5 Steps to Store Series Information in Zotero

Reading time: 5 minutes

Bibliography managers like Zotero can vastly simplify how you keep track of sources for your research.1 They can also take a lot of the grunt work out of composing citations.

But of course, what a citation manager puts out is only as good as what you put into it. And sometimes it can take a bit of coaxing or trial and error to figure out how to put information in so that you get it back out in the format you want.

A Problem: Needing to Use Multiple Styles

This situation gets compounded when you have to toggle between requirements for different style manuals. In some limited cases, you might be able to lightly edit what you have stored in your reference manager on a case-by-case basis so that you can get the output you need for different styles.

But continually editing and reediting your reference database gets old quickly. And it isn’t a viable option as soon as you have to start using different style manuals for different projects you’re working on at the same time and that draw from some of the same sources.

For instance, among my current projects, I’m having to use both the SBL Handbook of Style (SBLHS) and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) itself. Of course, properly using SBLHS frequently requires that you refer to CMS. But one of the publishers I’m currently writing for requires that I use CMS as a primary style authority without reference to SBLHS.

Most of the time, a citation manager like Zotero can make the switch between these different styles in different documents pretty seamlessly. But sometimes you need to nuance a bit how you store information about a particular reference so that you can get the proper—and different—output that multiple styles require (e.g., SBLHS, CMS).

An Example: Handling Series Names and Abbreviations

A case in point is how SBLHS and CMS treat works published in series. As we’ve discussed before, for SBLHS, the series title may well get abbreviated. Thus, you’d have a citation like

1. Armin Lange and Matthias Weigold, Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Second Temple Jewish Literature, JAJSup 5 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011).

But for CMS, you’d need to give the series name in full. Thus, you’d have

1. Armin Lange and Matthias Weigold, Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Second Temple Jewish Literature, Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements 5 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011).

How should you set up your reference manager so that it will give you either “JAJSup” or “Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements” when you need it based on the citation style you’re using?

A Solution for Zotero

The answer and options will be different depending on the particular reference manager you use. The answer for Zotero isn’t immediately obvious. But it is pretty straightforward once you get used to it.

To illustrate, let’s continue with our SBLHS and CMS example with the resource I just mentioned.

1. Ensure You’re Running a Recent Version

First, be sure you’re running Zotero v.5.0.61 or higher. To check your Zotero version, open Zotero, and go to Help > About Zotero. The version number will be listed in grey font immediately under the “Zotero” heading.

If you’re not running at least Zotero v.5.0.61, update Zotero, or do a fresh install of the latest version.

2. Install the SBLHS Style

By default, Zotero comes with citation style support for CMS. But if you haven’t yet installed the style for SBLHS, you’ll need to get that from the Zotero style repository.

Or drop your name and email in the form below, and I’ll send you a slightly modified version of the style that does a better job handling citations for sources where SBLHS specifies a particular abbreviated citation (e.g., BDF).2

3. Enter the Full Series Name

Next, for any titled volumes in series, you’ll need to put the full series name in the “Series” field. In our example, this would be “Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplements.”

4. Enter the Series Abbreviation

Then, find the “Extra” field near the bottom of the “Info” pane in Zotero for a given source. In this field, add collection-title-short: followed by the appropriate abbreviation for that series.

For instance, for the resource we’re using as an example, we’d enter collection-title-short: JAJSup. (Note that you will want a space between the colon and the abbreviation.)3

5. Save the Abbreviation Code in an Easy-to-reference Place

As an optional step, save collection-title-short: in a text snippet manager like Phrase Express.

I’m never sure I remember exactly what the proper abbreviation code is. But with a text snippet manager like Phrase Express, all I have to do is use a few key strokes to search for “Series,” and I can drop the proper code into Zotero.


That’s it. From there on out, simply use Zotero as usual to cite your sources.

If the document uses the SBLHS style and you’ve included a collection-title-short: [abbreviation] entry, Zotero will know to use that abbreviation for the series name.

If the document uses the CMS style, Zotero will use the full series name, whether or not you’ve included a collection-title-short: [abbreviation] entry for that resource.

