I have spent a lot of time this semester learning and using the Zotero citation management software, which provides researchers with a way to store and organize resources for scholarly writing projects. Our LLM students often ask us about Zotero, so I decided to learn it myself and offer a class in it. I gave this class several times, and discussed the following:
- Installing and Configuring Zotero on Your Computer
- Using Zotero with Harvard’s HOLLIS Library Catalog
- Using Zotero to Generate Citations for Your Paper
The last topic was, of course, of the most interest to our LLM students, since many of them are foreign-trained lawyers who are unfamiliar with (and do not really want to learn the fine details of) the Bluebook. While I get that, I also want them to realistically know what Zotero can and cannot do in terms of Bluebook-proper citation. Spoiler alert: it handles some types of sources well and some others not so well, and unless you know the Bluebook you won’t be able to fix the automatically-generated citations that are incorrect according to the Bluebook rules.
I have posted the slides for the Zotero class I gave this semester in my Zotero Training for LLM and SJD Students research guide. You are welcome to check them out if you are interested in learning more about how Zotero works, and the benefits it can provide when writing a work of legal scholarship. If you are affiliated with Harvard, and use your Harvard email address when you create your Zotero account, you will have free unlimited storage.
On a related note, I just wanted to put in a quick word about a new app that I discovered recently, PaperShip. You can install this app on your phone to get immediate access to the sources you have stored in your Zotero account.
This is so great! I was doing some research yesterday for an article that I am working on, found some articles that would be helpful, and saved them to Zotero. Through PaperShip, I was able to call up the PDF of one of those articles in about 2 seconds, and read it on the train during my commute to work this morning. When compared to scrolling through political fights on Twitter, what a superior (and less aggravating) use of that time!
The free version of PaperShip provides access to your sources only. There also appears to be an add-on, available for purchase, that you can use to highlight PDFs and make notes in them. These annotations, it is claimed, are then synced right back up to your Zotero account. I am going to test out this add-on and report back on it. But even add-on free PaperShip is a productivity-enhancing winner as far as I’m concerned, and I recommend it.