Literature management with Zotero

Editing Entries

After importing new literature, switch back to the main Zotero program and click My Library on the far left. You will now see all previously added elements in the middle column. Check to be sure that the import worked correctly (Figure 3). Occasionally, individual pieces of data are transferred incorrectly or are even missing completely. To check, click on one of the imported entries in the middle column. On the right, under the Info tab, you will then see all the details for the entry, and you can correct any mistakes by clicking and editing the individual database fields.

Figure 3: When reviewing imports, it's best to arrange the browser window and Zotero side by side.

Importing bibliographic data works almost perfectly for many catalogs and databases, but it is less successful for others. Databases where the import works very reliably include the JSTOR [6] journal database and Amazon, the online retailer. With the catalogs of large university and national libraries, the imported information is usually almost error-free.

Importing information about portions of books, such as a single essay from a longer book, often proves to be more complicated because Zotero may treat them as independent publications. As a result, information about the book in which the essay is located may be missing. To address this problem, import both the essay and the publication it is in, and then duplicate the entry representing the parent publication. Edit the duplicated entry as needed, adding any needed information about the essay and changing the entry type in the top database row to Book Part. Finally, delete the first entry, which contains only the title and author of the essay. However, keep in mind that if there are separate entries in the bibliography for the essay and the book containing it, two corresponding entries must also exist in Zotero.

Sometimes you will have to create entries manually, for example, if you find an unpublished document in an archive. Click on the icon with the small green circle and the white plus sign in the Zotero toolbar, and you will then see a list from which you can select the type of entry. Next, a new, empty entry appears in the middle column of the Zotero window, and you can enter the details of the title, author, and so on into the database fields you see in the right column.

Attaching files to entries is simple. Select an entry and click on the icon with the paper clip in the toolbar. Zotero copies the files to the ~/Zotero/storage/ directory. If you have not disabled synchronization for attachments, the program will also upload the attachment to the cloud storage.

Collections and Bibliographies

When working on a specific project, consider creating a separate collection for it to make it easier to generate a bibliography. Right-click My Library in the left column of the Zotero window and click New Collection in the menu that appears. In the dialog box that then appears, type a name for the collection.

The new collection now appears under My Library. To assign titles to this collection, select My Library to view the importable entries in your library in the middle column. Narrow down these entries by typing a search term in the box to the right above the large center column. Click on an entry and drag it to the left to the appropriate collection.

To create a bibliography for a project, right-click the name of the collection in the left column, and then click Create Bibliography from Collection. A dialog box appears in which you will first choose a citation style. This determines how Zotero orders or formats the individual entries. You do not need to change the output mode – Zotero sets Bibliography by default. Finally, you have the choice of saving the bibliography as an RTF or HTML file, copying it to the clipboard, or printing it. Look carefully at the bibliography you have created and correct any errors in Zotero, if possible, rather than in the word processor.

Zotero and LibreOffice

It's a good idea to use the Zotero extension for LibreOffice both for inserting references and citation sources into the text and for creating bibliographies. This will help you avoid missing entries in the bibliography that you refer to in the text – a common mistake even among experienced researchers.

Before installing the LibreOffice extension, check if the use of a Java runtime environment is enabled in the office suite. If there is no Java Development Kit on your system, install the appropriate package from the package sources of the distribution you are using – the package usually has a jdk component in its name.

Then tell LibreOffice the directory in which the Java runtime environment resides. Call up the LibreOffice settings below Tools | Options…. You will find the Java settings under LibreOffice | Advanced. Under Java Options, check Use a Java Runtime Environment, click Add… below it, and then select the directory. Close the Options dialog via the OK button and exit LibreOffice.

Go to the Zotero settings to start the installation of the LibreOffice extension. Switch to the Cite tab, click on the tab for word processors, and click the button to install the LibreOffice plug-in. The dialog windows of the installation wizard should show the directory where LibreOffice is located, but if needed, you can specify the directory manually. After launching LibreOffice, you will see – usually on the far left – a small additional toolbar where each of the five buttons contains a small red Z. Click on the button which includes a small gear, and in the following dialog, select the citation style you want to use.

To insert a literature reference, click the button with the document icon next to the Z. The Quick Format Citation dialog appears in the center of the window. Type a keyword, and select a publication from the search results. Zotero automatically transfers the reference to the desired location in the text (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Use the Zotero extension for LibreOffice to quickly insert references into the text.

Once you have added all the references to your work, you can create an up-to-date bibliography with one click. Place the cursor where you want the bibliography to be and click on the second icon in the toolbar, which has a Z next to two books. Zotero then automatically generates the bibliography from the references in the text.

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