  1. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

  2. For more information about this modified style, see “Citing Grammars with the SBL Handbook and Zotero.” 

  3. For recommending this solution, I’m grateful to the kind and ever-helpful folks at the Zotero forums

Authorities for SBL Style: Classes, Miscellanea

Reading time: 5 minutes

In this series, we’ve discussed several kinds of authorities for SBL style. These include house styles (from a publisher or a school), the SBLHS and its blog, IATG3, and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

There are more authorities we could discuss. But in this final post in the series, we’ll cover just two more. These authorities are commonly used for specific cases in a wide range of writing projects. And they are the SBLHS Student Supplement and the Chicago Manual of Style.

4.3 For Class Essays: The SBLHS Student Supplement

For class essays, students can consult the Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, Second Edition (SS.SBLHS). SBL makes this supplement freely available online.

The SS.SBLHS contains a great deal of helpful, practical guidance. It specifically addresses how SBL style applies to a project like a seminar paper or other class essay. These include such things as recommendations for title pages, tables of contents, and heading styles.

SS.SBLHS is, though, only 19 pages. So it’s scope is much more limited than SBLHS, and therefore, SS.SBLHS can’t really replace consulting the fuller handbook.

In relation to SS.SBLHS also, two cautions are in order:

  1. The supplement is a good tool. But it tends to be slightly more prone to errors or inconsistencies than the SBLHS itself. So you need to use the supplement cautiously and always defer to other higher authorities like the full handbook.
  2. SBLHS doesn’t explicitly (or, I think, even implicitly) rank the student supplement in its list of applicable authorities. As such, it may well be that the supplement should rank lower as an authority than does the Chicago Manual. This may also be preferable given some of the supplement’s errata over the years. So you may want to see if your school’s house style gives you any guidance for locating SS.SBLHS among your list of authorities for SBL style. But I’ve included it here (above the Chicago Manual) on the principles that (a) SS.SBLHS is style guidance directly from SBL Press and (b) any errata will presumably get corrected sooner or later on the more-authoritative SBLHS blog.

4.4 For Everything Else: The Chicago Manual

4.4.1 Using the Chicago Manual in General

Okay, so let’s say you’ve gone through the SS.SBLHS and the other higher authorities we’ve discussed in prior posts. But you’ve still not found the answer to your style question. If that’s the case, then according to SBL Press, follow the advice in the current edition of the Chicago Manual.

In consulting the Chicago Manual, much the same advice applies as we’ve already given in connection with the SBLHS.

4.4.2 The Relationship between the SBLHS and the Chicago Manual

On the preparation of the second edition of the SBLHS, SBL Press comments that

while the first edition tended toward minimal duplication, relying on users referring to The Chicago Manual of Style, feedback from users noted that it would be more efficient to have style guidance in one place. Consequently, the second edition contains more complete information and requires less consultation of The Chicago Manual of Style.

SBLHS, xii.

In my use of the second edition, I’ve certainly found that I need to refer to the Chicago Manual for fewer questions than was the case with the first edition of the SBLHS. That being said, if you are writing a project of any appreciable length—even in a class paper or journal article, but certainly in a thesis or dissertation—there will likely be innumerable minor details for which the Chicago Manual will be your best guide.

That is, with the second edition of SBLHS, you do need to consult the Chicago Manual about fewer things. But there are so many minor details that SBLHS simply doesn’t include that I find myself regularly using the Chicago Manual as well.

Any one of the things I have to look up in the Chicago Manual I might only come across once in a given project. Yet, if you add up all the things that you have to look up once per project in the Chicago Manual, you may well find that you too will want to have your own copy within arm’s reach.


In sum, the SBLHS provides some inestimably helpful guidance geared specifically for challenges and questions that confront biblical scholars.

At the same time, SBLHS is self-confessedly not on an island by itself. Instead, SBLHS draws from and leans on other authorities to help it focus on what it does best—guide biblical scholars about questions that (almost) uniquely pertain to biblical scholars.

But because scholarly writing in biblical studies has such a wide range of possible forms, not even as full a guide as the SBLHS can hope to be truly comprehensive without also becoming quite unwieldy. Just think of what it would look like to add the SBLHS to IATG3 and the Chicago Manual in something resembling a single publication (!).

With this in mind, all of us who write in biblical studies need to be intimately familiar with the SBLHS and the other basic guideposts on which the SBLHS leans. This whole group of guides is there to help us produce the cleanest writing we can so that our readers can concentrate as fully and transparently as possible on what we are trying to argue.

