How Zotero Can Save You Time

By: Lauren Collier, Wake Forest University

Reading and writing about research is an important part of the graduate school experience. Because we spend a great deal of time finding sources for our projects and papers, being able to keep sources organized is equally as important. Today, I will be highlighting one program that could save you time and keep you organized.

Zotero is a free program that is used to help you organize research materials (e.g., articles, theses, and dissertations). Of course, you can do this on your personal computer, but I would like to briefly provide four reasons why Zotero Standalone provides an easy and excellent tool for organization.

1. You can add research sources to your Zotero collection with the click of a button. Long gone are the days of downloading and sorting through articles. Instead, as you browse online sources, you can click a button on your browser toolbar and the article source will instantly be placed in the collection or sub-collection you last clicked in the Zotero Standalone window. In addition, any research sources put into Zotero can be re-accessed by clicking on the source in the Zotero Standalone window. Thus, you are able to store and access articles in seconds.

2. Zotero allows you to make different folders and sub-folders for each of your projects. Many of us work on several projects at once and it can be difficult to keep track of which documents need to be stored where. Rather than downloading and shifting individual files around on your desktop, you can store them all in folders and subfolders of the Zotero Standalone window. I like to use one main folder for the general topic of interest (i.e., First Year Project) and then use subfolders for various aspects within the general topic. You could break this down by the structure of the paper (introduction, method etc.) or by individual concepts (moral judgements, moral perceptions). Organizing literature in this way will allow you to be able to easily search for articles as you need them.

3. Clicking any of the headings in Zotero Standalone (e.g., Creator or Title) allows you to sort your articles alphabetically by that heading. If you’re looking for an article in a long list and you only remember the general title or first author, clicking on the heading in the Zotero Standalone window will sort the research sources in alphabetical order. The faster you can locate previous articles, the faster you can make progress on your writing.

4. Zotero allows you to easily make an entire bibliography based on sources you have saved in the Standalone window. This is by far my favorite aspect of collecting articles using this processor. With Zotero, all you have to do is right-click on the folder or subfolder of interest and select the option to generate a bibliography. It will create an alphabetized bibliography containing each of the sources in your folder. In addition to creating entire bibliographies, Zotero can also create individual bibliographic items and in text citations as well.

While you may already have a method of research organization that works well for you, Zotero is a helpful way to keep up with your sources. When crunched for time, this tool can save you from frustration and perhaps even save your paper.