Zotero - The Next-Generation Research Tool
Those enrolled in online course work know all too well the amount of
writing that needs to be done. I have been in many classes that have
required a five page paper weekly, in addition to the discussion topics,
research papers or term projects, and just imagine doing more than one
at a time. It is very time consuming, and most often the two things that
require the most time is the research and citations.
Thankfully, this problem has been addressed with Zotero.
This fantastic plug-in for Firefox makes research a breeze. Combined
with integration for Microsoft Word or Open Office, and this tool is an
essential requirement for all students, especially the distance learner.
Here is what they have to say for themselves straight from the Zotero About page.
Zotero is an easy-to-use yet powerful research tool that
helps you gather, organize, and analyze sources (citations, full texts,
web pages, images, and other objects), and lets you share the results of
your research in a variety of ways. An extension to the popular
open-source web browser Firefox, Zotero includes the best parts of older
reference manager software (like EndNote) the ability to store author,
title, and publication fields and to export that information as
formatted references and the best parts of modern software and web
applications (like iTunes and del.icio.us), such as the ability to
interact, tag, and search in advanced ways. Zotero integrates tightly
with online resources; it can sense when users are viewing a book,
article, or other object on the web, and on many major research and
library sites find and automatically save the full reference information
for the item in the correct fields. Since it lives in the web browser,
it can effortlessly transmit information to, and receive information
from, other web services and applications since it runs on ones
personal computer, it can also communicate with software running there
(such as Microsoft Word). And it can be used offline as well (e.g., on a
plane, in an archive without WiFi).
The 1.0 release of Zotero already provides advanced functionality for
gathering, organizing, and scanning ones research, as well as
significant import/export capabilities (including integration with Word
and an API for communication with any program or service on the web). In
2007, Zotero users will gain the ability to share and collaborate on
their collections with other users through an exchange server, and
receive recommendations and feeds of new resources that might be of
interest to them. In short, over the next year Zotero will expand from
an already helpful browser extension into a full-fledged tool for
digital research and collaboration.
Zotero is a production of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. It is generously funded by the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
is a screen shot (figure 1) of the Zotero web site being referenced.
The bottom of the screen contains the Zotero bar, which is divided up in
to a few distinct sections. On the far left top is the area that holds
your collections. Mine has the default My Library collection. Each
collection contains the references and all of the related information.
You can even export your library into a number of formats (figure 2).
You can add more collections if you want.
below the collections on the far left bottom is the tags display. This
allows you to filter the libraries entries by any of the displayed tags.
The center display is the library view that contains all of your
entries, filtered - of course. The list offers a few contextual menus
items, such as Delete, and Export, but Create Bibliography item is the
one the tool was built for. Here are a few examples:
First, here it is in Chicago Manual of Style (Note with Bibliography):
Zotero. Zotero - The Next-Generation Research Tool. http://www.zotero.org/ (accessed October 27, 2007).
Now we need it in Modern Language Association style:
Zotero - The Next-Generation Research Tool. Zotero. 27 October 2007 <http://www.zotero.org/>.
Perhaps we need it in IEEE style:
 Zotero - The Next-Generation Research Tool, Zotero,
support even more styles, such as American Psychological Association
and American Sociological Association. They can export to RTF, HTML,
Clipboard, and right to the printer. This is only the beginning. Zotero
also lets you attach notes, links, and screen shots of the web site to
your library entries. This is all with the basic drag and drop support
for web sites. Zotero also supports many other research entries (figure
3). In short, if you need to refer to it, Zotero will help you do it.
Now we finally come to the right side of the Zotero bar. This panel
contains a series of tabs contextually linked to the selected entry in
the library panel. The tabs are Info, Notes, Attachments, Tags, and
Related. The Info tab is the one you will probably need the most as it
contains all the bibliography information, and you will need to fill in
what Zotero could not fill in for you, such as authors, and abstract.
That describes the main Zotero interface, but it does not do justice
the abilities of this tool. The Word integration is smooth, and worked
flawlessly for me with Word 2007. The toolbar buttons from left to right
are Insert Citation, Edit Citation, Insert Bibliography, Edit
Bibliography, Refresh, and Set Document Preferences. As with the Firefox
plug-in, this worked flawlessly. I was not able to test this on Open
Office, but I would expect it to be at the same level of quality as the
Firefox plug-in and Word Add-In.
I want to mention the price - NOTHING! This fantastic tool is free. I
cannot express enough how useful this tool is for the online student. I
strongly suggest it, and given the price, it is truly an unbeatable
addition to every student suite of tools.
Please sure your experiences with Zotero, and I would appreciate any feedback on the Open Office integration.
Please post your comments below or send me email using the Contact form.