Introduction to Zotero Workshop

Last week, the ISAW Library held its first instructional workshop of the semester, an introduction to the reference manager Zotero. The workshop was led by Gabriel Mckee and Patrick J. Burns, who helped a full seminar room of faculty, researchers, and students from both ISAW and the Institute for Fine Arts learn the basics of searching for and collecting bibliographic data in Zotero and using this data to insert citations in their writing and generate bibliographies.

Zotero allows researchers to maintain a database of the books, articles, and other media that they encounter in the course of their work, store associated PDFs, take notes, and, most importantly, incorporate this information easily and efficiently into their written work. Since it covers the full range of the research cycle from source discovery to formatting publication-ready bibliographies, Zotero can play an important role in an organized and productive academic workflow. Participants seemed to agree and several mentioned that they were interested in experimenting with Zotero on upcoming projects.

While there is a great deal of competition among reference management software, Zotero stands out as a free and open-source alternative. It was developed at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, pioneers in academic open-source software development, committed to "democratizing history through digital media and tools." This side of Zotero matches well with the open-access philosophy behind many of ISAW's publications and other linked open data initiatives at the Institute. Accordingly, the Library has been using Zotero in several projects, such as our monthly New Titles lists and a forthcoming comprehensive bibliography of the ISAW community, as a way of organizing and sharing data about our collection.

This workshop introduced the basics of reference management and taught participants enough to get started with Zotero on their own research projects. That said, there is much more that the software can do and we are planning to run an Advanced Topics in Zotero workshop later in the year. Look for an announcement soon.

In the meantime, participants in the workshop and others interested in learning more about Zotero are encouraged to check out the Zotero website, which contains a robust library of tutorials, a repository of thousands of citation styles, searchable group libraries, and forums containing useful discussion of advanced features and solutions to common problems. A detailed book on using Zotero, Jason Puckett's Zotero: A Guide for Librarians, Researchers and Educators, is also available for use in the ISAW Library (Reference 3 collection LB2395.7 .P83 2011).