Tech tip – Zotero FREE referencing software

I use Endnote as my referencing software because UNE provides it free to postgrads and the wonderful library staff run an excellent training course on using it as well as providing very useful notes on their website and being willing to answer questions when you get stuck. I can even take my laptop up to the library and one of the librarians will show me what I am doing wrong.  🙂 I will therefore continue to use it – that and I have about 600 records in my Endnote library.

However, not everyone is in such a fortunate position and Tim Bulkeley over at Sansblogue has two posts on Zotero, a free bibliographic software program available on the web.  The first gives an overview of how it works on the web and the second has two animated film-thingies (aka instructional videos) that show you how to use it and how to integrate it into your word processor.  This sounds like an excellent resource for researchers on a tight budget and/or attached to an institution with different priorities for their spending.


6 thoughts on “Tech tip – Zotero FREE referencing software

  1. This sounds like an excellent resource for researchers on a tight budget and/or attached to an institution with different priorities for their spending.

    Hi Judy,

    I might add that it’s not just excellent for those on a tight budget. My institution offers Endnote and several other paid alternatives, and yet I’ve switched to Zotero just because of its intuitive interface and powerful set of features. I justed blogged about it here.

  2. Thanks for this link, Mark. It’s got some really useful information. I think that Zotero would be extremely helpful for my actual PhD work because my department is quite happy for me to use Chicago (or any other footnote style I like to use). I think, however, that Endnote is still likely to be better than Zotero for people who write for a range of journals which each have their own idiosyncratic little features. From what I can gather, being able to set up a style for each journal and not have to worry about checking the referencing formatting is possibly the only feature where Endnote currently outperforms Zotero.

    • I don’t know if I agree that Endnote is better there: Zotero has thousands of styles too & they can be customized & requests for customization on the Zotero forums are often fulfilled very quickly. EndNote has a number of quirks in what can and can’t be done with formatting for citations that Zotero doesn’t seem to have a problem with. Finally, Zotero styles are an open standard & can be used in other programs, such as Mendeley & Zotero can even use the closed/proprietary EndNote styles.

      • Mark,
        You will notice that the comment you’re responding to is almost two years old! 🙂 At that stage, the number of styles was very limited and I was informed by people who used it that it wasn’t actually possible to write your own. I will continue to use Endnote for the time being because my university provides it for free and supports it really well, but I can’t imagine why anyone would pay to buy Endnote.

        The other feature that I like in Endnote that I don’t think is possible for Zotero is that I can use WorldCat to import citations directly into it when I would otherwise have to hand type or send it to myself by email and use a filter to import it from a library catalogue. WorldCat seems only to work with Endnote and RefWorks. Is there a similar Zotero workaround?

  3. Hi,
    Will Zotero work for me? I have finished my thesis and whilst I used Havard to reference, I did not put the list of references at the end of the chapters. Can Zotero be used to do this? The bibilography is complete. I think it may be easier to od this manually. Help!

    • Maggie,

      I don’t use Zotero because my university provides me with Endnote for free and gives tech support and training. I am therefore not sure just how much work putting your bibliography into a Zotero database would be. I would suggest that you go to Tim Bukeley’s SansBlogue blog, this post in particular ( ask Tim because he uses it all the time and he is very generous with his support of beginning scholars.

      It will also depend on how often you cite the same works. If you only use most of your sources once then at this stage it might be easier in the short term to do it manually. If you cite a reasonable number of the works a number of times, Zotero will be very useful because it knows automatically whether you’ve cited the work before and therefore how it should be put at this particular place.

      If you are not pushing against a very tight deadline and you plan to work in the field, I would suggest that you take the time to set up a database because you will then be able to use it for the journal articles that you will want to write and/or the monograph you may want to produce from your thesis. It is also sooooo nice to be able to put your reference in with two or three clicks and then know that it will automatically be adjusted appropriately if you have to move things around. I am currently doing a grant-writing workshop and I am the only person in the group who uses referencing software. I can cite as I write to back up my claims about the general wonderfulness of my proposal. They all have to go away and spend lots of time hunting for the references they need.

      Best wishes for the finalising and submission of your thesis.

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