <title/> and <id/> elements near the top of the style. For example,

can be changed to

The URLs that you put in as an ID do not have to exist (i.e., you can use a zotero.org/style/mystyle type ID even if the style will not be posted on the Zotero repository).

Before installing a modified style, always make sure it is valid XML and CSL by validating against the CSL schema .

Examples Edits

Changing punctuation.

In this example, we want to display the publisher (“CSHL Press”) and the location of the publisher (“Cold Spring Harbor, NY”) in a bibliographic entry. While this can be achieved with the code

this would result in “CSHL PressCold Spring Harbor, NY”. Fortunately, we can add some punctuation with the prefix , suffix and delimiter attributes. Let's say we want to separate the publisher and publisher-place by a comma-space, and wrap the whole in parentheses, i.e. “(CSHL Press, Cold Spring Harbor, NY)”. This can be done with:

The advantage of use a group element is that whenever you have a publisher , but no publisher-place , you don't end up with incorrect punctuation: the output would become “(CSHL Press)”. If you would set the punctuation directly onto the text elements, e.g.

you would lose the closing bracket, i.e. “(CSHL Press”.

Changing Et-al Abbreviation

There are two main settings for et-al abbreviation (e.g., rendering the names “Doe, Smith & Johnson” as “Doe et al.”). The minimum number of names that activates et-al abbreviation, and the number of names shown before “et al.”.

In CSL, these settings can appear on the style , citation , bibliography or names elements in the form of the et-al-min and et-al-use-first attributes (it is possible to have separate settings for items that have been cited previously by using the et-al-subsequent-min and et-al-subsequent-use-first attributes).

For example,

will result in name lists like “Doe”, “Doe & Smith” and, if there are three or more names, “Doe et al.”. Try changing these numbers and observe the effect.

Changing Disambiguation

CSL offers multiple methods to disambiguate cites or names. For example, a style might normally render only the family name (e.g., “(Doe 1999, Doe 2002)”). If the authors are Jane Doe and Thomas Doe, these names can be disambiguated by adding initials or the full given names (e.g., “(J. Doe 1999, T. Doe 2002)”).

Disambiguation methods are selected on the citation element. For example, to disable given name disambiguation , delete the disambiguate-add-givenname attribute, e.g. change

Separation of authors

By default several authors are separated by a delimiter , and the word and . This settings can be changed, for example to use the symbol & instead:

or to not use and at all, but to use the delimiter / :

Conditional Rendering (full footnote style)

The appearance of citations in (full) footnote styles may depend on their position in the paper. If the same source is cited twice, it may be that a shortened version is used in the second (and any further) citation. To handle this distinction, one can use conditional rendering based on the position of the citation. A generic structure could then look as

If a case is missing in your style, you can add that and fill out what and how the information should be rendered in that case ( an example of such a full footnote style ).

3 - Install your Edited Style with Zotero

See Citation Styles .

Save the style with a “.csl” file extension (you can generally do this by simply typing ”.csl” after the name of your file). Then, go to the Cite pane in the Zotero preferences . Click on the “+” sign below the list of installed styles. In the file selection dialogue that opens, navigate to the .csl file you just created and open it. This will install your new style into the Zotero data directory.

4 - Sharing Styles

If you think that your modified style might be useful to other people, consider submitting it to the Zotero Style Repository .

Getting Help

If you get stuck at any point, try posting a question on the Zotero forums .

Research Guides

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Citation Style Language (CSL)

Editing the code.

  • Separating Bibliographies by Source Type
  • Video Tutorials

CSL Vocabulary

Some basic terms:

“ macro ” - a reusable chunk of code. Maybe you want the system to treat names in a similar fashion no matter where they show up in a citation style -- this would be the place to define that bit of the style.

“ variable ” - basically a field in the Zotero record, like Author or Title or Place of Publication. There are types of variables: standard (which is referred to as “text variable”), name (“names variable”), date (“date variable”). Note that the CSL editor is designed for use across a variety of software, so there may be variables named in the Editor that are not available in Zotero. Always check Zotero to make sure the field you're hoping for actually exists in an item record.

  • CSL Standard Variables

Citation Style Language is used by quite a few citation generators and bibliographic management software, not just Zotero.

1) Find out if your style already exists

  • Zotero Styles Repository If you need a citation style that isn't included in Zotero by default, you can download it from their full Styles Repository. 1. Make sure Zotero is open. 2. Click the link to the style. 3. Click "OK" in the popup to add the citation style to Zotero. It should be added automatically.

2) Edit/Create your own style

Additional Instructions below .

  • CSL Editor Find and edit citation styles using either the Visual Editor or the Code Editor.
  • CSL Documentation Information about CSL, such as variable names and allowed values.

3) Use/Share your style

You may have created this mostly for yourself or a small group, and that's great! Styles saved local or emailed to other people can be uploaded to individual Zotero users. But if you want to submit your style to be shared with the world, Zotero has a process for that.

  • Add Styles to Zotero Instructions for adding new styles to your Zotero program, either from the Repository or from a file saved on your computer.
  • Submit Zotero Styles to the Repository Guide to submitting your new or revised style to the Zotero Style Repository.
  • Visual Editor
  • Code Editor

The Visual CSL Editor is where most people start, and it can accomplish most things you'll need.

1) Get Started

There are three ways to get started, listed here in order of preference:


  • In the Visual Editor, click on Style > Upload Style to upload an existing csl file that you want to edit.
  • In the Visual Editor, click on Style > New Style to create a style from scratch.

2) Edit the Style Info

  • In the Navigation column, click on "Style Info"
  • Add/Update the style Title so that you and other style users will know what the style is and how it's different from similar styles.
  • Add your name as a Contributor to the style.

3) Edit the Style itself

  • In "Style Info" the "Global Formatting Options" govern many things about your style, including whether to use footnotes or in-text citations, whether bibliographies should use a hanging indent, etc.
  • The "Inline Citations" section will govern how citations will appear in a written document, whether as footnotes or as parenthetical in-text citations.
  • The "bibliography" section governs how citations will appear in a bibliography.
  • "Macros" are units of code that can be used multiple times (for example, how to format an author's name, which will then be used in Inline citations as well as bibliographies).
  • The "Advanced" section gives a few more options for global formatting, inline citations, bibliographies, and macros.

how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

4) Save the Style

  • When you are done editing your style, click Style > Save Style.
  • You will need to click the button that says "Download Style" near the top of the style saving dialog box.
  • Click through any default options or notifications that it presents and then save the style to your computer.

Your style is now available to you to upload to your installation of Zotero . You can also share the style (by email, Google Drive, etc) with other people. If you want to share the style more broadly, submit it for review and inclusion in the Zotero Style Repository .

Sometimes you can't do what you need to do using the Visual Editor alone. In these cases the Code Editor gives you that freedom to tweak your style even more. However, you will need to be able to understand the code language.

Below you can see an example of the Code Editor page. Any changes you make to the code at the bottom half of the page updates in the example on the top half.

how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

Example: Adjusting APA style

In this example, we added font-weight="bold" and font-style="italic" to the end of the line text variable="publisher-place" you can see that the location of the publisher has become bolded and italicized.

how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

You can copy the code and then paste it into the Zotero Style Editor (Zotero>Tools>Preferences>General>Open Style Editor). Save it as a new style, and now you can use your personalized citation style!

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how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

Making your own citation style

  • adamsmith March 30, 2011 edited March 30, 2011 No one knows exactl details about the status of the interactive tool, which is being developed by Mendeley. Here's the status quo http://csleditor.quist.de/csleditor/show/1/example-citation-style Essentially you have two choices: You can request a style, but styles that follow "this is want my dissertation to look" guidelines (while perfectly understandable!) are at the bottom of my pile, which is unfortunately high atm. Alternatively you can just ask specific questions and we'll walk you through issues in csl modification while you learn. For your issue, have a look at the APSA style's author-short macro: <macro name="author-short"> <names variable="author"> <name form="short" and="text" delimiter=", " initialize-with=". " sort-separator=", "/> <substitute> <names variable="editor"/> <names variable="translator"/> <text macro="title"/> </substitute> </names> </macro> This will print the short form if the author and if there is no author, the editor, if there's no editor the translator and if there isn't one either the title. (This is identical in csl 1.0 and csl 0.8)
  • JonEP March 30, 2011 edited March 30, 2011 Thanks for the reply. So, am looking at the style I'm using, and see the following: <macro name="anon"> <choose> <if variable="author editor translator" match="none"> <text term="anonymous" form="short" text-case="capitalize-first"/> </if> </choose> </macro <macro name="anon"> <choose> <if variable="author editor translator" match="none"> <text term="anonymous" form="short" text-case="capitalize-first"/> </if> </choose> </macro I think I need to somehow sub in the author-short macro, more or less, to produce the appropriate (to my taste) output... Now going to try it.
  • adamsmith March 30, 2011 (use the text mode if your quoting xml or use <code> </code> tags). I'd suggest just taking that macro out - make sure you do that everywhere it comes up, else your style will crash (though I think the preview panel in 2.1.1 actually gives a helpful error message on this). Then add the <susbstitute> element on all author macros where it's relevant, just before the names end tag </names> (note the plural)
  • JonEP March 30, 2011 OK, so subbing in <text macro="title"/> for <text term="anonymous" form="short" text-case="capitalize-first"/> Produced the appropriate result for the author, in the footnote. Unfortunately, it also meant that the bibliography entry has the name of the article twice... This will require a bit of work! Also need to figure out how to get the date field out of the footnote. Anyway, thanks for the help!
  • JonEP March 30, 2011 Note - comments crossed in the mail. Didn't see Adam's before posting.
  • adamsmith March 30, 2011 yeah - as I say cross -out the macro, use the substitute command.
  • JonEP March 30, 2011 OK, thanks. Well, doing that made it work, but figuring out how to get it all into proper bibliographic form later (ie., getting the date right, using authors's names to alphabetize when there is an author and otherwise using the title of the newspaper article, etc). is going to be too much for me -- way too much temptation to just work on this all the time rather than writing the diss. So will do a fix for now where I give "FOLLOW UP" as the name of the author and fix it all by hand after removing codes, prior to hitting "print" on the thesis. Thanks.
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Selecting, Changing, and Adding a Style

A specific style's formatting is displayed within your word processor. The Zotero Library is a database of sources and does not display that information in a specific style's formatting.

Set Your Default Style

Within the Zotero Desktop app, you can choose a default style that you want to use within your Word documents.

  • From the Edit menu, select Preferences (Zotero > Preferences in Mac OS)
  • In the pop-up window, click the Export button/tab
  • From the Default Format: drop down menu, choose your default style
  • Click the OK button

Note: if the style you need is not on the default style list in the pop-up menu, follow the directions for adding a style to that list. Zotero provides access to over 8000 styles; most of which are for specific journals.

Select or Change a Style in Word

Use this option only if you need to use a different style from your default style set in Zotero. Within your Microsoft Word, you can select the specific style you want to use for your in-text citations and bibliography.

  • Click the Zotero tab in Word
  • Click the Document Preferences button
  • If the style you want isn't listed, you can add it to your default list
  • Set any other preferences you need for the document
  • You can now start adding in-text citations to your document or wait for Zotero to process and change the style within the document.

Adding a Style to Your Default List

The default list is only a small portion of all of the styles available. Along with the major styles, there are styles for thousands of individual journals.

  • In the Zotero desktop app, click the Edit menu and then Preferences
  • Click the Cite button
  • In the pop up window, click the Get additional styles... link
  • In the Zotero Styles Repository, search for the specific style you want
  • Click the title of the style to add to your Zotero Preferences
  • In the Zotero Preferences pop up, click the OK button

Updating or Creating a Style

If the style you need is out of date or one doesn't exist, you can edit or create a style. Zotero uses the open source Citation Style Language (CSL) for generating styles, in-text citations, and bibliographies.

  • Installing Additional Styles from Zotero Style Repository
  • Editing Styles - Step-by-Step Guide

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  • Download Citation Styles

Downloading Additional Citation Styles

The Zotero client comes with several popular citation styles pre-installed, such as APA, Chicago, and MLA. Sometimes, however, you may need to use a style that does not come pre-installed. For example, many academic journals require the use of highly specialized styles.

To install additional styles:

  • Go to the Zotero Preferences menu ( Zotero > Preferences  on Mac,  Edit > Preferences  on PC).
  • Click on the  Cite  menu. Here, you'll see a list of all of the styles already installed.
  • Below the list of pre-installed styles, click the link for  Get additional styles...
  • Search for your desired style in the provided search field.
  • Select the style you want to install. Many styles have different versions. Make sure to select the one that matches your desired citations.

Modified Bluebook Style

The version of Bluebook style below is modified to correct an issue with how Zotero handles page numbers in citations. This version is current as of October 2017, but users should refer to the CSL Repository above for the "official" Bluebook CSL file.

  • Bluebook Style (First Page Only) A version of Bluebook style that cites only the first page of an article, rather than the entire page range.
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Zotero Guide

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  • Installing Zotero
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  • How Can I Find Out Which Collection(s) a Reference Is In?
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  • CSL Structure and Elements
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Useful Links

  • Primer - An Introduction to CSL, by Rintze M. Zelle
  • Writing CSL - Features and Best Practices, by Sebastian Karcher
  • CSL 1.0.1 Specification, by Rintze M. Zelle
  • Zotero and CSL Item Types
  • Apporter de petites modifications à un style bibliographique Billet du blog Zotero francophone

Zotero styles are written in an XML language called CSL (Citation Style Language) which is also used by other citation managers such as Mendeley or Papers. To modify a style, there are 2 tools available :

how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

  • The online editor

You may prefer the online editor if you are not very comfortable with coding, but the previsualization works with a limited number of item types.

Saving and Installing the Modified Style in Zotero

  • You need to change the name of the style; this will prevent your changes from being deleted the next time the style is updated in the official repository.
  • Change the name in the "info" part of the style: change the title, the link, and the identifier <id>.
  • Then you can save it on your computer( CSL Editor's Style menu-> Save Style)
  • Then install it in your Zotero: Zotero Preferences -> Cite -> Styles -> + button under the list of styles, and select the csl file on your computer.

What I Really Need... Is a New Style

You can request a style if you cannot/do not want to write it yourself. You should only request an existing style, e.g.  the style of a journal, and provide a link to the online documentation.

Or you can create it yourself (if you have the time and the motivation). First, find a style that is close to one you want to create ( Search by Example in the CSL Visual Editor ) and make the necessary modifications. 

If this style is an "official" style, you can have it validated, and it will be available to other users in the style repository. There is first an automatic validation to check for errors, and then a human volunteer validation. The best way to do is to create a pull request on GitHub .

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Video Directions

  • Adding More Citation Styles transcript

This module will walk you through how to:

  • add more citation styles to Zotero's basic suite of styles

Either watch the video or view the step-by-step screenshots.  For a text-based version of the directions, view the video transcript.

Adding More Citation Style Choices

1. To add more citation styles to the basic 16 styles that come pre-loaded with Zotero, either go directly to the Zotero style repository or on a PC, use the Edit menu and select Preferences  (on a Mac click Zotero in the Zotero toolbar to access the Preferences menu) :

Access to the Preferences via the Edit menu on a PC

2. Next, choose the “Cite” tab .  Within the Cite tab, choose the “styles” tab .

3. The primary way to get more styles is to click on the “get additional styles” link .  This link opens a website listing the thousands of styles Zotero has available.

