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Sound Writing

Section 12.2 Zotero

Now that you know how to make citations, we’re going to let you in on a little secret: There’s a magical program called Zotero that can do most of the citation grunt work for you. To call it magic is not to mislead; Zotero is the Muggle equivalent of the Sorting Hat. It somehow reads the minds of articles, books, and websites and knows which pieces of information go where—it can literally cite all of your sources for you. . . . Just let that sink in for a minute.
However, since citation generators aren’t (yet) perfect, it’s still important that you understand how different styles format citations for different types of sources. Moreover, creating citations by hand is a rite of passage of sorts—one you need to experience in order to appreciate the magic of Zotero. After weeks, months, or years of spending hours working on perfectly formatting a bibliography, the first time you use Zotero will be an experience like no other. You will exclaim and cry tears of joy as all of your citations instantaneously appear before you.
In short, you need to do your own citations for awhile so you understand how they work and how to do them, but, once you’re comfortable writing them by hand, you can delegate most of your citation work to a program like Zotero. You just need to be thorough in your quality control: You have to scan through each citation to make sure that Zotero read all of the right information and sorted it correctly.

Note 12.2.1.

Zotero (and other tools like it) can do many, many things. We’re going to cover some basic capabilities Zotero has, but, to learn more about Zotero or other programs, visit the library’s page, make an appointment with a liaison librarian 1 . , or look up some YouTube tutorials.

Step 1: Download Zotero.

You can download Zotero for Windows, Mac, or Linux and then choose a plugin for your prefered browser. Zotero will also integrate with Microsoft Word and Google Docs. Then create a free account. You can find all of the necessary information on the Collins Library website 2 

Step 2: Do some research!

For more tips on research, see Chapter 1.

Step 3: Tell Zotero which sources you want it to save.

This will look a little different depending on what browser you’re using; here’s an example:
This image is a screenshot of an information page for a scholarly journal article open in an online academic library database. The article is called "Trophic cascades in a formerly cod-dominated ecosystem." Immediately to the left of the URL at the top of the page is a small symbol showing pages of paper, with a red box around it and a red arrow pointing to it.
The sources will then appear in your Zotero library! You can put them in folders to stay organized.
This image is a screenshot of an open Zotero library. A bar on the left side of the screen shows different folders. The middle pane shows the contents of one folder, including several articles. The last article, highlighted in blue, is the same article that was open in the previous image.

Step 4: Cite some sources.

Go into your word processor of choice and start writing! You should notice a new tab along the top ribbon titled Zotero. When it comes time to cite your source, click on the Zotero tab and select “Add/Edit Citation”.
This image is a screenshot of a word document, with the toolbar tab that reads "Zotero" open. A red arrow and red box point out the option "Add/Edit Citation," which is indicated by a symbol of a piece of paper with "[-]" on it in red and a red "Z" next to it.
You’ll have to select what style of citation you want:
This image shows a pop-up window with the title "Zotero - Document Preferences." A box at the top of the window is titled "Citation Style" and has a number of options listed; "Modern Language Association 8th edition" is selected in blue.
And then search for the source you want to cite!
This image shows a screenshot of a Zotero library. Over the top of the image is a large search bar with a red border and a red "Z" logo on the left.
This image is identical to the previous image, but "Frank" has been typed into the search bar. A single search result is available below the search bar: the article "Trophic cascades in a formerly cod-dominated ecosystem" that was saved above, which has "Frank et al." listed as the author.
This image is identical to the previous one, but the search result has been selected and the text "Frank et al." appears in a blue bubble in the search bar.
There it is! A citation!
This image shows the same word document shown above. However, the text "(Frank et al.)" has been inserted as a parenthetical citation.
You can keep writing and citing as you go.
This image shows the same word document with several additional parenthetical citations with different authors.

Step 5: Make your bibliography.

Once you have all necessary sources saved in Zotero, you can ask it (nicely) to make your bibliography. Get ready to be amazed.
In your document, go back to that “Zotero” tab and click “Add/Edit Bibliography”. This will generate a bibliography in your chosen style with all the sources you’ve sighted in your paper.
This image shows a blank page in a word document with the "Zotero" tab open in the menu at the top of the page. The menu option "Add/Edit Bibliography," which has an icon of two books with a red "Z" next to them,” is emphasized with a red box around it and a red arrow pointing to it.
And there it is, just like that!
This image shows the same word document with a formatted bibliography for several sources added.
Magic! Still, Zotero can get things wrong, so always check over the bibliography. If anything is missing you can edit the metadata stored in Zotero.