Center for History and New Media Launches ‘Zotero’ Research Tool

Posted: October 5, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Much like the word ‘Google’ has become a household term, ‘Zotero’ will be the next buzzword for web researchers this fall. At least, that’s what researchers at the Center for History and New Media are hoping.

The center recently received an $894,000 grant from the Program in Research in Information Technology of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to further develop an innovative, next-generation scholarly research tool called Zotero 1.0.

The program, which runs in the Firefox web browser, will dramatically change the way research is stored, shared and organized digitally — improving the way anyone from a high school student to a world-renowned scholar does work.

With a name loosely based on an Albanian word meaning “to acquire, to master,” Zotero stores references and notes in the same way that other citation managers such as EndNote do. However, what makes Zotero unique from other similar tools is that it works in the web browser, allowing it to sense, record and share scholarly information on the web.

Say, for instance, you are online, looking up books on the George Mason University Libraries web site you might need for a paper. When you search the online catalogue and find the book you want, with one simple click of the mouse, Zotero will save all the citation information for the book, as well as give you a convenient place to type notes on the book for later reference.

“I believe this is going to have a major impact on the way scholars do research,” says Dan Cohen, research projects director for the Center of History and New Media. “Using a simple, iTunes-like interface and the ability to intelligently scan online sources and collections, Zotero will bring web research to where it should be.”

The program also allows storage space for PDF files, images, links and entire web pages. Other features of the software include:

  • Exporting formatted citations to a paper, article, book or web site
  • An easy-to-use, modern interface that simplifies all research tasks, with “where has that been?” features such as autosaving notes
  • The ability to share and exchange information with other scholars through the web browser capabilities

CHNM will launch the public beta version of Zotero 1.0 for the first time this week. It will be available to download at, and, at a size of only 250K, it’s simple to access and use.

“The 1.0 release of Zotero is just the beginning of what we believe will be a powerful, open, extensible platform for scholarly research,” says Cohen. “We plan to provide features to greatly enhance collaboration and autodiscovery — such as the ability to share and construct bibliographies and notes. Also, Zotero will have a ‘smart’ feature that will allow it to suggest new books and articles of interest based on materials users have saved in their libraries.”

The Mellon grant will allow Center for History and New Media researchers to develop a complete version 1.0 as well as develop version 2.0 with enhanced features. Mason received the grant in conjunction with the Center for Open Sustainable Learning at Utah State University, which is developing a complementary suite of web research tools. The two institutions will collaborate on integrating their tools into a common user interface and on building server software that fosters scholarly collaboration.

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