4.  You can now search for the style you like in a variety of ways – by directly searching for the name of a style you want; by searching for the format the style is written in, for example, author-date format; or by disciplinary field.

5. Before installing the style you choose, you can double check to see if this is the style you had in mind by hovering over the title to see examples of books, articles and more cited in this style.

6.  To install a style, simply click the link for the name of the style.**

7. Open up a Word document and choose “Document Preferences.” You will now see that this style is available for you to write with.

8.  To learn more about finding styles, particularly when the title of the style you want is not in the list, visit the “ Hard-to-find citation styles ” module.

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how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

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  1. dev:citation styles:preview pane [Zotero Documentation]

    how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

  2. Integrating Zotero into Word

    how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

  3. Insert citation bibliography using Zotero

    how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

  4. How to add or install new citation styles in Zotero

    how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

  5. Editing a Citation Style Sheet for Zotero

    how do i create a custom citation style in zotero

  6. How to use Zotero Citation Manager

    how do i create a custom citation style in zotero


  1. Mastering the Harvard Citation Style: Simplified!

  2. Zotero (06): Extracting references from online databases

  3. Gibson Custom Shop Citation Hollowbody Natural 108571316

  4. Getting Started with Zotero Workshop

  5. Zotero Tutorial

  6. Zotero (01): What is the purpose of a bibliography?


  1. APA Citation Style and Other Citation Styles Explained

    In academia and other professional fields, much of the work that goes on is strictly intellectual. In such areas, ideas matter, and copying another’s ideas without acknowledging the source can land the practitioner in trouble. This has happ...

  2. 9 of the Best Online Citation Generators for Academic Papers

    Citation generators can be lifesavers when it comes to academic papers. Not only do they make citing your sources easy, but many of them also offer helpful formatting options to ensure you’re providing sources in line with the style manual ...

  3. About APA Citation Online Tools

    As anyone who has ever written a paper for a college class knows, there are certain style rules and guidelines to be followed depending on which discipline you are in. For many college students, learning APA style can be tricky.

  4. Editing CSL Styles

    Click on the “+” sign below the list of installed styles. In the file selection dialogue that opens, navigate to the .csl file you just created

  5. Editing Citation Styles

    Click the link to the style. 3. Click "OK" in the popup to add the citation style to Zotero. It should be added automatically.

  6. Making your own citation style

    which is alright, but then it is not an author - date format so it inserts almost full footnote citations for each reference, which I don't want

  7. Zotero Editing your Reference Style (Quick Video)

    The Zotero Style Editor is a tool to edit CSL styles. It can be opened using the “Style Editor” button at the bottom of the Cite pane of the

  8. Editing a Citation Style Sheet for Zotero

    Comments2 · How to edit citation and bibliography or create your own style using CSL editor in Zotero? · Zotero: Editing Citations · How to Cite

  9. How to edit citation and bibliography or create your own ...

    How to edit citation and bibliography or create your own style using CSL editor in Zotero reference manager? To edit citations and

  10. Select, Change, Add a Style

    Adding a Style to Your Default List · In the Zotero desktop app, click the Edit menu and then Preferences · Click the Cite button · In the pop up

  11. Download Citation Styles

    Downloading Additional Citation Styles · Go to the Zotero Preferences menu (Zotero > Preferences on Mac, Edit > Preferences on PC). · Click on the

  12. How do you customize Zotero to fit your citation style and preferences?

    You can browse and search for citation styles on the Zotero Style Repository or from the Zotero app. To change your citation style, go to Edit >

  13. Modifying Zotero Styles

    The style editor in the Cite/Styles tab in the Zotero preferences; The online editor. You may prefer the online editor if you are not very

  14. Zotero

    Adding More Citation Style Choices · 1. To add more citation styles to the basic 16 styles that come pre-loaded with Zotero, either go directly