9 Reasons to Use Zotero in Your Research

A good reference manager can be incredibly helpful for your research. Many different options are available, but you should at least seriously consider Zotero.

Zotero launched its first public beta in the fall of 2006 as a Firefox extension.1 I started using it in the fall of 2007, thanks to some helpful input from Westminster Seminary’s writing center.

At that time, Zotero was useful, but in the years since, ongoing development has made it an even more robust and helpful tool. So, if you’re frustrated with your current system for managing your research, there are 8 reasons Zotero might be an excellent tool for you. Namely, Zotero

  1. is free;
  2. supports SBL, Chicago, and many other styles;
  3. is actively developed and provides exceptional help in the forums;
  4. integrates with Microsoft Word—and LibreOffice Writer;
  5. allows you to “set it and forget it”;
  6. allows you to store files with citation records;
  7. gives you easy ways to customize individual citations;
  8. makes it easy to switch citation styles; and
  9. allows you to improve your citation style.

1. Zotero is free.

Zotero happens to be free, as in zero cost to end users (e.g., “free books”). But it’s also free, as in Zotero doesn’t lock you into a proprietary system that limits what you can do with your own data (e.g., “free speech”):

Zotero has always guaranteed users complete access to their own data, but open source [= free as in “free speech”] means you don’t need to take our word for it. If the organization that runs Zotero disappeared tomorrow, or if we made a decision that didn’t put users’ interests first, others would be free to take Zotero’s source code and continue to maintain and improve it.2

These two types of freedom mean that Zotero has a low barrier to entry. You can give it a try and then get your data back out if you decide Zotero doesn’t work (or stops working) for you for whatever reason.

2. Zotero supports SBL, Chicago, and many other styles.

When you download Zotero, it comes with support for Chicago style built in. Adding support for SBL style is as easy as installing the style from the repository.3

(Or if you want to drop your email into this form while you’re reading this post, skip searching the repository, I’ll send the style straight to your inbox.)

Zotero also supports other biblical studies styles like those from Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Currents in Biblical Research, Tyndale Bulletin, and Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche. And the list keeps growing.

So, even if you need something a bit different from these, you can likely get close enough to make fairly few manual tweaks necessary at the end of your editing to get things just right.

3. Zotero is actively developed and provides exceptional help in the forums.

The Zotero forums are fabulous places to search for help on technical issues that you can’t find guidance about in the regular documentation.

When I come upon something I can’t get right, I routinely find someone has asked a similar question that’s helpful in clarifying what I need to do differently.

Even when I can’t immediately find what I’m looking for in the forums though, very seldom have I posted another question and not pretty promptly gotten a helpful response.

(Of course, when posting questions, you do have to try to state the issue as clearly and completely as possible. “I can’t get Zotero to work” isn’t going to be a great way of helping others in the forum help you with your issue.)

Going along with all of this, Zotero’s developers are active in the forums as well. In several cases, they’ve identified a question I’ve posted as related to a bug or need for additional nuance in the software or SBL style. And sure enough, a subsequent release of Zotero or the SBL style has cleared up the issue.

4. Zotero integrates with Microsoft Word—and LibreOffice Writer.

Remember when I mentioned “free books” and “free speech” above? Well, part of me would really like to use LibreOffice Writer rather than Microsoft Word for exactly this reason.

But there are several reasons—for another post—that I continue using Word for now. And Zotero integrates very nicely with both Word and Writer.

5. Zotero allows you to “set it and forget it.”

Especially with SBL style, it takes some time to learn the nuances of how to put information into Zotero so that you can get the proper output.

But the nice thing is that, once you’ve got a book or article input properly, you don’t have to worry about re-searching for how to compose that citation. You can simply research and write and let Zotero handle the jots and tittles of the citations.4

This doesn’t mean you can offload deep knowledge of SBL style to Zotero or any other platform. You still have to know what you need out of the software so that you can meet your style requirements.

But it does mean that you can focus on noticing and fixing anything that’s amiss. You don’t need to bother with everything that goes right—which the vast majority usually does.

