Counting number of references in a journal paper

Is there a way to count the number of papers cited in a journal article imported in Zotero?
  • Do you mean a PDF of a published article or a Word document you have written?
  • A PDF of a published article.
  • edited August 1, 2019
    No, Zotero can’t do that based on the PDF, no.

    Some options:
    You could copy the bibliography to, parse then references, and then count them (or import into Zotero, select the imported items, and let Zotero count them). You could also potentially copy them to Word and then use Word’s numbered list feature to count them quickly.

    You could go to the journal article webpage. The major publishers often list and number the references on the webpage. You could count them there or copy to Word and use the numbered list feature. Copying from the website will probably work better than copying from the PDF.

    Finally, if you have access to Web of Science, you can use the WOS lookup engine in the engines.json file here:
  • I appreciate the various ways that you have pointed out of handling this. I am sure there is a never-ending list of future enhancements to Zotero. If a field could be added to all Zotero imported PDFs, that would be great.
  • Hello, I am also interested in this feature. Please let me know if there are any updated solutions. My project is working with a large set of published journal articles where I need to extract the number of references from each one.
  • Your best shots for this feature is Scite and Cita plugins AFAIK.
  • The zotero-reference plugin can give you the reference count in the PDF viewer. You get a new 'References' tab there. It uses text parsing of the actual PDF or API lookup from Crossref to display the numbered reference list. Those methods are not completely foolproof, so you would need to check that the reference count is accurate. API lookup should be the most accurate (and can be set as the default) if the journal publisher has deposited that data at Crossref (ie papers from more recent years).

    Unfortunately the English language instructions are not currently online AFAIK. But using Chrome's right-click Translate to English works quite well. The plugin's preferences within Zotero appear in English (and presumably some other languages). Some discussion of the functions of the plugin here:

    There are possibly issues with the current v7 beta due to the interface changes (see Issues at github). But it works fine under Zotero v6 (albeit all updates have been for v7 since May 2023).

    As Zotero has no means to store cited reference list information in its database currently, there is no way to get a list of reference counts for all library or collection-specific items.

  • @ridvanbinici Good suggestions. It looks like Cita is actively developing the feature for their Zotero plug-in, according to their documentation. They will use APIs from current reference extractors like GROBID and Scholarcy to parse and extract references data from the pdfs.

    scite does not currently have plans for including references data in their Zotero plug-in, but their customer service team has escalated my request to the programming team.

    @tim820 the zotero-reference plugin is a gem and that discussion thread has been helpful to read. I will ask the developer if they can create a column that displays the number of references in Zotero's library, so that I can export a sub-collection as a csv file with that information for each item.
  • edited February 19, 2024
    I wasn't able to test Zotero Reference plugins since I have been aware of it after switching to Zotero 7 Beta. MuiseDestiny is an excellent maintainer AFAIK and very responsive on Github. They are trying to implement so many features with Ethereal Style, Attanger, Reference etc. I think best way to get the functionalities you seek is to start a feature request discussion on Github. They are very knowledgeable in terms of API, the other guy is windingwind. There is a template plugin they developed for writing plugins for Zotero. Someone technical might even develop a plugin if nothing works inside the existing plugins.

    Maybe the Actions&Tags plugin can accomplish this, via a script that is executable on command.
  • edited February 19, 2024
    @acmorreale I think I've found what you are looking for. Actions&Tags plugin has a script that shows citation counts fetched from and shown in a column.
  • edited February 20, 2024
    @ridvanbinici I think that Actions&Tags script gives the number of times a paper has been cited by others. Not the number of references it cites. See the relevant code: json['is-referenced-by-count']

    But maybe someone can come up with a script for the number of cited papers ? Here's how that data appears at Crossref for an example paper. There is a 'references-count:' field which has a value of 60. The actual references are listed in the 'reference:' block (numbered from 0 to 59).

    Not all papers have reference data at Crossref (and no other single repository has better data ... AFAIK). Also, while the example paper data at Crossref lists 60 references, the actual paper shows 61 references (link below). So the quality of reference data provided by publishers to Crossref is not always perfect.
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