Zotero and your legal research

Brooklyn Law School Library launched its Spring Lunch and Learn with Zotero. You can view the presentation by Karen Schneiderman, Emerging Technologies Librarian and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Law here.

What is Zotero? Zotero (pronounced /zoʊˈtɛroʊ/) is a free, open source research management platform. Designed as an add-on for the Firefox web browser, Zotero  manages bibliographic data and related research materials (such as PDFs).  Users can install a separate word processor add-ons, available for Microsoft Word and OpenOffice.org Writer, for automatic in-text citations, footnotes and bibliographies.

How Does it Work? Zotero detects when a book, article, or other resource is being viewed and with a mouse click finds and saves the full reference information to a local file. If the source is an online article or web page, Zotero can optionally store a local copy of the source. Users can then add notes, tags, and their own metadata through the in-browser interface.

Does it Support Bluebook Citations Styles? Yes, but partially. Zotero has a  Bluebook Law Review style in its  list of available output styles.  Specifically, Zotero is also compatible with HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library. Users are able to bookmark articles directly from a search results list in HeinOnline, or when viewing the pages of an article.Hein Online created  a short tutorial on using  Zotero. Unfortunately, Zotero does better with secondary legal materials than with primary legal materials.

What Does the Futrue Hold? In June 2010, there was a Call for Participation: Zotero Bluebook Development. Zotero  is seeking  input from actual legal writers. Unfortunately, there are very few lawyers in the Zotero community now.  With more lawyers and legal researchers involvedin Zotero’s development,it can only become more useful.   The Zotero developers are looking for people to do beta-testing.  Candidate should be comfortable with a few basic things: a) technical things like installing Firefox and installing plugins, b) invest a small amount of time playing with software with limited and occasionally broken functionality, and c) have the patience to report a bit of detail when things do not work correctly.

Brooklyn Law School Library would like to help build a Zotero that is useful and welcome to law students and other legal writers.

Links to the development forum and utilities: