Zotero for your MDiv, DMin, or PhD

I’m sitting here grading a paper, and there are problems with the footnotes. All these problems can be easily resolved through the use of a fast, free (open-source) bibliographic management program called Zotero.

Andy Naselli introduced me to Zotero, and it is phenomenal. Once you install the program, you can go to worldcat.org, look up the resources you’re citing, and in the address bar of the webpage there will be an icon at the far right that is linked to Zotero. Click that icon, and voila!, Zotero gathers the bibliographic info on the item and saves it to your Zotero library. Then there are word-processing plug ins that come with your Zotero installation, and you can set up keyboard shortcuts for these. So you go over to your word processor, hit your keyboard shortcut for a Zotero footnote, select the item from your library, press enter, and a perfectly formatted footnote (you choose whatever style you need, author-date, CMOS, etc.) appears. Zotero will update with each new footnote to get all your ibids right.

When you save the bibliographic info, you’ll probably need to take a look at it to make sure that all the info you need is there, and you’ll probably need to edit the place of publication and the name of the publishing house and such. But you do this once for the resource in your database, and then for the rest of your life when you want to put that item in a footnote, it’s in your Zotero database.

Praise God for this software, and praise God that those who use it will make life easier for all who grade papers!

PS: Don’t be afraid to do some reading in their support. The instructions are easy and they have a solution for every problem I’ve run into, or at least an answer for all the questions I’ve asked. Enjoy!

PPS: Notice is hereby served to anyone whose papers I might grade (MDiv, DMin, and PhD students please take note!): you have no excuse for bad footnotes. You can either master Turabian or the SBL Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style (or the SBTS Manual of Style), or you can learn how to use Zotero and let the program do it for you.

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  1. I’ve been rocking Zotero ever since Andy did that article for Reformation21. I now have all of my Logos books and print books in Zotero. I love Zotero for the ability to take and attach PDF’s to entries as well. If you use multiple computers you can couple Zotero with Dropbox and keep your data synced.

    I do a good deal of grading at the school I work for and it is remarkable how often footnotes simply are messed up. Not only do we have a great tool like Zotero but common intelligence should tell a person to make sure their entry is correct according to the format they are using. Let’s just put it this way…it is rare for anyone to get full credit for their use of Turabian on anything I grade.

    1. Bookends is not bad, I used it for you a few years, however it doesn’t even come close to the power of Zotero and can’t come close to the price (free). I haven’t heard of Sente before, I’ll have to check that one out.

  2. One downside to worldcat.org is that you have to do some editing in Zotero once you add the source. Most of the time it is simple stuff like capitalizing the title or removing spaces. But for consistency and cleanness, it is best to edit the source immediately upon dropping it in to Zotero. Doing this will also save tons of time. It’s the difference between your footnotes looking like this:

    James M Hamilton Jr, God’s glory in salvation through judgment : a biblical theology (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway books, 2010), 134.

    Or this: James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 134.

    I’ve also found the Library of Congress to be better in eliminating some of these errors up front.

    1. If you right click (or two finger click) on the title field in the database, you can select “Transform text” and choose “Title” which will capitalize the first words in the title.


  3. Brilliant. A great (not free) tool for PCers is StyleEase. You have to enter all the info, but it formats everything automatically, and automatically creates a Bib page from your footnotes. The program includes an MS Word macro, so you have to have Word to use it. Once the docx is complete, you can share it cross-platform.

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