This blog is a supplement to my Third Thursday Tech Talk session on Zotero.
Zotero is a FireFox 2.X add-on that turns your browser into a research management tool. It solves the problem of how to collect and organize research in one place.
Without Zotero, you might do the one or all of the following while doing research on the Internet:
- Find a good web site and save a book mark in your browser or on a bookmarking site such as del.icio.us.
- Find a book in a library catalog and save the citation to a text file or import it into a citation manager such as EndNote or RefWorks or write it on a notecard.
- Find a book in Amazon and either jot down the title on a piece of paper or do a screen print both of which you might loose in the clutter of your desk.
- Find a journal article and note the citation somewhere and possibly print it out if it is a PDF.
- Find a report in PDF format and print it, save it to your PC or bookmark the site.
- Receive an email with really good information and then try to figure out how to preserve it (save it to a folder, save it as text, print it).
Your research will be scattered throughout multiple locations on your PC and, possibly, loose on your actual desk.
With Zotero, you can collect and organize all of these items in one place. Tag them, add notes, attachments, relate the citation to another citation, take snapshots that can capture an email or entire PDF document, and more.
Zotero’s translators work with many sites and can sense the information available on the page and indicate that information with a symbol in the FireFox address bar. A file folder indicates that there is a lost of items that can be added to your library. A book or page represents book and journal information respectively. And a newspaper is a newspaper articles. A list of translators is available here.
In addition to the address bar icons, you can save a link to , create an item from, the current page, and take a snapshot of the current page. With the snapshot and link, you can tag and establish relationships whereas the create new item feature allows notes and attachments as well as tags and related.
Citations can be imported into Zotero from RefWorks or EndNote and exported to them as well. this might answer the question if Zotero is a replacement for Refworks. Right now, Refworks has more features, citation formats, etc. Consider this scenario. You keep the spontaneity of researching on the Internet and harvest book and journal citations using Zotero. You can then export your citations to RefWorks and take advantages of the features there. You could also export your citations from RefWorks into Zotero and use it as a workplace. I found that the RIS format works well with importing from and exporting to Refworks.
Zotero’s tagging capabilities are interesting. From some database sources, Zotero will extract descriptors and turn them into tags. You can also highlight several citations and apply a tag to all of them at once. Consistent use of tags and saved searches can make finding references very easy.
Zotero is best experienced though I hope your curiosity is whetted by reading about its capabilities. If you do any kind of research I recommend that you give Zotero a try. I really like being able to have all related items located together with flexible organization.