How-to Tech and geospatial

Zotero 2.0 and archaeology

Bibliographic software are an essential part of the software suite of many researchers, providing an important means of organising citation data and associated documents and notes. In recent years, this software also become increasingly good at allowing researchers to directly import new references found on the web into their reference collections at the click of a few buttons. However, the recent release of a fairly stable Beta version of Zotero (2.0) – an open source bibliographic software – suggests that bibliographic management may soon be turned on its head.

JSTOR: Oceanic Linguistics, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Winter, 1964), pp. 248-265Zotero is an extension, or plugin, for the free web browser Firefox and has been around for a while; indeed, I have written about it before and I’m still an enthusiastic advocate. The application sits inconspicuously in the bottom of of your web browser and allows you to directly import references from a very wide range of sources including journal databases, search engines such as Google Scholar, or library catalogs. Once in your reference collection, you use the program as your bibliographic manager, placing items into categories, attaching research notes and so on. The people at Zotero have a very good range of introductory tutorials, so I won’t cover that here. Overall though, it’s quite a nifty little program; for example, it can download whole pages of references from Google scholar or journal databases as well as import from or export to other bibliographic software packages. You can also use Zotero to cite references and compile reference lists in documents that you are working in both Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.

One reason I think Zotero 2.0 will change the way many academics use bibliographic software is that it has various tools to enable collaboration across the web. Whereas Zotero 1.0 sat in your browser enabling you to acquire and manage your references, 2.0 enables you to:

  • Synchronise and backup your Library to the web or another computer;
  • Create public or private ‘groups’ on the web, allowing group members to collectively build reference collections online;
  • search public collections compiled by other researchers;
  • seemlessly add references found in public collections to your own collection

This will be of great value for teams working on collaborative research projects because it will allow team members to work from and also contribute to a central reference collection on the web.  It may turn out to be a useful tool in various contexts, including:

  • university lecturers or teachers seeking a single, web-friendly reference collection on a particular subject or topic;
  • publishers, societies or organisations wanting to improve accessibility to their publications;
  • researchers who want to compile a list of their own publications on the web, as a supplement to online resumes and so on;
  • collaborators working on research projects involving multiple individual researchers;

In a project I am working on we are planning on using Zotero 2.0 to collaborate on compiling a database of archival sources. The ease with which individual collections can be shared in Zotero 2.0 makes it a very attractive alternative to the old system of swapping ZIP files of endnote libraries or worse still, emailing documents or reference lists back and forth for manual entry into your bibliographic software.

If you haven’t tried Zotero, then I suggest that you read this and decide whether you want to try the Beta or the current stable version. It takes no time to install and is completely free. Personally, I have found it to be an incredibly useful addition to my software suite and it is likely to soon completely replace the commerical bibliographic software I am currently using. I don’t think Zotero will change the way all archaeologists collaborate, however for key groups of web-savvy researchers I suspect Zotero 2.0 will be picked up very quickly because it provides what seems to me to be a rather unique set of tools not yet available elsewhere.

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2 replies on “Zotero 2.0 and archaeology”

G’day Mick,

Thanks for this post and thanks for the blog in general (should be more Oz Archaeologists blogging – myself included). Remind me to buy you a beer at the next conference I see you at, as you’ve solved a problem for me. Won’t be Adelaide unfortunately, maybe the next one. Good luck with the session though. Sounds pretty interesting.


Hi Luke, glad that post was of use. It’s a handy tool, let me know if you set up an online account, might be able to share libraries etc.

You should definitely get blogging, as should other Aussie archaeologists in the younger crowd. I’ve often hoped that more people in Australia would take it up, it’s good fun and well worthwhile. This site is far from being a good example of archaeological blogging – it’s about as patchy as they come in terms of post frequency (never find the time!)! But I try to get something up every few weeks.

Shame about AAA, not sure where it will be next year though? Must be due to be held in Perth or Melbourne?

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