« Back Issues of The Gargoyle, UW Law School Alumni Magazine, Available Online | Main | Legal Research in Wisconsin, 2nd Ed Now Available »

A Must Have: Zotero Manages the Entire Research & Writing Process

Yesterday a representative from Zotero, Trevor Owens, gave a demo to our law school faculty. To say that they were impressed would be an understatement - there were actual squeals of delight.

Zotero is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. I've known about it for a while (in fact I posted about it last year) but until this week, I had no idea how powerful it is.

It's not just a free version of RefWorks or EndNote which help you capture citations and create bibliographies. Zotero does that, but also much more: it manages the entire research and writing process.

For example, say you're viewing a journal article in HeinOnline. If you look up in the Firefox address bar, you'll see a little paper icon. When you click on the icon, Zotero will capture the full citation information. BUT--and here's the kicker--you can also download the entire PDF article which will attach itself to the citation information.

Now imagine doing this a hundred times over, and not just with articles but with all kinds of documents - web pages, books, gov docs, images, audio, video, etc. Then add content from your own desktop - word files, PDFs, MP3s, PPT files, etc. You can attach pretty much any kind of file to a citation.

Then organize it all into folders (more like iTunes playlists than folders actually) for different projects. And the really cool part is that you can keyword search it all - even the attached articles, word files, web pages, etc. Wow!

But wait - there's more! When you're ready to sit down and write, up steps the Zotero MS Word add on which automatically creates citations for you in your choice of citation style - INCLUDING BLUEBOOK! (The Bluebook style is still in beta, but neither EndNote or RefWorks offer Bluebook at all) Or, if you don't use MS Word, you can simply drag the citation from your Zotero library into any document (WordPerfect, Google Docs, email, etc.) and it will paste in the correctly formatted citation.

Just amazing - Zotero is an absolute must have for anyone who writes. For more information, watch this short video or read the informational flyer.

Update: When I wrote this post, I'd forgotten that EndNote now supports the Bluebook citation style. See my earlier post.


Thank you for the heads-up! I was playing around with Zotero for the first time, and I was wondering if anyone else rec'd an error message (Could Not Save Info) when trying to save info from HeinOnline? (I assume from the post that it has been accessible to other users.) Also, I understand that the legal databases Westlaw and Lexis are not supported, but what about Lexis Academic? For a law review article, I see the Zotero icon at the top but get the same error message. I'd be interested to hear any insights regular legal users might have...

The HeinOnline translator was broken last week but Zotero will work on fixing it. I think the same goes for LexisNexis Academic.

Re Westlaw, I was told that someone is working on a translator for that.

Thanks for the post. I saw the same talk, over a year ago, at LC, and I became a convert. But then I started working at an EndNote shop, and have pretty much only been using it, except for importing websites. Now I'm going to give Z a try again, and see if it meets all my needs.

From Trevor Owens at Zotero: We have someone working on resolving the Heinonline issue. Lexis Academic is partly fixed. Individual records work, but Zotero cannot currently import items from search results pages.

We hope to have both of these databases working optimally shortly.

Just as a note, I'm not getting an icon at all when I view an article on Hein. I will start using zotero in a heartbeat if westlaw, lexis academic, and hein service is fixed.


Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)