Zotero is a smart little cookie. First and foremost it allows you to store references for the information you find online, in books, videos etc. It also allows you to organise and relate these references. Zotero then makes it easy to choose an appropriate referencing style from a wide variety and provides a few methods for putting them into your document.
Zotero simplifies the process of storing reference information. This extension to Firefox sits quietly in the corner of your browser but provides a little reference icon to the right of the source's web address. This icon varies depending on the type of source.Clicking on a reference icon 'clips' the essential reference information from the source. The Zotero interface pops up and displays the information collected from the resource. This information can be changed and added to as required.The web is considered a 'volatile' source of information as it frequently changes. Information is usually moved or deleted as time marches on. Zotero helps to short circuit this problem by taking 'snapshots' of web pages that you collect information from. That way, the information is in tact when the time comes to reference it.As well as the ability to grab information from pages, Zotero also offers a number of options for manually adding information sources and references and these are accessible from the main Zotero interface.
Zotero provides a number of methods for organising your references. At the top of this organisation system sits Zoteros 'collections'. Consider these organisers as folders which you can drop your references into. You could logically then have a collection for each piece of research you were doing. A notes facility is available to help in identifying a particular part of the reference source or provide a helpful reminder as to what was relevant about it. In addition Zotero operates a tagging system much like delicious whereby you can look at reference sources based on the tags that you assigned them. It is also possible to relate reference sources to one another via the ‘related’ option for each reference source.It is possible to add share collections with other users and this involves creating a group. In order to do this you will need to create your own Zotero account after which you can set up groups and invite other users to join your group.
We touched on the notes feature when discussing how Zotero enables the organisation of reference sources that you collect. Zotero also provides the facility to highlight and annotate web pages that it has taken a ‘snapshot’ of. These features are very powerful as they allow you to mark up and annotate the relevant parts of the reference source so that when the time comes to use it, you don’t have to mess around trying to remember which bits were important and which bits you wanted to cite.
Zotero’s group based sharing can be a little bit of a hassle. Zotero’s mechanism for adding references into documents on the other hand is incredibly easy as it boils down to ‘drag and drop’ meaning that when I want to share a reference it is far easier for me to fire up my email and drop the references into a message.
Even though Zotero provides drag and drop simplicity and easy export of references they’ve also gone to the trouble of developing an add-in tool for Microsoft Word and Open Office. This is integrated with the Zotero extension for Firefox meaning that whatever you collected via the extension will be available via the add-in. Be sure to set up the appropriate reference format in the Zotero extension as the Word Processor add-in will use whichever formatting style was set in the extension.
A Brief Overview of Zotero
Why do we need it?<br />Can ‘read’ essential reference information<br />Organise your research gathering<br />Remind yourself why you reaped it with annotations<br />Allows sharing<br />Supports easy generation of bibliography<br />Can ‘sync’ across computers<br />Can integrate with your word processor<br />
Lazybones Referencing<br />One click is all it takes<br />The good stuff!!<br />
Organise this<br />Add Notes, Tag entries, Relate resources<br />Group into collections<br />
Remember the milk<br />Tools to remind you what was important<br />