6. Zotero allows you to store files with citation records.

Let’s say you add a journal article to your database. But you have a PDF copy of the article as well.

Where do you keep that copy? In Zotero, you can attach that PDF directly to the citation and so save everything in one place.5

Zotero also provides some cloud storage so that you can sync a minimal number of files among multiple devices. But it’s also pretty straight forward to extend this storage by one method or another. In some cases, you may even be able to do so for no additional cost to you.

7. Zotero gives you easy ways to customize individual citations.

SBL and other styles common to biblical studies aren’t known for being the simplest. And sometimes, they require citations of specific sources that are unique to those sources.

No software could possibly account for all the variables that might come up with such unique citations. But Zotero does provide a useful set of tags that allow you to customize the citations of individual resources or even individual notes. These tags allow you to make text

  • italic or (if it’s already italic) roman,
  • bold,
  • subscript, and
  • superscript.

You can also turn text into small capitals or suppress Zotero’s default capitalization rules. And you can add these tags in your Zotero database—if you want them to apply to all citations of a given source. Or you can use the same tags in the citation dialog to format individual citations.

8. Zotero makes it easy to switch citation styles.

If you do any amount of academic writing for publication, it will eventually happen. You will get a piece turned down by a given journal or publisher. You’ll then need to decide whether to let the piece die on your computer or to revise it and send it elsewhere.

And if you decide to send it elsewhere, a different journal or publisher may well require you to use a different citation style. If Zotero already supports that style, Zotero can do a lot of the reformatting work “automagically” once you install the additional citation style.

Of course, you’ll still need to proofread what Zotero has done and correct any remaining issues. But some careful proofreading and corrections here and there definitely beat the chances you run with “find and replace” or the time you would spend manipulating your citations manually.

9. Zotero allows you to improve your citation style.

Zotero knows how to format citations because of what’s in a given citation style sheet. That style sheet is written in a language called, appropriately enough, “Citation Style Language” (CSL).6

If you’re not the type to tinker with such things, that’s perfectly fine. I wasn’t for a long time. But if you do run into something consistently that’s a bit amiss in a given style, you can definitely update the style so its output is more precise.7

CSL isn’t necessarily “easy” to pick up. But especially if you’re just needing to modify an existing style (rather than create one from scratch), it’s also not too difficult.

And with some persistence, you might find that a little time learning CSL is well spent. It may eliminate a good amount of editing work that you and others had been having to do manually.

Conclusion

A student of mine once observed that citation managers don’t substitute for knowing SBL or whatever other style well. But they can take a lot of the grunt work out of following those styles.

That’s about right. Following a given style guide is a good and necessary part of what writing involves in biblical studies. But then, none of us got into biblical studies so that we could follow the SBL Handbook of Style. 🙂

So it makes sense to consider how you can address your style requirements more efficiently and free yourself up to do the reading, research, and writing that only you can do.

And Zotero is an excellent option for a tool to help you do just this.


  1. Zotero, “Zotero 1.0 Public Beta Launch,” weblog, Zotero Blog, 5 October 2006. 

  2. Zotero, “Why Zotero?,” Zotero, n.d. 

  3. See Zotero, “Citation Styles,” Zotero, 18 December 2017

  4. Cf. “Winning Tagline: Research, Not Re-Search,” weblog, Zotero Blog, 26 November 2007. 

  5. See Zotero, “Adding Files to Your Zotero Library,” Zotero, 7 July 2021. 

  6. See Rintze M. Zelle, “Citation Style Language,” Citation Style Language, 2015. 

  7. See Zotero, “Citation Styles,” Zotero, 18 December 2017. 

How to Quickly Create a Dynamic Table of Contents

Creating a table of contents manually can be a pain and consume much more time and attention than it should.1

Fortunately, you can let Word do the heavy lifting by creating a dynamic table of contents that updates automatically with your document.

1. Prepare your document.

Word can manage a table of contents multiple ways. Rather than discussing all of these, I’m going to describe what seems the simplest method.

