I just finished a Zotero tutorial with one of the librarians and would like to share what I have learned.
Zotero is an open-source reference management application and add-on to manage bibliographic data and sources. It was developed and is managed by the non-profit Corporation for Digital Scholarship at George Mason University. It gives users a free cloud account with 300 MBs of storage and has options to have larger storage for a small fee. The program offers many helpful tools to make researching, organizing, citing, and creating bibliographic information easy or easier and a much less time-consuming task.
The interface is relatively simple and straight forward. There are different ways to organize one’s resources:
- The user can create Collections or Folders and subdivisions. Having sources for each project is easy and can be placed in the same collection.
- Tags can be added to each source or piece of material. This makes sorting or searching for items easy.
- Related references can be linked that are located in different places in the library.
- Notes can be added to sources or materials. This is similar to a stickie or Post-it, called Child.
There are 4 ways to add sources or materials (e.g. screen shots) in Zotero.
- One way is to manually enter the information: author, title, publisher, etc.
- A user can just drag a PDF into a collection and the program will automatically fill in the information.
- Entering an Identifier (PMID, ISBN, etc.) is another option.
- Using a browser plug-in will also work.
All of these will activate Zotero to fill in the bibliographical information of the source. One very helpful feature is that if a user right-clicks on a source in the collection and the source is Open Access, Zotero will retrieve the PDF and add it to the collection.
The program will cite sources in the body pf the writing as well as organize a bibliography for the work. Again, there several ways that a user can do this, either in the program itself or as part of a writing program.
- A very helpful and time-saving feature is to generate a source page (Bibliography, Reference, Works Cited, etc.) for one’s work. From the program, one can right-click on an option and a very large selection of styles will appear. The usual styles (Chicago, MLA, APA, etc.) are there along with a large host of others. One can fine tune a style, add their own or retrieve another. This makes it very adaptable to one’s needs.
- Adding an in-text citation while writing is also another feature. And, again, one can choose the style to use for the citation. Zotero will automatically add the citation and or footnote or whatever is correct in the style.
A user can add Zotero to a word processing program such as LibreOffice Writer, Microsoft Word or another program. When that is done, a Zotero icon is added to that program and the same citations can be done with the click of a button.
Another feature in the program is the ability to create a group page. This is helpful for group projects where the group can input and share sources. The individual setting up the group has the ability to set perimeters as to what members can do. The group can store, add, edit or, search sources.
The workshop was extremely helpful in learning the program and its time-saving features. I also left with many other helpful tidbits of information such as the Hathi Trust database, LibreOffice Writer (open source instead of MS Word) and other nuggets. I’m sure anyone writing in either academia or similar professions will benefit from this program, and it’s good to know if that if an individual subscribes for extra storage then it will benefit a non-profit company rather than a big tech behemoth.