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BIO 252 - Modeling Systems of Life

Using Zotero for collaboration

Zotero is a great tool to manage citations. It can also help organize information and facilitate collaboration when working on a group project.

  • Collect citations into group folder(s) that can be viewed by all members of the group
  • Use tags and notes to share information and insights to facilitate writing and collaboration

Don't have Zotero installed?  Follow these instructions in the Quick Guide


 Zotero is now available in Google Docs when you use the Chrome or Firefox browser.

How to use Zotero and Google Docs to...

Adding and sharing citations when working in a group

  1. Set your Zotero preferences to sync automatically with your Zotero.org account.
    1.  Preferences -> Sync
      1. Enter your Zotero.org account username and password
      2. Keep the default to “sync automatically” and “sync full-text content.”
      3. Keep default file sharing settings
  2. Save or “drag and drop” citations into your group folder.
  3. To keep track of who retrieve a citation:
    • tag each of the citations with your name
    • or create a folder with your name

You can store all your citations and full text PDF files in Zotero and share them with your group.  You can also organize your citations by tagging or creating different collections/folders.

Tagging adds a search term to an entry.  You can search on a tag to display a group of article with the same tag.  Suggested tags:

  • Tag each article you add to Zotero with your name. 
  • Tag articles with the major themes you identify. 
    • Look at current tags before adding a new one.  Consistency is important.  Avoid adding multiple tags that are a variant spellings, acronyms, singular/plural, etc.

Creating theme folders is another way to group articles that have a specific theme.

  • "Drag and drop" articles into folder(s)
  • Articles can be put in more than one folder

Sample Screen Shot:  Note the tag "Terry" has been added to the highlighted entry.

An important step in writing a literature review is to extract information from  your articles that will help you synthesize and summarize the current research in your own words.  

Using Zotero

Using Google Docs/Sheets

Use the notes feature in Zotero can help you share this information within your group and facilitate analysis.

Notes can be attached to individual entries.  Some helpful notes can include:

  • Summary:
    • Read and reread each article several times and write the summary in your own words.
  • Participants (e.g. gender, age, number of participants)
  • Methods (e.g. experimental, surveys, case study)
  • Definitions
  • Themes (or Use Zotero tags, or create theme folders/collections)

Create a grid in Google Sheets or Docs with the same information that would be collected when using Zotero notes

Create one column in your grid for each article you find.  Some helpful rows could be:

  • Summary
    • Read and reread each article several times and write the summary in your own words.
  • Participants
  • Methods
  • Definitions
  • Themes

Once you have added Zotero notes or Google Doc entries for all your articles, use this information to analyze and synthesize the information for your review.

Note:  In Zotero you can search key words, search your theme tags, or look at each theme folder.  Remember to click on the in front of each entry to see the notes that have been added. 

Ask yourself...

  • What are the research findings?
  • What is common across the research?
  • What is different across the research?
  • What trends do you see?
  • What methods have been used?
  • What are the strengths and weakness (gaps, issues, or further research needed) of the research?

Remember, you will be synthesizing information, not summarizing individual research studies.  Before writing on a theme...

  •  If necessary, reread the articles again and update/add to the summaries.
  • You should be familiar enough wih the information so you can write about a theme without consulting the individual articles.

You can actually use Google Docs to collaborate while writing and also use Zotero to create correct in-text citations and your bibliography.  How to use Zotero with Google Docs


7 steps to writing a literature review and a checklist developed by Monash University

What is a literature review and questions to ask yourself when searching and analyzing the literature. - from Writing in the Health Sciences: a comprehensive guide - University of Toronto

When you collect and organize your references/citations with Zotero, you can then use Zotero to format your bibliography and a Zotero Word plugin to "cite while you write." 

  • Need a specific citation style such as the one for the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise ?
    • Go to Zotero Preferences ->  Cite -> Styles. 
    • Click the "Get additional styles" link to search the 7000+ styles that are available.
    • Click on the style and follow the installation instructions.
  • How to Creae Bibliographies
    • NOTE:  You may need to "transpose" the case of the citation titles particularly if you got your citations from the Internet or Google Scholar. 
      • When viewing the citation detail in Zotero, mouse-over the title then right-click, select Transpose Text -> Sentence Case
  • How to Write and Cite using Microsoft Word
  • How to use Zotero with Google Docs

Zotero Workflow