Are any of the additional authorities we’ve discussed beyond the SBLHS new to you? If so, which one(s)? Which authority(ies) do you need to use more fully?

SBLHS2 and Ibid.

Reading time: < 1 minutes

With the release of the Chicago Manual of Style‘s 17th edition, the SBL handbook began deferring to this edition (rather than the 16th) for matters not explicitly addressed in the SBL Handbook‘s 2nd edition or on the SBLHS blog.

One of the changes with CMS17 is eliminating the use of “ibid.” In keeping with CMS17, SBLHS also now eliminates “ibid.” But, SBLHS does have a slightly different convention for how to format notes where “ibid.” would have appeared (i.e., a short tile is always included).

For further discussion, see the SBLHS blog and The Chicago and SBL Manuals.

Publication Year Ranges in Zotero

Reading time: 2 minutesAt present, Zotero’s “date” field doesn’t properly handle publications made over a range of years (e.g., 1950–1960). Instead of including the full range in the corresponding note or bibliography entry, only the first year of the range would be presented (e.g., 1950).

If the Range Has an End

There is, however, a workaround that depends on entering the following syntax in an item’s “extra” field: issued: [first year]/[last year]. Thus, for example, if the extra field has issued: 1950/1960, Zotero would properly output a range of publication dates (thus: “1950–1960”).

If the Range Is Open-ended

If you need to reference a series or multivolume work that isn’t yet complete, SBL style defers to the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed., §14.144. In such cases, this requires a trailing en dash (thus, e.g.: “1931–”).

The proper input for this use case is adding the following to the appropriate resource’s “Extra” field: issued: "[first year]–". Note the quotation marks carefully. Those are important to get Zotero to provide exactly the output you’ve specified and prevent the processor from removing the trailing en dash as it generates your output.

So, for example, if the extra field has issued: "1931–", Zotero would properly output a range of publication dates with no end year and a trailing en dash (thus: “1931–”).


According to the Zotero forums, “better support for various date formats in the Date field itself is planned,” but there hasn’t been any indication of when this might be forthcoming. Until then, these workarounds should prove immensely useful for these kinds of situations.

For other discussion of Zotero, see these posts.

Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

The Chicago and SBL Manuals

Reading time: 2 minutes

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) has been updated to its 17th edition (2017).1 According to the second edition of the SBL Handbook of Style (SBLHS),

Currently in its 16th edition, The Chicago Manual of Style remains the most comprehensive general authority on editorial style and publishing practices. Answers to questions not addressed in this handbook may be found there. (§3.3)

The reference to CMS’s “current” edition raises the possibility that a new CMS edition may occasion a change in the CMS edition best followed by users of SBLHS2. In addition, on noting the release of CMS17, SBL Press commented that

based on the Chicago Manual of Style, this new edition will no doubt prompt changes to our own style. We will announce relevant changes on this blog in the coming months.

This comment made it sound like changes might be affected in SBL style before the release of SBLHS3 simply based on the release of CMS17. On reaching out to the ever-helpful folks at SBL Press, they’ve confirmed that

Our deference to CMS in matters not explicitly covered in SBLHS2 or on the SBLHS2 blog automatically upgrades to the most current version of CMS. Thus, as of September 1, 2017, we now defer to CMS 17th ed.

For the balance of the SBL Press’s note about CMS17, see the SBL Press blog. For more information about CMS17 or to order a copy, see the University of Chicago Press, Amazon, or other booksellers.

  1. Header image provided by the Chicago Manual of Style

Zotero forum thread on commas, periods, and closing quotation marks

Reading time: < 1 minutesI’ve recently had a discussion over at the Zotero forums that brought to light a couple interesting points that I hadn’t been aware of:

  1. There’s currently in beta a major update to Zotero 5.0, which includes several important feature changes. The beta isn’t quite ready for prime time yet but should be “very soon.” Included in this update is the new Citation Style Language (CSL) processor that should remedy the comma and period placement issue in the forum thread.
  2. Frank Bennett has provided an updated CSL processor that can be installed in a current Zotero 4 version via the Propachi Vanilla plugin.

For additional discussion of Zotero here, see this tag.