zotero

what is zotero, & why do I need it?

Zotero is a tool that helps you collect, organize, cite, save, and communicate your research, both individually and collaborating in groups.

collect:
  • Zotero helps you collect research with one-click: library catalog searches, library databases, booksellers, blogs, and just about anything else. When you click on the icon, Zotero stores the bibliographic data, the url, files (if available), and in the case of a website or blog, a snapshot of the page. This last one is important if you are citing to something that may disappear or change without warning.
  • You can attach any pdf, image, audio, video, or other type of file to the entry, as well as any notes you take.
  • For things that you can't automatically store with one-click, like things in print that you didn't find on the web, it is very easy to enter the bibliographic data by hand.
  • Zotero indexes it all (even the pdfs), allowing you to search easily amongst what you have collected.
organize:
  • Zotero does not store things in a nest of folders. It stores everything in the your main library, and you may then add that entry to any number of collections or subcollections. Think iTune playlist, only without the annoying parts of iTunes.
  • You can save searches, which then create smart collections inside your Zotero (e.g., "items added in the last 7 days", or "every blog entry from OpinioJuris")
  • TAGS! With tags, you can create your own taxonomy. One tag might be "case history", with which you tag everything in your research that has to do with the history of the case you are writing about. Then when it comes time to write, click on the "case history" tag in Zotero, and there will be listed all of your sources and note on that topic.
cite:
  • Zotero automagically puts your bibliographic data into proper citation form, allowing you to easily cite your sources.
  • There are over 6750 citation styles available at last count, including the Bluebook. Unfortunately, the several Bluebook citation styles for regular Zotero are not all that accurate, and they do not have the ability to make a bibliography entry for you. To solve this, I have written our own, which is much more accurate and does create a bibliography entry. It is still not perfect, and you need to check its output, but it does a decent job with the major types of citations. You can get it and instructions on how to install it on its page on this website.
  • If you are using Microsoft Word, LibreOffice Writer, or OpenOffice Writer, Zotero has a plugin that gives you a Zotero toolbar and the ability to search Zotero and pull up your research entries, edit them, and create footnotes or endnotes. It is pretty slick.
  • If you are using Google Docs, or are writing a blog, or sending an email, or using almost any other text editor, you can just drag and drop citations directly from Zotero into your doc/email/whatever.
save & sync:
  • Zotero automatically syncs your research on as many devices as you choose (laptop, desktop, etc.)
  • It makes it painless to upgrade to a new computer; just install Zotero and sync.
  • Your research is available from any web browser pointed at zotero.org, so you can use it even when you don't have your computer with you, but you do have access to the web.
  • While it is not a complete substitute for other backing up of your research, it does store the latest version of your data in the Zotero cloud, which can be a part of your 3-2-1 backup strategy.
  • There are mobile clients for smartphones and tablets.
  • You get 300 Mb of storage on the Zotero.org servers for free, and more storage is dirt cheap.
collaborate:
  • By setting up shared group folders, it makes it really easy to collaborate as part of a group. This is ideal for moot court teams, group projects, and the like.
  • If you want, and only if you want, you can choose to share your resources with the world. Many scholars do this after they publish to allow others to build on their work. It is a personal choice, and strictly up to you.

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backup your zotero

You need to backup your zotero data regularly. Syncing with the zotero server is not the same as backing up, and should not be relied on. If you delete something accidentally and then your zotero automatically syncs with the server, the data will be gone. To avoid this, follow these directions and backup regularly.

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what's the difference between regular zotero and juris-m?

Regular zotero is a general purpose scholarly open-source citation and research manager. It is optimized for broad appeal and usefulness in all areas of scholarly research. It works on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, has plugins for Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, and OpenOffice word processors, and works with Google Docs, email, and many other applications. You have a choice of using it with Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. You may store data in any language, and the zotero interface and documentation are available in most languages (see the zotero language support pages for more information). Regular zotero will not, however, allow you to store transliteration/translation information as a part of the citation, which can be important when using sources that are not in roman alphabet languages. Its support of American legal citation (the Bluebook) is rudimentary, but adequate for most things. You will need to supply the Bluebook abbreviation for any journal title you cite every time you add one to your zotero library. It has automatic journal abbreviations, but legal scholars should not use this right now, as they default to Medline abbreviations, which differ greatly from the Bluebook. All citations will have to be checked to make sure they follow the Bluebook rules (they do a pretty good job in most cases, but need a little tweaking here and there). Finally, not all legal material types are specifically supported (e.g., treaties) and you will need to adapt other material types by hand. This is not hard to do.

Juris-M, a multi-lingual branch of zotero for legal scholars, is an offshoot of regular zotero created by Professor Frank G. Bennett of the Graduate School of Law at Nagoya University in Japan. An early adopter of zotero, Prof. Bennett needed it to advance faster than zotero's primary creators were able to allow (they had to be concerned with stability and broad appeal). So he forked the code into an experimental version he calls juris-m. This version handles law-related materials much better than regular zotero, and it also allows transliteration/translation metadata storage as well. Juris-m has both standalone and Firefox versions, and works with all the browsers regular zotero works with. It works in Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems, and uses the zotero.org accounts and sync tools. One caveat, you can't mix regular zotero and juris-m versions in the same account. The changes that allow juris-m to handle language support and legal citation make the databases incompatible. The current plan is for regular zotero to incorporate all the changes juris-m has made within the next few years.

Juris-m also comes with a couple of plugins that make legal citation better. They are available at Juris-m's website.. The first of these is the abbreviation filter and lists of legal abbreviations. This makes automatic Bluebook abbreviations. The second is the Free Law Ferret, which has perhaps the best name ever given a research tool. The Free Law Ferret adds an item to the Firefox context menu (the one you usually right-click to open) that if chosen will scrape the web page you are looking at for any citations to US case law. It will then retrieve these cases from free law sources (such as Google Scholar or CourtListener) for you and store them in your juris-m database.

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