Zotero is a useful tool for collecting, organizing, and citing sources. Here I explore some of its features that operate using a screen-scraping browser extension. I start in the Zoetero application, adding a new collection, for this example I named it “desert monasticism.”

To populate this collection, I went to the university’s library website and entered the same phrase into the search bar and began adding sources that were most relevant and interesting using the Zotero add-on for Firefox, as shown below. There are such add-ons for most browsers, with the current exception of Safari.

screenshot showing the Zotero browser add-on in use.

The screen-scraping system isn’t perfectly able to find all relevant information and categorize it correctly. Indeed, looking at the new collection within the application, some of the entries need cleaning. Some examples are shown here:

Fixing these issues is a simple enough matter, just editing the fields so they have the correct information, or, as in the case of the contributor that was actually the editor, changing the name of the field from the drop down menu as shown:

changing a contributor field to an editor field.

Another edit that I often forget is whether the authors’ names are properly separated first and last. The “creator” column generally shows only a last name, so when a first name is given, this is a clue that the metadata needs further cleaning. In this example, three articles by John Wortley stand out, and one by Tobias Stanislas Haller. 

the new collection with creator fields needing further cleaning highlighted.

These are easily fixed by clicking the “switch to two fields” button as shown.

The "switch to 2 fields" option

Zotero is helpful in keeping track of sources used in research, and as long as one then cleans the data, it can also integrate with Microsoft Word or LibreOffice to create citations and bibliographies.

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