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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.

Step 1: Download Zotero

You can download it as an extension on Firefox, or you can download a standalone version. The Firefox extension is nice because it's easily accessible in your browser, but the standalone version can be used with browsers other than Firefox, such as Chrome and Safari. We've also heard that the standalone version is good to have in case your browser crashes. In any case, download Zotero and create a free account. You can find all of the necessary information on the Collins Library website.

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 step looks slightly different depending on whether you're using the Firefox plug-in or the standalone version.

For the Firefox version:

If you're looking at a different kind of source, such as an online book or a newspaper article, the icon will look different but will do the same thing.

For the standalone version:

Download the PDF and …

If Zotero can't find the right information, then you have a couple of options:

We found another version of the article and gave it another shot.

Step 4: 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.

First, open the collection that you want to get sources from. You can highlight the sources you want citations for, or you can choose the whole collection. You can also use the Firefox plug-in or the standalone version. Either way, you'll follow these steps.

Zotero isn't just about citations, either! You can use it as a “knowledge-management tool” to manage all of that knowledge you're collecting.