Useful study tools: Part 1 — Zotero

A tablet… did­n’t Moses have two of those?

So out are the piles of high­light­ed notes, and in is a tablet. But a tablet is mere­ly a glo­ri­fied expen­sive paper­weight with­out soft­ware to make it usable, and in my field prob­a­bly the most impor­tant piece of soft­ware is a good doc­u­ment read­er. Personally I use GoodReader, although I am cer­tain that there are many oth­er great doc­u­ment read­ers out there, but my main cri­te­ria are as follows:
1. Reads doc­u­ments < duh
2. Annotates and marks up documents
3. Can extract anno­ta­tions and high­lights from documents
4. Easily syn­chro­nis­able with a cloud stor­age medium

Now the cloud stor­age top­ic is one which will be addressed in anoth­er post, but all of the rest are quite essen­tial. In my gen­er­al use GoodReader com­mon­ly looks like this:


Several doc­u­ments open, on var­i­ous dif­fer­ent top­ics, and all with var­i­ous high­lights and anno­ta­tions which I have made. GoodReader allows me to do all of this, and ticks off the multitasking/distractable aspect from the list of ways that I work in. The part which makes it extreme­ly valu­able to me is the abil­i­ty for it to extract the high­light­ed por­tions, along with my anno­ta­tions, and email it to me as a sep­a­rate doc­u­ment. Note tak­ing made easy. Which brings me to my next item.

How in heck do you col­late and organ­ise all the var­i­ous stud­ies, along with the rapid­ly bal­loon­ing require­ments of study­ing anoth­er human­i­ties degree? (I vague­ly did Engineering/IT as well) Originally I start­ed doing this method using Endnote7, and then it has slow­ly evolved via var­i­ous ver­sions of Endnote (that I must admit I con­stant­ly whinged about) and now that I have start­ed on Theology I jumped at the oppor­tu­ni­ty to trans­fer it over into Zotero as I had heard many great things about it, and impor­tant­ly the fact that it is free to boot.

What are these tools you say? Well at the most basic lev­el they are mere­ly ref­er­ence cita­tion man­agers, but if they are used cor­rect­ly they can be so much more than that. Infact, the way I use Zotero these days is more akin to a repos­i­to­ry of knowl­edge on the top­ics I am studying.
But rather than pro­vid­ing a com­par­i­son of the tools, its prob­a­bly bet­ter to describe how I use them, and let users decide which one suits their needs. Besides, I stuck around with Endnote9 while every­one else upgrad­ed to X, so im a bit out of date.