Using groups for collaborative writing

I have been a Zotero user for thirteen years, and would love to use the sharing capabilities of Zotero for collaborating on manuscripts. Reading the documentation and the forums, I have been having trouble how this can be done without causing organizational issues with one’s library.

My understanding is that to place items in a group library means duplicating and creating independent copies of those items. If I were to create groups for every manuscript I co-write, I’d end up with many items multiplying. Deleting the group would mean unlinking the citations in the document, which is not desirable at all. If I want to copy an item (added by someone else) from a group library to use elsewhere, I will likely end up saving a duplicate of an item I may already have. I completely understand the conceptual difficulty in preventing all these and have no solutions, but I am certain people smarter than I am must have workflows on working through tens of manuscripts, without constantly duplicating items, which are unlinked to each other, cannot be updated en masse, but also don’t allow for an updated item to be re-dragged to a group library. Right now, we just ask one person to do all the references with their program of choice, and have no groups or sharing.

I hope I have some of this wrong. And I am seriously looking for ideas to make co-authoring more collaborative.

(Automated updating of item data, detecting duplicate items when saving from browser connectors, and improved duplicate detection are also on my wishlist, but I know there are plans to improve those.)
  • I use three approaches for collaborative writing with Zotero:

    1. With recurring collaborators, I have large, multi-paper libraries, often with collections for particular papers/projects. I also do this for complex papers with significant amounts of literature with one-time authors.

    2. With (IT) sophisticated one-time co-authors, we both cite from our personal library (i.e. rely on metadata stored in Word when citing) making sure that the metadata for cited items is in good shape (so that we don't need to fix it later, which can be a hassle) and that we always use the "Cited items" when inserting a citation that already exists in the document (to avoid duplicates)

    3. With less (IT) sophisticated co-authors, I just tell them to put a the citation in a Word/Google doc comment in any format that includes a DOI, and I (or a GA if there's one on the project) inserts all citations.
  • edited August 8, 2021
    That sound about right. I don't have much of a case for (1). Working with students and postdocs, who come and leave by the nature of their positions, and a constantly changing cast of collaborators, all with varying levels of comfort with tech, I have been doing (3) and will keep doing that.

    I've considered doing (2) with my trainees (over whom I may have some say), but refrained due to documents not being future-proof. I should probably take the small risk and do that. I keep hope that there will be ways to merge items in documents and libraries in future Zotero versions. Smarter sharing and updating between groups and de-deduplication will be welcome additions to Zotero, which will help collaborative academic writers like us.

    Thank you.
  • Hello! I <3 Zotero too.

    We have one lab with students who come and go, and I can add people and remove them from my shared library as needed (and change roles). Therefore, I'm a proponent of one "collaboration" library with multiple subfolders (per topic area, or per manuscript). This will catch duplicates.

    Also - I am having a problem with writing together with others even though we have the same Zotero shared library. [example: I write something, add citations, and send it to someone else, who can write and add/edit citations.] Do you have any tips on using the "cite and write" plug-in across platforms/computers?
  • @ventural -- start a new thread with details on that. That should just work.
  • I use @ventural’s approach - I have group libraries on whatever I need to collaborate on, then add/remove people as I go. I don’t have a lot in my personal library as I tend to move everything out to group libraries (rather than duplicate).
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