TE5: Zotero

Zotero, a creation of George Mason University was created for researchers to organize their secondary sources in an accessible and free way. With an incredibly intuitive setup, Zotero allows the researcher to store essential meta-data associated with the source just by using a link, ISBN number, a pdf, or a DOI. After creating the source, Zotero automatically populates the titles, author, URL, abstract and many other aspects of the source into its sorting system, This system only needs cross-checked with the original source to make sure its correct. For example, “‘Tumult and Silence’ in the Study of the American Slave Revolts” written by John Samuel Harpham is an article I wanted to save for my final essay in a course I am taking this semester. To add all the essential data for citing a source in a historical research project, all I had to do was provide Zotero with a stable URL from the article listed in the database I accessed and information automatically populated, from the type of source to the pages in the original academic journal the article was published in, to its exact page numbers in said journal. Below are all of the subject fields for meta-data associated with the article I saves, under the tab of info.

This meta-data is exactly what is used to created a citation for an academic research paper. Before I learned of Zotero, storing and saving sources was a fun game of copy and pasting into a word document links, and where I accessed the secondary source, and when I finally went to cite the source in a research paper, I had to manually create a citation for it. With Zotero, citations are automatically formed within the app, and you can copy and paste them directly into your paper. With more interaction and experience with Zotero, you can even use the Word plug-in and automatically cite your sources using zotero, no copy or paste needed. However, with this plug-in, without specific tutorial it was a bit confusing to navigate for me. I was able to install the plug in just fine, but, when I tested Zotero’s built-in word function, I was confused on whether I was creating a bibliography or a singular citation, until Dr. Catalano explained this tool in class. Before, I selected every single one of my sources, and accidentally created a massive, super-citation, and thought that they bibliography was just misshapen and incorrectly formatted. I realized during class Iw as the problem with the Zotero citation making plug-in, not the program itself as I was trying to create a bibliography in a document that had no individual citations. A bibliography created by Zotero automatically formats the citations created in that document, if there are not citations it cannot produce a bibliography. Below, on the right, is the super-citation I mistakenly created, and to the left, the correct way Zotero would, hypothetically, create a bibliography from previously cited sources within the document.

Another feature that is personally useful to me is the ability to mark up, highlight, and add notes to PDFs that are in Zotero, on the laptop and on the app on my iPad with the apple pencil. I am a very hands on person, and find that holding a pen in my hand and writing notes in margins helps me work through documents more thoroughly and gain a deeper connection to what I am learning. For example, Here are some notes I was able to add to the same document I discussed above on the computer (left) and within my iPad (right). Before learning I could do this with Zotero, I would import a PDF of a document into an app called GoodNotes, and would have to keep my iPad open next to me, and the word document full of citations and notes open on my computer while I worked on papers and research projects in the past.

In regards to if I plan to use this tool again or not, the answer is absolutely yes. I have already started creating my source base for one of my historiographical essay for a class this semester, and with any new app, website, or interface it will take some getting used to, but I think Zotero will be a great help in my future research papers and projects. Specifically, Zotero will help in the source gathering phase, where I can easily load in multiple secondary sources at once, and then go back later when I have a bit more time, and information on the subject and read them critically, adding notes, and relating other sources to them as I go along. Overall, this tool will be installed on my computer, and my iPad until further notice!

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