Note: I tried text2bib, a bit painful, but it works!
I have bibliographies in Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, and other text files. Can I import them into my Zotero library?
For Microsoft Word “.docx” documents with Zotero or Mendeley citation fields that were inserted with the Word plugins from these reference managers, you can use Reference Extractor.
If you still have the references in a reference manager, you can export them from this program to a file format for exchanging bibliographic metadata, such as RIS or BibTeX, and then import this file into Zotero.
If the references have ISBNs, DOIs, or PubMed IDs, you can also use the Add Item by Identifier function in Zotero to quickly add these items to your Zotero library.
For cases where you only have access to the plain-text citations and bibliography, you can use third party tools to extract bibliographic data from the formatted bibliographies. Perhaps the best and easiest option is AnyStyle, an online bibliography parser that can be trained for improved results. Alternative options include:
cb2Bib is a tool that will take formatted references copied to the clipboard and attempt to parse the individual bibliography fields into the BibTeX format, which you can then import into Zotero. See the related forum threadsfor discussion of the difficulty of the problem as well as some success stories with cb2Bib.
text2bib Web-based service by the economics department at the University of Toronto similar to cb2bib. Converts references to BibTeX, which Zotero can import. Users report good results.
FreeCite is an open-source tool hosted by Brown University that converts formatted bibliographies to an XML representation of ContextObjects. Detected citations can be imported to Zotero by simply clicking the capture icon in the address bar.
Simple Text Query, a tool by CrossRef, tries to find the Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) of the journal articles, books or chapters cited in a bibliography. The work flow here would be to paste the bibliography in the text box on this website, check out the resulting DOIs to see if the references have been correctly identified and then import these references from the publisher’s websites into Zotero.
Wizfolio, an online reference management service. It works similar to cb2Bib and Simple Text Query tool from CrossRef, in that it tries to parse the bibliographic fields and searches for Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). The workflow would be: Via Wizfolio’s Import from Clipboard, it is possible to copy citations from an article, create a categorised reference list (looked up e.g. in Pubmed), export the list and import this list into Zotero. It’s not perfect (e.g.: worked for 1/3 of the references on a set of citations without titles). However, it combines multi-citation import with database lookup of the bibliographic fields. The free signup has a limit of 50 citations per month. When using the clipboard function in Wizfolio, the references have to be split by a blank line. See also this related forum thread.
Otherwise, your best option is to find the items online in a repository that Zotero supports, or, as a last resort, manually enter the references.