Could Zotero be useful for your students?1 And as it helps them, could it help you as well?
Upsides and Downsides
There are upsides and downsides to recommending Zotero to your students. On the one hand, it’s specifically designed to manage sources and repeatedly cite them appropriately. So, it takes a lot of the grunt work out of other ways of managing sources and producing documentation for them.
On the other hand, it is another piece of software to learn. Are your students going to be in your classes, or others like them, enough to see the kinds of returns Zotero can provide? And of course, if your students put garbage into Zotero—just like any other piece of software—they’ll only get garbage out.
That said, Zotero supports several citation styles that students often use. These styles include APA, MLA, and Turabian. So, it definitely has the resources they need. And if they use Zotero reasonably well, you might get the benefit of looking at a lot less mangled citations when it comes time to read their essays.
In the College of Biblical Studies at Faulkner University, we’ve put some careful thought into what we want to ask of students when it comes to citing sources.
For undergraduates, we ask for the author-date style from Turabian. This style already focuses on the bare essentials. Things can still go wrong, of course. But there’s much less to do and so much less that can go wrong than in a more complex style like SBL.
So, from perspective of grading, the choice of Turabian’s author-date style leaves much less to grade in the first place. And what’s left is quite straightforward in the main text and only gets bit more complex in the bibliography.
At the same time, Zotero fully supports Turabian’s author-date style. So, for any students who want to use Zotero, it’s ready and waiting for them. And it might just make the research process that much easier for them and their bibliographies that much cleaner for you.
To get a copy of the Turabian author-date style to try it out for yourself or send along to your students, you can install it from the Zotero repository. Or drop your email in the form below, and I’ll send it straight to your inbox.
Only you can weigh up the pros and cons of recommending Zotero to your students. But whatever you decide, it’s definitely worth thinking about what you can do to help them focus on the core things you’re asking them to do. If you do that, you’re liable to find that, over time, their doing better at their core work helps you do better at yours too.
Faulkner University offers full-tuition scholarships to all traditional, undergraduate Bible majors. If you know an upcoming undergraduate who wants to get into biblical studies but has concerns about funding, please consider pointing them to Faulkner. We’d be delighted to serve them in this way.
Header image provided by Marvin Meyer. ↩