advice on creating a History "Evidence Style"

I am new to zotero. I was working on a historical evidence reference citing style based on Elizabeth Shown Mills' book "Evidence Explained". In fact, before I discovered zotero, I wrote a little Fortran code (yeah, I know...) that used html like style templates for the 170 types (with the 3 of each: Biblio, First, Subsequent) and render them in rtf when the appropriate style's variables are provided. Then I was learning Java (for its platform independent GUI and to recode the Fortran in it) to do what zotero has done beyond my wildest dreams.

So, I want to abandon my approach and try to define an Evidence Style in zotero. I have poked around, and have found in the jar file the csl styles, etc. The closest style to what I want is Chicago Manual of Style (Full Note With Bibliography). Also called CMOS Humanities Style, I am told. I have imported a slightly marked up csl style, and am on the way to learning more.

But I don't want to abandon my data model. It seems like it is more general than zotero currently allows, and could be used for any style. Anyway, I think I'm about to hit a brick wall on what can be done in style files (csl) vs. having to modify parts of the code that one shouldn't modify.

There are 12 categories of evidence (currently, it will likely grow with time) for a total of 170 category types (each of the 12 have a varying number of subcategories). Each subcategory has a formatting template that contains its own special list of items (parameters). I have 531 item types (variables) that are used in the 170 x 3 reference types. Remember, all worked out before I discovered zotero, so I had no constraints, and my model seemed practical and minimalist, at least to me.

I found in about 36 itemTypes and a lot of itemFields. But it seems that one is locked into using only them.

Is that correct?

Or is there a way to "override" them in a style file? Or must one modify the code where it shouldn't be modified?

I seem to have one more level of category than zotero currently allows. However, I could collapse that by instead of defining subtypes of the 12 to make 170, I could just incorporate the name of the 12 as a prefix to a single category type list of 170. I gather that that would fit the current zotero model.

But then I also need my 531 itemFields to stick with my current parameterization of the templates. Many can be mapped to what I see in the current itemFields, but many can not.

I suppose that I could modify to what I want, and make a csl style file based on it (once I figure out more than I know now) and use it in a separate instance of Firefox than my "normal" zotero. But that seems to defeat much of the purpose of zotero. And maybe, I might be on to a way that zotero should be generalized.

And I haven't discovered yet where the pop up list of particular itemFields for a given style comes from when you, say, click on "Book" as the type. Could some maybe point out where this is done? This is all only beginning to come into focus for me.

I'd appreciate any tips or pointers that that gurus can offer on all this.

  • Hi,
    I'm probably not a guru, but from what I understand that you want, Zotero does not seem to be what you need. Zotero is a powerful tool to collect and cite bibliographic information and research notes. It is not a generic database manager, which is more along the lines of what you would seem to need.

    You cannot create new item types without modifying the code.
    You cannot create new or rename old variables without modifying the code.
    (and by code I mean the Zotero/csl engine, not the style files obviously).
    This, imho, makes sense for what Zotero is made out to be, and allows it to do that with great efficiency and a very minimal learning effort, but it does not allow the type of customization that your project seems to require.

    Obviously all parts of the Zotero code are open source, so the "shouldn't be modified" really depends on your abilities, but I'd guess that once you get into hacking the engine, you'd be pretty much on your own.
  • Thanks! It seems to me that the code is fully 97% complete of my needs, and the end user features in it aren't at odds with my needs in any way. I'll be studying the code further, and perhaps code a personal version to my needs that uses a separate myzotero.sqlite file. But generalizing the data model to allow styles to define additional types and itemField types seems like a natural evolution. Although it could require substantial recoding from the current model, but I'd hope not.

    Does anyone know of any other bibliographic programs that might do what I need "out of the box"?

  • Mills' Evidence Explained style is tailored for the needs of genealogists, who not only work with published works and governmental record groups, but also with need to reference the vast array of privately held artifacts.

    How to do we work with Zotero to recognize the Evidence Explained methodology? Who do we talk to? Who do we write to?
  • Adam,

    I'm hoping to learn from you that, yes, "generalizing the data model to allow styles to define additional types and itemField types seems like a natural evolution."

    It's possible a good sized audience would be interested in seeing and building the functionality John describes.

    I'm guessing this would involve a group, one we might help foster, working as John had begun, to build functionality into Zotero, so that the discipline of genealogy would also be recognized by Zotero.

    Our specific project, then, could secondarily dovetail in support.

    We at least believe our project has industry-wide implications.

    How do we now advance the dialog John started 18 months ago? --GJ
  • Note that adamsmith didn't say that customized item types are a natural stage in Zotero's evolution-- that was John. Customized item types won't happen.

    I still have very little idea _what_ you are trying to put into Zotero. The current types are more flexible than they might first appear, and there are plans to expand the fields and types available (and soon!), but only in cases where there is a well-documented need. I haven't seen any clear explanation of what you're trying to do, so I can't tell whether Zotero can do it, nor what data you can't seem to fit into Zotero's current model.

    For information on the current discussion of new types and fields, see
  • Hi ajlyon:

    I haven't seen John's work to know his train of thought.

    As a general rule, genealogical citations involve a wide range of unpublished, often privately held materials-- it takes more "fields," especially to reference those item types.

    Mills' _Evidence Explained_ work is state of the art methodology.
  • Please don't take this the wrong way, but I'm not going to research this myself and look at that book. I'm trying to understand what we can do to make Zotero work for researchers like you, and I still don't know what kind of fields are you talking about.

    Many people in history and philology work extensively with private, unpublished and archival materials (including me!), so you can assume that we'll understand your explanation if you provide some example data, field names, example citations, etc.
  • note that the director of the Zotero project is a professional historian - and Zotero is housed, not by coincidence, at a center for historical research. You can assume that people here know about and use archival and unpublished material.
  • Ah, nothing I love more than an 18-month-old thread, revivified.

    ajlyon and adamsmith are quite right: when it comes to working with historical evidence, we all have a pretty solid idea of what's involved. Historical research, writing, and teaching are in fact my day job. While we do plan to continue to generalize and expand Zotero's underlying data model, it's likely that what you want to do is already possible.
  • Well, to revitalize a ten year old thread...

    What is the latest on this? I'm surprised that Zotero doesn't yet have a way to link with or the other genealogy sites. It would be amazing to save a document you found there with a click in your Zotero DB; then be able to cite it correctly using EE format (as discussed earlier in this thread) while writing the proof paper afterwards. Can anyone tell me the latest on this?

Sign In or Register to comment.