With the recent announcement of the end of the University of Alberta’s subscription to RefWorks, on October 1, 2021, we wanted to give those interested in trying a new reference manager some information about alternatives to RefWorks. This is the second in our three part series about commonly used citation managers. Meet Zotero…
This post was written by Lauren Stieglitz who is a librarian at Cameron Library
What is Zotero?
Zotero is a reference manager. It is a great option for users switching from RefWorks.
How does it work
Zotero consists of two parts: a desktop application to view and organize your research materials and the Zotero Connector, a web browser plug-in to add materials to your account. As you search online, the Zotero connector automatically detects research materials (articles, books, news and more) and you can add those items to your Zotero account with one click. In the Zotero desktop application, you can view, organize and share your research items. You can sort items into collections, assign colour-coded tags and add detailed notes. Zotero also allows you to share folders with other users, so you can easily share your research materials and collaborate.
Zotero also allows you to cite while you write. There is a Zotero plug in for Word and LibreOffice that allows you to easily insert citations and bibliographies in your manuscript. Zotero also integrates automatically with Google Docs.
Though Zotero is primarily desktop based, you can also add items directly to your online Zotero account. This is a great option for Chromebook users.
First, Zotero is easy to use. You can quickly add materials to Zotero with just the click of a button.
Second, Zotero is free. Zotero gives all users a limited amount of free online storage and you can pay for more online storage if needed. This storage limit only affects the pdfs you back up to your online account. As Zotero is desktop based, there is no limit on the number of items you can have in your account.
Third, Zotero is open source and was developed by a nonprofit organization. This means Zotero is transparent and you are always in control of your data. All other major citation managers are owned by private companies that are either academic publishers (Mendeley, RefWorks) or analytics companies (EndNote), and these companies do collect user data.
Is Zotero right for you?
Zotero is a great choice for most researchers, as it is easy to use and free. It works well for almost all research projects and allows for easy collaboration.
Users who need to batch duplicate items, Zotero may not be the best choice, it deduplicates items one by one. For users conducting systematic reviews, we recommend using Covidence in addition to a citation manager. Covidence is a program designed for deduplication, screening and assessing materials for systematic reviews. For a systematic review, you can use Zotero to organize papers and Covidence for deduplication and screening.
Try out Zotero
Looking for information on how to transition reference data from your RefWorks account, or a comparison of various RefWorks alternatives? Visit our RefWorks Transition Guide.