Explanatory Notes and Subsequent Uses

Hello Zotero Community,

I'm working to create a custom note option in our CSL and have thought of a way to do it, but am unsure if it is the best route or how to implement in the CSL if it is.

My organization uses a modified version of APA in which the full APA-formatted reference is placed into the report as a footnote on the page where it is cited. The first time a reference is used, all authors are listed, and any reference with more than two simply goes to et al in any subsequent uses. There is no reference page or bibliography at the end, but because full details are available in the footnote. This was easy enough to implement (with many thanks to this forum), but what I am trying to add now is a bit beyond my programming capability.

The current issue:
My organization often uses explanatory footnotes (e.g., "We used method alpha here to...." or "we used the beta method here because...."). There are about 10 different such notes that get used regularly, and a few dozen that have been used at some point. We would like to use Zotero to store and enter these, including using shorter versions of each in subsequent uses of them in a single doc.

My proposed solution:
I think identifying an item type that we don't typically use and modifying it to work in the way I described could be a solution for us. I landed on 'patent' as the item type because I don't see us every needing to cite a patent, so the original functionality wouldn't be missed. My idea is to use the patent title and short title to store our text, with short title always saying something like "see appendix XX for additional details on our methods." Zotero would then combine them so that the first use of any of these notes inserts [title][short title] as a footnote and any subsequent uses simply inserts [short title] as a footnote.

1) Is there a better way to achieve this functionality? If yes, what is it?
2) How do I customize the CSL to accomplish this (either what I described or the better way detailed in answer 1?)

I sincerely appreciate any help with this and would be glad to answer any questions or provide more details as needed. Thanks for all of your on this wonderful tool.


  • 1) More or less what you're planning should work, yes. Note, however, that the title field has a character limit for syncing (don't remember exactly how long -- maybe 250 chars?) so you may run into issues with that -- it might be better to use Extra (which maps to "note" for CSL.

    2) This wouldn't seem particularly hard given what you've already done. Any particular issues you're having?
    The basic approach would be

    <if type="patent">
    <...the explanatory note code>
    <... the APA code>

    and have that both in the subsequent and the regular citation section with the respective content.
  • edited May 29, 2020
    If you might ever cite a patent, you might want to add, you can make this a little more robust.

    Use this style format:

    <if type="patent" variable="annote" match="all">
    <...the explanatory note code>
    <... the APA code>

    Then enter your notes in the Extra field of a patent item like this:
    annote: The long version of the note
    annote-short: The short version of the note
  • Thank you both very much for your help with this. Switching the field we use is a helpful tip, and will also allow us to title the notes and keep things a little more organized.

    Agreed that it doesn't seem like it should be all that hard, but I keep generating errors. I think some direction as to where exactly to insert this code chunk would help me (though I cannot even say that I'm 100% sure that is the help that I need).
  • Here you go. APA style in footnotes, with subsequent citations using short forms, and the same for annotations of patent items with the `annote` variable in Extra:
  • edited June 30, 2020
    Thank you so much, @bwiernik. I have been testing the version in the link you posted, but am still having a couple of issues:

    1. Using "annote: " in the Patent Extra field works perfectly, but "annote-short: " does not seem to do anything and subsequent uses of the same "Patent" are the same as the first. I am just writing "annote-short: [brief text]" on a new line in the Extra field - is there something else that I need to be doing?

    2. The subsequent use for all other citations is shorter than the original, but not in the way I intended. The linked CSL has subsequent uses as only "[all author last names][year]" but I would prefer the full APA reference except only the first author is listed and any article with more than one author would simply have "et al." in subsequent uses. Again, the first reference of any article is the full APA reference with all authors listed. I was able to get this to work as desired in the CSL that I've been working with and could try to merge the two if I can get guidance on point 1 above, but thought I would mention it here to be concise.

    Any guidance you can offer would be appreciated. Again, thank you all for the help.
  • Hi all - still looking for help on the issues in the last post. Any guidance or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks again.
  • @PSTennant I talked with the developer of the citation processor. It doesn't currently pick up annote-short. Instead, I suggest using `title-short` or `citation-label` for subsequent uses.
  • Thank you very much, @bwiernik!
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