So for the purposes of this tutorial, I’m going to assume two things:2

  1. You’re using heading styles to format the headings within your document.
  2. You’ve set up the page numbers for your table of contents in Word as described in the Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style.

If either of these isn’t true, update your document accordingly.3 Then come back here, and go through the steps in the next section to add your table of contents.

2. Add your table of contents.

Once you have your document prepared:

2.1. Create your contents page header.

Place your cursor at the start of the page in your document where you want to insert your table of contents (e.g., the page numbered “ii”).

2.1.1. What SBL Style Requires

Then, type “Contents” at the top of this page. SBL style wants you to

  1. place this term one inch from the top edge of the page,
  2. center this heading across the page,
  3. have the word “Contents” in all uppercase letters, and
  4. have two blank lines between this heading and the start of your table of contents.4

2.1.2. How to Produce What SBL Style Requires

From this list, especially items 2–4 follow what SBL style asks for with your document’s primary headings (e.g., “Heading 1”).5 But you shouldn’t use your primary heading style to format the “Contents” heading. If you do, your automated table of contents will make its first entry “Contents.” 😛

To avoid this issue, however, you can format the “Contents” heading with the “TOC Heading” style. And just like any other style, you can adjust this style’s formatting to meet the requirements of SBL style. That way, it’ll be ready and waiting for you when you need to use it in a new project.

After you’ve typed and formatted this heading, place your cursor on the next line available for text below the heading.

Contents Page Header

2.2. Start inserting your table of contents.

Go to the “References” tab, find the “Table of Contents” section, and click the “Table of Contents” button.

Word has a few different tables of contents predefined. But it’ll probably be easiest for you to use the “Custom Table of Contents…” option at the bottom of the “Table of Contents” button menu.

This will open the “Table of Contents” tab in the “Table of Contents” dialog box. (The names are quite creative, aren’t they?)

2.3. Set the basic formatting for your table of contents.

Where you see “Tab leader,” change the option from “……” to “none.”

(If you’re following the Student Supplement, you’ll have the dotted leader only for your primary headings.6 So it’s easiest just to add them there rather than remove them everywhere else.)

Still on the “Table of Contents” tab in the “Table of Contents” dialog box, also find the “Show levels” option. Increase this number to “9.”

You may not have that many heading levels (and probably shouldn’t). But per the Student Supplement, the table of contents should include “every element of the paper that follows.”7

Increasing this number to the maximum now should prevent you from having to change it later or miss headings out of your table of contents.

Click “OK” to create your table of contents.

2.4 Review your initial table of contents.

At this point, you should see a table of contents in your document that looks something like the sample below.

Of course, what the table actually shows will depend on the headings you’ve included in your document.

If you don’t see what you were expecting, double check that you’ve used heading styles in the appropriate places and at the appropriate levels in the body of your document.

Add or change these where necessary (e.g., from “Heading 3” to “Heading 2”).

Also note that the casing for each line in the table of contents will be as it is in that heading, even though the heading might be formatted in all caps.

If you see capitals or lowercase where you were expecting the other, retype that heading in the body of your document, with the proper casing.

Your table of contents will update automatically at different times. But to force an update at any point, right click inside the table, and choose “Update Field,” then “Update entire table,” and click “OK.”

The individual lines of the table of contents are also linked to the corresponding places in your document. So to jump there, just Ctrl + click on a given line in the table.

Conclusion

At this point, you’re saving yourself a huge amount of time and effort managing your table of contents. You’re also able to use the table in Word to skip easily to different parts of your document.

But you may notice that the formatting of the table of contents isn’t yet quite what the Student Supplement is asking for.8 So you’ll want to take careful stock of how the formatting needs to be adjusted, which can be done with styles as well.


Tired of fighting with Word? Want to be done with frustrated hours fussing over how to get the formatting you need?

My new guide shows you how to bypass all of this so you can let Word work for you while you focus on your research.

Garrett Thompson (PhD)

For students in any graduate program, mastering the full range of available research tools is crucial for efficient and consistent productivity. Dr. Stark has mastered these tools—the most important of which is Microsoft Word…. Students eager to take their work to the next level would do well to follow Dr. Stark’s in-depth guidance.


