HomeBlogsgstevens's blogZotero and Web Research (UPDATED)

Zotero and Web Research (UPDATED)

We've all done it. Searching the web, reading from dozens of good sources for information on a specific topic. Sometimes we go down wrong alleys. Other times we find a gem of an article and bookmark it. After a few hours, or days, we go back to find key information we read - only to not be able to find it in any of our bookmarks no matter how hard we try.

Worse, we get into a habit of finding good information and doing a copy/paste into a document that just keeps growing over time. I've seen this many times. Some people will paste in the original link and other meta-data, others just copy the entire webpage verbatim as local copy. The fear is that the information will disappear or the link will become stale and no longer usable.

Zotero to the rescue!

Zotero is a researcher's best friend. It plugs into firefox and allows you to capture all of your research effort into a very convenient library of information - readily available at your fingertips. It will track pages, even cache them locally for you. You can annotate pages with in-page sticky notes and even highlight text that is import for your particular research. It also makes citing the sources very easy so you can provide proper attribution to original works. You can also interact with Word or OpenOffice, create a library - stored on a centralized server - and collaborate on a research topic by creating groups and inviting others to participate.

Zotero is open source software sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and produced by the Center for History and New Media. You can find more information here: www.zotero.org. Version 2 is in beta, and adds a lot of very nice features.

If you conduct research and gather information from many sources, go grab a copy of zotero, you'll be happy you did.

UPDATE - 10/29/2009

It's been almost half a year since this initial post and it's time for an update. In the last six months, I've repeatedly used Zotero on different research initiatives. During this tiime, Zotero has gone through several version and updates - each getting better than the one before.

I now collaborate with others and have a library of Internet content that holds important resources for me. Zotero has already saved me couple of times from losing important web content. I've returned to pages, for example, that are no longer available. But there in my Zotero library is my content backup. What a great tool!


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