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Zotero, master your resources

For researchers, it is crucial to organize resources you have gathered in an efficient way.  We know how overwhelming it could be to keep up with new information and organize them under existing resources.  Now, Zotero just made your life whole lot easy.  With Zotero, you can create a rich digital repository of annotated, highlighted sources, with attachments and keywords.   Zotero is a research tool for managing online references.  It is developed by the Center for history and New Media at George Mason University and provides users with automated access to bibliographic information for resources viewed online.  It is a free download that can be installed on any computer running Firefox for Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as with the older 2.x (Mozilla based) versions of Flock.   I wish it could work on Google chrome as well, however, under the current version, it is not compatible with Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari.  However,  it seems like compatibility problem will be soon solved as Zotero announced that Zotero Stand alone Alpha works not only with Firefox but also with the Chrome and Safari browsers via browser-specific plugins.  However, it is still in test phase and there are still kinks being worked out.  So, I would wait until new version becomes more stable, till then, I recommend using the 2.0.9 version instead of 2.1, especially so if you are a current user who wouldn’t want to risk losing data saved in library.

Zotero actually has quite many functions: It mainly comprise of collecting, organizing, citing, synchronizing, and collaborating.  After browsing through Zotero, I thought it is somewhat similar to delicious in a way, but more focused for researchers and writers, providing more comprehensive collection of information.  Following is basics of how Zotero works.

Perhaps the most important feature of Zotero is its ability to sense when you search online.  Zotero senses information through site translators. The translators that allow Zotero to access web-based bibliographic information have been written for institutional libraries, the Library of Congress, databases such as LexisNexis, archiving services such as JSTOR, newspapers, and hundreds of other organizations around the world.  (more information on compatible sites list is available here).  If you are looking at the record for a book on an online library catalog, Zotero’s book icon will appear in Firefox’s location bar where URL appears.  You then have to simply click on the icon to save all of the citation information about the book into your library.  If a web page includes multiple sources, the application lets the user save some or all of the sources at one time.  Users can then add notes, tags, and their own metadata through the in-browser interface.   Selections of the local reference library data can later be exported as formatted bibliographies. Furthermore, all entries including bibliographic information and memos users added to the selected articles can be summarized into an HTML report.

Zotero library allows users to group sources in different combinations for different projects, review sources from varying perspective, enabling users to see interdisciplinary connections that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.  Users may locate sources in library based on keywords found in any of the data fields or notes the user has added to that source.  Also, users can take a snapshot of an online resource and add highlights or annotations to these snapshots.  If there are sources that does not interact with Zotero, yet necessary for your research, you can manually add those items to library, allowing a centralized location for gathering and storing references, significantly streamlining the research process.

Since I was new to this online research reference tool, it took me a while to figure out how the system works.  But, it has very good tutorials under the support tab of the main webpage and walks you step by step to get accustomed to the system.  I was quite astonished by Zotero’s current service, yet it keeps surprising me with more tools.  Among many of development and upgrades Zotero is currently working on, Mutilingual Zotero really grabbed my attention.  Multilingual Zotero, which is in final phase of testing, is a groundbreaking tool that can automatically capture, organize and correctly format items enriched with translated and transliterated multilingual data.  When this service comes through, I am sure that it would make so many people’s lives easy, especially in this era where using resources from multiple countries became common.

Through this class, I realized how behind I was with current technology and learned how these new tools can really make difference in my work.  I am really glad that I learned of these wonderful, yet free websites, before I walking out of law school.

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