Zotero

Creating a Group

After you've registered for a Zotero account and gotten yourself all set up (see the "Getting Started" tab above), you can create or be added to a Group Library in Zotero.

Creating a Group

  1. Go to Zotero.org
  2. Log in (top right corner of the page)
  3. Go to the "Groups" tab
  4. Click "Create Group"

Adding people to a Group

  1. Go to Zotero.org
  2. Log in (top right corner of the page)
  3. Go to the "Groups" tab
  4. Under the name of group you want to add members to, click "Manage members."
  5. At the bottom of the Manage Members page, click the "Send more invitations" link.

Best Practices for Group Libraries

The larger your group or longer-term your project, the more these practices will matter!

Setting up the structure

  1. Consider purchasing storage for your group. There are free workarounds (see the "Saving Your Library" tab above) but especially if you have a large group or members who are less confident with technology, those workarounds quickly become difficult to manage.
  2. Create a space that serves as your “inbox” for new stuff, before it’s processed/corrected/tagged/whatever. That way you can go merrily along collecting collecting collecting, but not mess up the organizational structure or lose your unprocessed stuff in the giant pool of processed stuff. For example, some people use their personal Zotero library or a subfolder there as an inbox area. Then they move things to the Group library once each item has its PDF associated, metadata cleaned up, etc. Alternatively, you could have a tag that you associate with new stuff so that you can gather it all together and process it.
  3. In the main Group library, have a standalone note that describes the workflow of the group and defines how you are using tags, folders, and “related” items in this group. For example, some people use folders for procedural steps and tags for topic categorization, some people do the opposite, and some people do something else entirely. But this note will make it clear to the whole group how folders, tags, and “related” items function in this space.
  4. In the main Group library, have a standalone note for tag definitions. Name it something that will guarantee it’s at the top of an alphabetical list (like _TagDefs). Apply every tag to this note (so that it comes up whenever any tag is selected). In that note, list each of your tags and a brief definition so that everyone on the project knows what it means and how to apply it. Whenever you create a new tag, be sure to update this tag definitions note and then add that tag to the note as well.
  5. In each sub-folder in the Group Library, have a standalone note that describes what that folder is meant for.
  6. If you’re going to use tags systematically, UNCHECK the item in Zotero Preferences (in the Zotero application under the gear icon) that automatically gathers subject headings from databases, because these are all over the place and will clutter up your tag list. All the other check boxes on that main screen of the preferences help, but this one doesn’t unless you really only use one database/catalog and it has good set of subject terms.
  7. Plan on not having too many tags/folders. “Too many” is subjective, of course, but once you get scores of them they become very difficult to scan through and select. They should hit that sweet spot of functioning to gather together useful chunks of items rather than having only 1 or 2 items per tag/folder or having nearly all your items in a tag/folder. Novices to tagging tend to come up with too many, and constantly add new ones, which really doesn’t help with organizing a group library.
  8. It can be useful to have a way of tracking procedures, either using tags or folders. These would be like “needs ILL” or “follow up” (which I use for things where there’s a gold mine of a bibliography that I know I’m going to want to go back to and start looking up and saving relevant items from the references).

Saving/organizing items

  1. Save into your “inbox” space, however you’ve set that up. (Be aware that whatever folder is selected in Zotero, that’s where all your new saved items will go, so check this before going on a saving spree.)
  2. Check all the metadata Zotero pulled in when you save an item. Frequently there are capitalization/spelling/data errors that need to be corrected manually.
  3. If Zotero wasn’t able to pull in the PDF automatically, download and then drag in the PDF (going through the "configure" instructions on the "Getting Started" tab above will make finding full text a lot easier).
  4. Once you’ve saved and cleaned up your item information, open the list of sub-items (the little triangle next to the item citation in Zotero) and right-click on the PDF, and then select “Rename File from Parent Metadata.” That way the PDF itself will have citation information in its file name, which saves headaches if you download it later on and end up with a million “out.pdf” or “1957ty3593.pdf” files on your computer.
  5. A single item can be saved to more than one sub-folder, which is far better than having multiple copies/versions of a single item.
  6. An often-overlooked function is the “related” function. This can link together versions of the same work, or an item with items it cites/is cited by, etc. In group work this helps other people see the connections that you’ve found between works. (It can be helpful to have a written definition of how people think of “related” so that, for example, someone doesn’t put all the books on cats together as “related” rather than just tagging them with the subject “cats.”)
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