  1. Header image provided by Kaitlyn Baker

  2. I’m also assuming you have a current version of Word via Office 365. These instructions are based on v16.0.12430.20046. They should work on other recent versions as well. But you’ll notice greater differences in the process if you have an older version of Word. 

  3. If you need to paginate your table of contents differently, however, simply substitute your requirements in the appropriate steps below. 

  4. The first three requirements are clear from Melanie Greer Nogalski et al., Student Supplement for The SBL Handbook of Style, Second Edition, ed. Joel M. LeMon and Brennan W. Breed, rev. ed. (Atlanta: SBL, 2015), §3.2. The fourth isn’t explicitly specified in the student supplement. So, in this case, SBL style defers to the authorities for Chicago style. And the spacing between the table of contents heading and the table itself is specified in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, ed. Wayne C. Booth et al., 9th ed., Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), §A.2.1.7. 

  5. Cf. Nogalski et al., Student Supplement, §2.6. 

  6. Nogalski et al., Student Supplement, §3.2. 

  7. Nogalski et al., Student Supplement, §3.2. 

  8. Nogalski et al., Student Supplement, §3.2. 

How to Easily Change Text Directions after Hebrew Words with Zotero

Zotero does a wonderful job handling a lot of the research management work that would otherwise fall to you to do manually.1

With any tool, though, when it doesn’t work like you expected, you then have to take time to fix what’s amiss. And once you’ve found a fix, you can then get back to what you were trying to do that much faster the next time around.

One such case you might encounter with Zotero is some unexpected output when a source’s title ends in Hebrew text.

A Problem with Hebrew Text

If you’re primarily writing in a left-to-right language like English, you may come across this issue when citing a source with any right-to-left text (e.g., Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac) ending the title or another part of a citation (like the headword in a lexicon citation).

But let’s take the particular example of Hebrew text using Zotero’s SBL style.2 For instance, you might use Zotero to add the following citation to your document

  1. Mordechai Breuer, נוסח המקרא ב״כתר ירושלים״ ומקורותיו במסורה ובכתבי היד [The Biblical Text of the “Jerusalem Crown” Edition and Its Sources in the Masora and Manuscripts] (Jerusalem: Keren Ha-Masorah, 2003), 21.

So far, so good. But then, let’s say that

  • you want to cite this source again and
  • you’ve used נוסח המקרא ב״כתר ירושלים״ in Zotero’s short title field.

In that case, you might well get a citation like

  1. Breuer, נוסח המקרא ב״כתר ירושלים״, 42.

And this citation has several problems, including how

  • the page number appears after the author’s name rather than after the title of the work,
  • a space gets interposed between the page number and the next comma, and
  • the title of the work (rather than the page number) ends the citation.

These problems arise because, in this citation, Zotero has output more than just the title in right-to-left text. That is, the space and comma “after” the page number aren’t really after the page number but are after the title, if you are still, at that point, reading the note text from right to left.

But in SBL style, the page number should follow the title as usual in a note like

  1. Breuer, נוסח המקרא ב״כתר ירושלים״‎, 42.

How to Change Text Directions with Zotero

Thankfully, the solution to this difficulty is actually quite easy, and it doesn’t require editing individual notes.

Among the various characters that Unicode supports is the left-to-right mark (U+200E). This character doesn’t display any text. It simply applies a left-to-right direction to the text that follows it.

If you have right-to-left text in a citation from Zotero, as in the example above, that text may cause other text to flow right-to-left as well—maybe too much text.

If it does, all you need to do is to insert in your Zotero record (or the citation dialog if the right-to-left text is a locator) a left-to-right mark on the far-right end of the left-to-right text.

Once that mark is at the beginning of the right-to-left text (which is also the end of that unit of the citation before you want text to start flowing left-to-right again), Zotero will order the following text left-to-right.

