Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Teaching Myself Zotero


When we discussed formatting / info gathering software such as EndNote and Zotero in the group, several people said they thought using one of these programs would have been helpful...but now that they're knee-deep in their dissertations, it's too late.

I dabbled in RefWorks years ago for a project, but after hearing Aya singing the praises of Zotero, I thought I'd give it a try.

I'm still in the buying-and-hoarding-and-sorting books phase of my dissertation, and already I'm starting to forget which copies of what I've bought online. I decided that I could start learning Zotero by creating a list of books that I've purchased for the dissertation.

I began by going to the Zotero website and downloading the newest version. It requires Firefox 3.0, which I have. I also watched the very helpful demos on the website.

Right off the bat, I couldn't get it to work. I couldn't see the "Zotero" logo at the bottom of the screen, the key point for accessing the thing. So I searched on the very helpful forums on the Zotero site, and sure enough, within a few minutes, found the solution to my problem (for me, it was simply going up to the "View" bar and selection "Status bar.")

Once I figured that out, I began going to amazon.com and the Honnold library site to find the books on my shelf. It's so easy to use Zotero for this - you find the book you have, then click on a little blue book icon next to the web address in the browser. And Sha-zam! It's sent to your Zotero folder.

I made a couple of mistakes where I uploaded the right book but the wrong edition. It was easy to fix. I also uploaded a few dissertations on my topic that I've printed out (and gloriously 3-hole-punched one night).

So far, so good. I also began adding notes on each of the books describing the covers of the actual books. Because so many of my books have the author's name as the title, it's helpful for me to remember, ah yes, this is the one with the peacock on the cover, this is the one that's orange, etc. I'm very visual.

It's too soon yet for me to know how well I like Zotero or how easy it is to use, but based on the helpful forums and my initial forays tonight, it looks promising.

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