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Using Zotero

Zotero is a free bibliographic citation management software that allows you to save, collect, manage, cite, and share research sources. Zotero is standalone software that works with commons web browsers on Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. It works right in your browser, making it easy to save citations while you search online. (Watch a quick demo)

You can also take notes in the Zotero interface, as well as tag your sources, allowing you to store your reactions to a source right next to its citation. Zotero collects all your research in a single, searchable interface. You can add files, such as PDFs, images, audio and video files, snapshots of web pages, and other types of sources. Zotero automatically indexes the full-text content of your library, enabling you to find exactly what you’re looking for within a large library of sources and notes.

Word processing extensions make it very easy to cite while you write in MS Word or LibreOffice. Zotero generates citations and bibliographies in whatever format is required for a given publication.

Zotero is very well documented and has millions of users worldwide.  Your library may offer Zotero workshop or a LibGuide for working with Zotero, such as this one created by the Princeton University Library: http://libguides.princeton.edu/zotero. 

How to Use Zotero:

  1. Install Zotero (if you do not already use the tool): https://www.zotero.org/download/.
    Please follow the directions to install Zotero according to your computer’s operating system (Mac, Windows, or Linux): https://www.zotero.org/support/installation
    Or, follow the Quick Start Guide if you are ready to jump in and start using it now: https://www.zotero.org/support/quick_start_guide.
  2. Once everything is installed, begin building a library and add a collection based on your current research or teaching. You might create a collection that contains readings for an undergraduate economics course, for instance, or create separate collections for each chapter of your dissertation. Items can easily be added from a library catalog, journal database, Amazon, or an institutional repository. You can also add your own. Read more about adding items here: https://www.zotero.org/support/getting_stuff_into_your_library.

    Zotero interface
    Zotero interface in Firefox
  3. Try adding four different types of sources from the web (e.g., book, journal article, newspaper article, blog post), and create one item by hand. For each source added to your library from the web, check the metadata imported. Did the online source provide what you need to adequately cite the source and find it again? Zotero scrapes the metadata provided by the host website: it can only read what is available. Sometimes you have to edit the record to fill in all pertinent information. (Watch: Getting Stuff into Zotero)
  4. If you are working collaboratively on a project, consider creating a group for sharing sources in a Zotero library. Groups allow many people to contribute to the same, shared Zotero library. Groups can be private or public. You must create an account on Zotero.org, https://www.zotero.org/user/register, before starting a group, because you need to sync that new group library with a shared, common server. Each member of your Zotero group must also create an account on Zotero.org. To start a group and begin research collaboration, follow these instructions: https://www.zotero.org/support/groups
  5. If you wish to integrate Zotero with your current word processing program (recommended), learn more about installing extensions in MS Word and Open Office to allow you to cite while you write, https://www.zotero.org/support/word_processor_integration
  6. Zotero allows users to generate bibliographies in many academic styles. Learn how to generate and export a bibliography from Zotero:  https://www.zotero.org/support/creating_bibliographies

    Zotero uses several popular citation styles for creating citations and bibliographies, and over 8,100 additional styles can be found in the Zotero Style Repository. All these styles are written in the Citation Style Language (CSL), a format also supported by Mendeley, Papers and many more. If you need to cite materials in a specific format that did not come packaged with Zotero, learn more about adding one to your Zotero installation: https://www.zotero.org/support/styles

When you hit a snag, look for documentation and forums to ask questions.

Updated on July 31, 2018

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