It's that time of year. The leaves are changing color and falling gently to the ground. There is a nip in our Colorado air. We are about half-way through the semester, which means it is time to start that research paper! Its not easy keeping track of all those books, articles and website you find for your papers. Yellow stickie notes flutter around you like those falling leaves. And you don't have access to RefWorks or EndNotes. What do you do?
Thanks to William B. Badke and his book, Research Strategies: Finding your Way Through the Information Fog, I learned about a FREE bibliographic organizer and citation generator called Zotero. It is an extension of Firefox. It allows you to keep track of your sources as you perform your research. If you find a web page that you want remember, it will allow you to link it, and it gives you all of the bibliographic information you need to cite it.
For instance, I have been reading a wonderful book called, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley. I wanted to put this book in my Zotero library, so I went to Google books and found it. An icon of a book appeared in the box that shows the URL. I simply clicked on that icon, and all of the bibliographic information downloaded into my library. Since I am reading the paper edition of the book, I added to the record the library I borrowed the book from and its call number. It also has the ability for you to add notes, tags and relate documents to each other. If you can't find the book information online, you can always enter it by filling in the fields available for the different kinds of materials: books, journal articles, websites, etc.
You can always access your Zotero library by clicking on the "Zotero" icon that is always present in the lower right hand corner of your Firefox window.
The great thing about that is that I can then choose which citation style I need to use (I use Turabian) and print out a bibliography. It also has add-ons for Microsoft Word and OpenOffice so you can use Zotero to footnote or endnote your paper. And again, it can generate a bibliography for you.
Of course you should always double check the citations that Zotero prints out to make sure they are correct. But it is a great way to get started.
You will need to download the software. I did and I haven't had any problems. There are two versions, 1.0.10 and 2.0b7.4 beta. I decided to download the 1.0.10 since I didn't know if I really needed some of the collaborative things the beta version has. The more I use Zotero, however, I might decide to try the beta version.
The only downside to Zotero is that you have to be online to use it. If you are regularly someplace where you do not have internet access, this won't work. But if you needs something to help you keep track of all those sources, give Zotero a try.
UPDATE: I have been made aware that you can use Zotero offline. You can manage your sources, print bibliographies and add sources to your library manually. You just can't add via the internet. The good thing about that is you can use it to add citations, footnotes, etc. while you are offline. Cool!