You can insert a left-to-right mark in a few different ways. Some are

  • On Windows, to open the Character Map app, find the Unicode character code, and copy-and-paste the character where you need it to go. This process is regrettably rather cumbersome. So, if you find yourself needing to do it often enough, you might consider using a tool like PhraseExpress to streamline it and any number of other repetitive actions. For instance, in PhraseExpress, I’ve specified “;ltr” as a sequence that, whenever I type it, PhraseExpress automatically replaces it with the Unicode left-to-right mark.
  • On MacOS, to hold down the option key, type the Unicode character code (200E), and release the option key.

Conclusion

If you need to chop down a tree, you can spend just about any amount of time preparing your axe and still beat how quickly you’d finish the job using your bare hands. Though, at the same time, the more efficiently you can prepare your axe, the faster you can get the tree down.

By the same token, the details of how to get what you need out of a reference manager like Zotero takes some learning. And in principle, that’s learning you otherwise wouldn’t have to do. But over the long haul, this learning will pay significant dividends in the time that you save wrangling minutiae.


  1. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

  2. Ordinarily, SBL style uses translated titles. But on scenarios like those addressed here, see SBL Press, “Titles in Non-Latin Alphabets,” SBL Handbook of Style, 22 February 2018. 

How to Customize Your Citations with Zotero

Sometimes, you work with sources that involve some extra complexity if you’re going to cite them properly.1 Rather than making these changes one by one, however, Zotero allows you to make them automatically any time you cite a given source.

That way, you only have to work out once how to cite a source once. After that, it’s saved in your library, and you can focus on how you want to discuss that source rather than on how you need to cite it.

Custom Formatting Available in Zotero

To customize formatting in Zotero, you can use a very basic set of tags.2 If you’re at all familiar with HTML, you’ll readily see some similarities.

Zotero allows you to use

  • <i> and </i> to italicize text,
  • <b> and </b> to bold text,
  • <sub> and </sub> to superscript text, and
  • <sup> and </sup> to subscript text.

You can also use

  • <span style="font-variant:small-caps;"> and </span> to produce text in small capitals and
  • <span class="nocase"> and </span> to disable Zotero’s usual capitalization efforts.

Where You Might Use Custom Formatting

Most of the time, you won’t need to worry about these additional formatting options. But they will come in very handy when you need them. Below are just a few examples of citations where this kind of markup proves useful in SBL style.

Basic Tags

The basic tags for italics, bold, superscript, and subscript are fairly transparent and straightforward.

  • Jordan Henderson, “Josephus’s Life and Jewish War Compared to the Synoptic Gospels,” JGRChJ 16.5 (2014): 113–31. Journal article titles normally appear in roman font. But Life and Jewish War are both titles of works that would otherwise be italicized. You can italicize them inside a roman article title by placing the <i> and </i> tags around each place where you want italics (thus: Josephus's <i>Life<i/> and <i>Jewish War</i> compared to the Synoptic Gospels).
  • Frank Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book I (Sects 1–46), 2nd ed., NHMS 63 (Leiden: Brill, 2009). Within italic text, italics is represented by roman text. So, the title of Epiphanius’s book (Panarion) gets set in roman text (thus: Panarion) within the title of Williams’s book. You can generate the roman text by adding the <i> and </i> tags within text that Zotero italicizes (thus: The <i>Panarion</i> of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book I (Sects 1–46)).
  • Wilhelm C. Linss, “Exegesis of Telos in Romans 10:4,” BR 33 (1988): 5–12. It’s not often necessary to bold text. But where it is, you can do so with the <b> and </b> tags just as you would apply italics with the <i> and <i> tags (thus: Exegesis of <b>telos</b> in Romans 10:4).
  • H. Preisker, “Die Vikariatstaufe 1 Cor 1529 – ein eschatologischer, nicht sakramentaler Brauch,” ZNW 23 (1924): 298–304. It’s also not often necessary to subscript text. But you can do that when needed too with the <sub> and </sub> tags just as you would with the <b> and </b> tags (thus: Die Vikariatstaufe 1 Cor 15<sub>29</sub> – ein eschatologischer, nicht sakramentaler Brauch).
  • Joseph M. Baumgarten, “Damascus Document: 4Q271 (4QDf),” in Damascus Document II, Some Works of Torah, and Related Documents, ed. James H. Charlesworth, PTSDSSP/DSS 3 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994), 158–73. The need to superscript text is more common, particularly in citations of ancient manuscripts. It offsets text above the line with <sup> and </sup> just like subscripting offsets it below the line (thus: Damascus Document: 4Q271 (4QD<sup>f</sup>)).

