Like the author of the exercise for Thing 14, I too typed out all the references for my MA Dissertation manually with my referencing style guide open beside me. I don’t necessarily regret this because I did learn a lot about how bibliographic referencing works, but it was certainly a very painstaking and long-winded process and it would possibly have saved me a lot of time if I had known about reference management tools like Zotero or Mendeley.
I’ve decided to focus on Zotero for my Thing 14 blog post as I wanted to give myself the time to explore it properly. I’d heard a lot of positive reviews about this tool so I was keen to see whether it would be the answer to all my referencing woes when I begin my librarianship Masters degree in a few weeks time!
My first impression is that Zotero is quite a complex application that will take me some time to learn and understand. I didn’t find it particularly intuitive to begin with, but after following some tutorials I managed to add several ‘snapshots’ of web pages to my Zotero library, as well as some PDF files and some citation information from books that I found in our University library catalogue. I like the fact that you can enter the ISBN of a book into Zotero and it will immediately import the bibliographic details for that book. I also like the fact that a little book icon appears in the browser location bar when I am searching the library catalogue, which enables me to download all the citation information for the item(s) that I am viewing.
I decided to register an account with Zotero in order to be able to access my Zotero library via different computers, and having done so I was pleased to find that all the items I had added to my library at work were available for me to view on my laptop when I got home.
However, although Zotero does appear to be a useful tool for storing online articles and citation information, the real test of its usefulness for me is its ability to export correctly formatted bibliographies and citations to a Word document. I have been experimenting with this, but so far I have to say that I’m not very impressed with the results. After exporting my references into a bibliography using the referencing style that I am most familiar with, it seems to me that Zotero is not producing strictly correct references. I am quite disappointed by this because it means that I will still have to check each reference manually using my style guide to ensure that it is correct, which ultimately does not save me any time.
It’s quite possible that I just need to spend more time learning Zotero in order to get it to work properly for me, but after this initial trial I have to admit that I’m not feeling much incentive to do so at the moment! I attended a couple of courses on Endnote during my graduate traineeship and so far it appears that Endnote produces much more accurate references than Zotero, so I may decide to invest more time into learning the Endnote software instead. However, I also plan to have a go with Mendeley at some point in the future to see if this works better than Zotero. It will be a real shame if I can’t find some referencing management software that works accurately enough, because I do think that it’s a really good idea, in theory. However, for the time being I don’t think that I’ll be throwing away my referencing style guide just yet…