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Zotero Basics (Workshop): Tips and Tricks

This guide includes a summary of our Zotero workshop, plus useful links to get you started.

Book Chapters

For book chapters from anthologies or edited works where each chapter has a different author, it is not always easy to find a good record for an individual book chapter.  Rather than wasting a lot of time looking for one, here is a good way to deal with them...

Step 1

Find a record for the book in either UC Library Search or in WorldCat  Download the record for the book into your library.  Make sure that the record is cleaned up before you move to Step 2.  Check the title capitalization, make sure you have the book editor entered as an editor, and ensure that you have the publisher name, place of publication, and date of publication filled in.

Step 2

Find the record for the book in your Zotero library.  Right-click on the book title and pick "Duplicate Item".  Now, go into your duplicate record and make the following changes:

  1. Change the item type from "Book" to "Book Section".  Don't worry about the warning it gives.
  2. Change any editors' names from the original record from "Author" to "Editor".
  3. Add a new author line for each of the chapter authors.
  4. Move the author lines up to the top of the list so that you first have the authors in the order that they are listed on the chapter, and that below them you have each editor listed in the order that they are listed on the title page.
  5. Enter the chapter title.
  6. Add page numbers for the chapter to the record.

Step 3

Link up the record for the chapter with the chapter for the book.  Click on the "Related" tab and add a new entry.  Start typing the title of the book and link them together.

TIP:  If you are using multiple chapters from the same anthology or edited book, create one book section record and then duplicate it to make the record for the 2nd chapter.  This will save you from having to do # 1 & # 2 in Step 2 again for the new record.


Have Existing PDFs and Don't Want to Look for Records?

If you have multiple PDF files accumulated before you start using Zotero, you might want to try this technique.  It might not give you as good of records as if you were to find a record for each item, but it might be faster.  Be aware that you may have to do some cleanup work on the records. 

In Zotero, create a new collection and call it "PDF Import" with the date created.

Click and go into the new collection.  When you start, there should be no files showing in that collection.

Use the “Add” (+) button and pick “Store Copy of File…”

When it lets you browse to the folder on your machine, select all the files in that folder and then click the “Open” button or hit “Enter”.

At this point Zotero will upload those files into your library PLUS it will add them to that folder/collection.  It will then do a little “PDF Metadata Retrieval” process.  If it can find metadata for the articles it will create new items, fill in the fields with the metadata, and attach the PDF to that item.  It pops up a box while it is doing this part so you will be able to tell when it is done.  Most likely, the more you do in one batch the longer it will take for it to process the metadata.

Do this for each of your folders and it should be fairly easy to update your Zotero library with your existing files.

One word of caution:  This worked great with electronic journal articles that I downloaded from various databases.  I tried it with a chapter that I had scanned from a book and it was only able to fill in some of the information.  It brought it in as an article and filled in the title and author fields, but it was not able to find any of the information for the other fields.  So be aware that anything you scanned manually will probably require some work on your part. 

Always check all your new records and make sure that they have all the data that you need!


Store Attachments in the Cloud

If you have cloud storage available where you can map to the drive on your computer, create a folder just for your Zotero attachments and then link to the attachments from Zotero (instead of attaching a copy of the file).  This will reduce the overall size of your Zotero library.  The primary benefits of doing it this way are that you can backup your library to the Zotero site without paying for more storage, and you can more easily find attachments in the cloud if you don't want to go through Zotero first.

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