If you are a researcher who is conducting a research that involves literature evaluation, chances are that using a reference management software will be of great help in storing, organising and automatically cite your sources.
There are various types of reference management software available. Often, research students will be provided an access to the system available within their university. If your university doesn’t provide an access to a specific system, then you will need to identify a suitable system that suits your requirements. Of the various systems available some have a certain cost to obtain the licence, including most used software options such as Endnote and Reworks. However, the development in reference management software production meant that there are many other software options that are also available completely free of charge, while also doing the job.
I will share my experience of using a free of change reference management software called Zotero, which I used throughout my Ph.D. 5 years long research, and proven to be an invaluable resource. In the following sections, I will focus on key functions that I found useful in Zotero.
Aside the fact that Zotero software is available completely free of charge to download from https://www.zotero.org, also the software is compatible with both Firefox through extension or can be used as a stand-alone option for Chrome and Safari.
What can you store on Zotero
Zotero enables you to save all your data in one searchable database, including PDFs, word docs, images, audio, video files, snapshots of web pages, among many other files types.
Automatic detection of content
Zotero automatically detects content from your web browser, which you can add simply to your Zotero library.
Zotero automatically indexes the full-text content of your library, enabling you to find exactly what you’re looking for with just a few keystrokes.
Zotero folders help to organize your research data into categories and subcategories, in a similar way to the one used in Outlook. Your files can be added to respective folders.
When signing up for Zotero, you create an account, which automatically synchronizes your data that are being pulled from the various devices that you use Zotero on. This means, if you are using different devices at different times, all your data will still be accessed from your be saved and accessible from any device. Furthermore, because the function is automatic, there is no risk of losing your data, as it’s a matter of logging in and downloading your data on any given computer. For example, I bought a new laptop to replace a damaged on. I was worried that I won’t be able to access some of my data, but it was just a matter of few minutes to log into Zotero online and download Zotero and my whole library onto my new laptop.
Automatic referencing and citations
Zotero provides various formats for citations (APA, Harvard, etc), which are easily set at the start when you download the software, or at a later date. Importing citations from Google scholars and many other engines is automatically done through pressing cite and downloading RefMan format, which then automatically inputs the source in your chosen folder and feeds all relevant details of the publication (author, year, abstract). When exporting your citations, you can create footnotes, endnotes, in-text citations, or bibliographies, with a push of a button.
Finally, I hope that the above information will be of use for some of you who are contemplating the use of reference management systems. For me, it made a massive improvement the way my research was conducted and saved me so much time and effort, while maintaining a highly organised database.
I would happy to answer any questions 🙂
Best of luck!