Organized Research using Zotero

Jan 28, 2021 | PhD Tips Blog

So when you sign up to a PhD program, no matter the concertation, you are signing up to do research. Like I mention in all of the PhD Tips introductions, at the end of every doc students’ journey is the defense of their dissertation. Simply, that means you are defending a heap of original research that you have conducted over some number of years, which serves as a contribution to the field. 

The key point to take note of here is “heap of original research over a number of years”. Through this time, you will be referencing the work of accomplished authors, researchers, philosophers, and your own findings of the research that you have conducted in the field to make the case for what you are attempting to argue. Over a number of years, you will generate hundreds, if not thousands of reference points along the way. How will you be able to keep track of them all, especially since you have that habit of losing your wallet every time you leave the house?  

One simple word… Zotero. Zotero is an open source software that can be downloaded on windows or mac. We are in the 21st century. Many of the books that you would have access to only at the library are now in digital formats. The days of luging around a 3-ton backpack is no more. So the reason why Zotero is a life saver is because when you find a particular references online, may it be a website, article, physical book, e-book, or this podcast, you catalogue it in Zotero for safe keepings. The publications I listed are only a small subset of the entire list of items you can store. What is really important and helpful is the Zotero Google Chrome extension app. What the extension allows you to do is quickly add particular reference points in your Zotero library for later use by the click of a button. The meta data of the particular publication is prepopulated. That means authors, collaborators, book name, volume number, date published, when you accessed it, web link to publication, and much more! Over time, when you have accumulated a good number of references, your data base will begin to function as a localized google search. 

An example of this is if you are writing a paper about the history of equitable pedagogical approaches to teaching STEM and you remember an essential reference you found from a year ago. You begin babbling in the search bar in Zorero, STEM, STEM Teach, STEM Teaching, and then bang! There it is!

In my opinion, the most helpful feature of Zotero is the Bibliography generator. In Graduate school, I used to spend about an hour working my references in the bibliography page because of formatting and reference alphabetical order. I had a 6-pager due every Sunday and I averaged about 10 references per paper. I struggled because I would make the bibliography page manually. Now that I know about Zotero…and so do you, gone are the primitive methods of manually constructing bibliography pages, wasting many many hours.  With Zotero we are on with efficiency and a peace of mind. This is what you call Organized Research!

you are what you read. #PhdTips

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