By Anne MacKinney

As I complete my final year at Cal, I often reminisce about those all-too-frequently-occurring moments of panic when, after finishing a long paper just before the deadline, I come to the realization that the last step of adding footnotes and writing bibliographies actually does take a considerable amount of time and attention to detail – both of which I invariably lack during the final stretch of the paper-writing process. While I may have miraculously skated by in quickly gathering the citations for class papers and reports during my time here, my upcoming history thesis is not a project that I want to rush at any step along the way. Also, given the scale of the project, I can imagine that keeping my sources organized and well-documented could very easily turn into a nightmare. That’s why I am especially grateful that a teacher of mine just recently introduced my class to a great research tool. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, Zotero.

Zotero is a free, downloadable research tool (available at zotero.org) that makes citing sources one of the most painless processes I’ve ever experienced. After downloading the software (I used the newly released Standalone version, which is an independent program, but you can also download an add-on to your preferred web browser and use it via the Internet), you simply open up the program and begin entering the information of your sources in the clearly formatted, easy to navigate fields. The program keeps track of all these sources and even organizes them in a library, according to the individual projects they’re intended for.

So after all that prep, then comes the fun part. While writing your paper, you add a reference by simply clicking the little Zotero icon that is now a part of your word processor’s tool bar, typing in a search bar the name of your source (similar to a typical Google search, it conveniently completes the information for you once you have typed in enough of the author’s last name), and then the page information. Like very real magic, the citation appears in the body of the text and as a footnote at the bottom of the page (or in any other standard citation

style you prefer to use)! Finally, after writing your paper (and if you’re anything like me, most likely with 5 minutes buffer time before the deadline to submit), you click just one, beautiful, simple button and your completed bibliography appears at the end of the paper you’ve just written. Done and done.

I haven’t gotten this excited about citations and bibliography writing since, well, ever, and I hope that, if you didn’t already know about Zotero, you will start using it and save yourself a lifetime of stress!

For more research tips from our editors, click here.