"Highlighted citation no longer exists" error keeps popping up

I've been using Zotero with Microsoft Word in Windows 10 for some time now, but only in the last few days have I started to see the following message whenever I try to edit a citation:

"The highlighted citation no longer exists in your Zotero database. Do you want to select a substitute item?

Clicking 'No' will delete the field codes for citations containing this item, preserving the citation text but deleting it from your bibliography."

I now see this message whenever I try to edit an existing citation. I even get it when I try to create a new citation! In these cases I have no idea what "the highlighted citation" is referring to since I'm trying to create a new one.

I know that there are several other forum discussions related to this error, but none of the ones I have found deal with this particular incarnation of it. I just upgraded to Zotero 5 and double-checked that my library was synced and up-to-date. Thus it is simultaneously frustrating and mystifying to be repeatedly be told the highlighted citation "no longer exists in my Zotero database."

One final thing to note: it seems to matter which computer I use. Generally, I see the error above if I try to use one computer to edit a document that I created on another. If I open the document on the computer that I initially used to create it, this error does not appear.

I appreciate any thoughts anyone has.
  • It sounds like the items have not synced from the other computer to this one. Check to see if you have a sync error on either computer.
  • Does the original computer still have Zotero 4 on it? If so, if you open the document preferences on that computer (under the Zotero tab), does the checkbox to store citation data in the document is unchecked?
  • Hi all. I am going to be meeting with a student this afternoon. Was there any update on the problem noted above. The student I am working with sent me this note below.

    "I’m unable to add a citation to the doc. because an error message pops up. Additionally, it appears that the citations in the document are not linked to the list of references anymore. Here is a screen shot of the error message that pops up on the document while it highlights one citation. Looks like the issue started after I copy pasted content from another doc. It specifically highlights 7-8 citations in the material I pasted. I tried to reinsert the same 7-8 citations but the problem returns. I've attached below a screen shot."

    The screen shot she sent me sends message that "The highlighted citation no longer exists in your Zotero database", etc.

    Can folks send me suggestions ? Or point me to where I might look for or what I might try ? Thanks for whatever is possible. pfehrman@kent.edu
  • This is not a general issue. Your student is copying text and citations from a document written with Zotero version prior to 5.0, where storing citation data in the doc had been disabled. There is nothing else she can do other than removing all citations that trigger this error from the document and reinserting them manually using the plugin, after which the sailing should be smooth.
  • Hi again. Will share with students. Again... thanks adomsven !
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