Using Zotero to finish a project

This discussion was created from comments split from: Editing Bibliography.
  • Hi, I just found out about Zotero after finishing my proposal. Now I have been asked to fix my bibliography and etc. How can I use zotero to help out, if I had not saved my sources in zotero, as I had developed the document prior?
  • Honestly, I probably wouldn't try to use Zotero for a work that late in the process. It's certainly possible to add all cited items into Zotero or to use to import the existing bibliography and then recreate the bibliography or re-insert the citations in the document -- but for this project, it'll probably take longer to do that than to just fix things up manually.

    Zotero is really most effective when used from the start at least of the writing, ideally of the research process for a project.
  • I seldom disagree with adamsmith and I don't fully disagree here. However, it really depends on how much writing and reference gathering remains on your project. The amount of time needed to switch may be a worthy investment and instead of time lost you may find the effort brings unexpected benefits.

    In my experience (I was finished with my first draft if my doctoral thesis --my formal proposal long complete) when Reference Manager 10 failed. Although I had backups of my documents and library, it became clear after working with tech support and learning that the product was sunsetting that my project couldn't be completed with that software. I had been using RM since it was a CP/M program. I considered switching to EndNote since it was published by the same developer but I made the decision to make a jump to Zotero.

    I printed out a hard copy of my work to that point, made another electronic copy of my Word document, stripped the field codes from the copy and set to work. I already had 400+ individual items in me bibliography.

    All in all, rebuilding my bib library in Zotero required 6 to 7 hours of work. Except for 15 to 20 items that had to be completely hand entered, I was able to automatically capture the other references -- journal articles and books -- by importing from the websites of publishers and bibliographic databases. That went much more quickly than I feared. Getting the book chapter entries from the book records I had imported was a bit more tedious than I thought but I discovered that the effort to insert the chapter cites into the thesis required less effort than it had been with Reference Manager. After getting the records into Zotero I had more work to do. I needed to edit all of my Zotero records to get all duplicate authors' names in the same format and all titles converted to sentence case. This process was quick and easy and required only about 2 hours.

    Revising the manuscript was tedious but easy. I had a Word document file with my (no longer linked) citations. Using my printed copy and its bibliography I went through my Word doc, highlighted each citation, and inserted the live Zotero cite in its place.

    The whole process was completed in a very long day and evening. But the time wasn't all lost. I was able to identify several errors. Not only were there typos and unclear phrases in my original document I identified while I re-did the references there were a couple of very serious errors that I discovered -- one of which saved me serious embarrassment and another of which was a completely wrong cite. I had already proofread the draft as finding these errors was a really good benefit.

    The effort required to get material into Zotero has the added benefit of making it easier to write the manuscripts for journal article submissions.
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