Useful Study Tools: Zotero

ZoteroThis post comes from over on where I wrote it as part of a Digital Study Skills seminar that came from the last Structured Pro-crastination post i wrote on the topic last year. I figure its also useful for people who arn’t studying at Ridley and simply want better tools for academic research. So here it is for everyone else.

Stemming from the short seminar on Digital Study Skills that was held on campus a few weeks ago, this is the first of a series of posts on a variety of useful study tools.

First up we have Zotero, a full featured citation manager that will help you to keep your references in line, find your digital resources, collate your book or article summaries, and even make you midnight coffees. Ok well maybe not the last one, but its pretty good none the less.

For those of you who may have used Endnote in the past, in theory Zotero is just like Endnote. But thankfully theory is where the similarities end. In the real world Zotero actually works, and doesnt crash regularly, which should be reason enough to use it over EndNote.

The basic usage of Zotero works like this:

  1. Add reference into Zotero from ATLA (via RIS export), the Ridley Library or (via browser plugins), or enter by hand.
  2. Cite reference in Word, or other word processor while you write.
  3. Sit back and marvel at not having to manually format references.

To get started with Zotero is pretty easy, but rather than me regurgitating what others have written it is better to check out the Zotero documentation here:

However, there are a couple of tricks and neat features of Zotero which can come in handy for the intrepid student or researcher.

1. ATLA/EBSCO doesn’t play well with proxies RISExport

For some bizarre reason you can’t use the Zotero browser plugin to grab your favourite references from ATLA. Instead the easy way to get around this is to use the Export feature in ATLA to export as an RIS format and then import this into Zotero. You can do this for

each individual reference, or you can add them all to a single folder and do it all at once. Just look for the Export button on the site, as demonstrated in the following screenshot:

It really is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

2. Built in Rename FunctionRenameFile

When adding PDFs from ATLA or scanned documents, don’t stress about naming them manually when Zotero can do it for you. Simply right click on the reference > “Add Attachment” > “Add Link to File”. Once you have added the link, right click on the link and select “Rename File from Parent Metadata” and the file will be renamed as Author – Date – Title. Piece of cake.


Also when exporting for your essays use the Ridley export which is based upon the SBL stylesheet, and modified by our past student Rob. The export formatting is available here: sbl-fullnote-bibliography-ridley8.csl

Finally, no citation manager is perfect, and is only as good as the information that it is fed. So you still need to cast an eye over your references in Zotero when you add them, and run a final check over your essay after you have finished it to make sure they are all correct.

Happy Essays!





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