Home > Lifestyle, Rant and Rave > Take the Pain Out of Paper-Writing with Zotero

Take the Pain Out of Paper-Writing with Zotero

David Hagmann

Image courtesy of David Hagmann

Chances are you have to write at least one paper this semester. When you do so, it’s crucial that you always cite your sources – not just for direct quotes, but also if you use their ideas. You could write down each reference in a word file, but that’s messy and may make it hard to find your sources again. Plus, you’d have to remember how to cite using different formats (e.g. MLA or APA). Fortunately, there is software available to do it for you. I stumbled across Zotero, which is a free addon for the Firefox browser.

After you install the addon, you will see a small icon in the URL bar of certain websites. Zotero can read all the major paper repositories (like ProQuest) as well as major newspapers. Let’s say you find an article on the website of the New York Times that you want to cite in your paper. Just click on the icon and Zotero will record the URL, the author, the date the article was published, the section it was published in, and the date you accessed it. Zotero also keeps a snapshot of the article, making it easy for you to search later on (you may want to find all articles containing the word “subprime”). Of course you can add (searchable) notes and tags to your source. When you create a reference of a paper from ProQuest, it not only creates the citation but even saves a (searchable) PDF of the entire paper.

Now that you have your source, you can easily cite it in Microsoft Word, Mac Word, or Open Office. Zotero has addons available for these programs, so that you only have to select the source and a citation will be created for you in the appropriate format. You won’t even have to bother coming up with the “Works Cited” page on your own: one click is all it takes, and you can be assured that the citation follows whichever format you have chosen.

Learn more about Zotero on their website: www.zotero.org, and get the Firefox browser at www.getfirefox.org.

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