Span Tags

The tags for producing small capitals or dropping capitals altogether might look a bit more intimidating. But all you need to do is copy and paste them from this post, from the Zotero knowledge base, or wherever you save reference material. That way, you don’t need to be a coding expert to take advantage of these additional options.

  • L. Feldman, “Josephus (ᴄᴇ 37–c. 100),” in The Early Roman Period, ed. William Horbury, W. D. Davies, and John Sturdy, CHJ 3 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 901–21. The first tag to produce small capitals is slightly longer, but otherwise, it follows the same pattern as the other tags (thus: Josephus (<span style="font-variant:small-caps;">ce</span> 37–<i>c.</i> 100).
  • Floyd O. Parker Jr., “Is the Subject of τετέλεσται in John 19,30 ‘It’ or ‘All Things’?,” Bib 96.2 (2015): 222–44. You can drop headline-style casing for a whole title by telling Zotero that the source is in a language other than English. But if you only want to drop headline-style casing for part of a title, you can do so with the <span class="nocase"> and </span> tags (thus: Is the subject of <span class="nocase">τετέλεσται</span> in John 19,30 'it' or 'all things'?).

Conclusion

All of these examples are with titles of sources. But Zotero’s custom formatting markup will work in other fields besides the title field too. Because it does, you can customize citations for your writing style in still more ways even if Zotero can’t automatically format references that way at present.

You may not often need to adjust the formatting Zotero gives you for specific sources. But if you do, Zotero offers an easy way to tweak things once so you can delegate remembering those tweaks back to Zotero. Then, you can continue focusing on your writing.


  1. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

  2. For this material, I’m drawing primarily from “How Do I Use Rich Text Formatting, like Italics and Sub/Superscript in Titles?,” Zotero, n.d. 

How to Control Citation Title Casing with Zotero

Many styles call for you to capitalize English titles in “headline style.”1 Zotero can handle this capitalization for you. And it can even handle the different capitalization conventions of other languages as well.

Capitalization Style Overview

“Sentence-style” capitalization is, as its name suggests, the kind of capitalization you use in a sentence. You capitalize the first word, any proper names, and that’s pretty much it.2 You lower case everything else.

“Headline-style” capitalization is the capitalization style you learned for titles in elementary school. You capitalize the title’s

  • first and last words,
  • prepositions, if used adverbially or adjectivally, and
  • major words.3

And unless they appear first or last in the title, you don’t capitalize any

  • articles,
  • prepositions that aren’t used adverbially or adjectivally,
  • common conjunctions, or
  • words like “as” or parts of proper names that would be lowercased in a sentence.4

Capitalization in Zotero

Zotero can convert titles from sentence to headline style, but not the other way around. So, it’s generally best practice to enter your titles with sentence-style capitalization. Whether Zotero converts that sentence-style capitalization to headline-style will then depend on the style you’re using.

English Titles

For sources with English titles then, you’re pretty much done. If a citation style that calls for sentence-style title capitalization, Zotero will output the title capitalized exactly as you have it in your database.

Or you might be using a style that requires headline-style capitalization, like SBL, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, or Tyndale Bulletin. If so, Zotero will convert titles to headline-style capitalization without you having to continually look up its rules.

Non-English Titles

For sources with non-English titles, however, Zotero’s capitalization engine will run a bit amok. For instance, for a source with a French title, you should capitalize the title according to French conventions. So, you should have something like

Steeve Bélanger, “L’Épître aux Hébreux dans le contexte spéculatif sur la figure de Melchisédech durant la période du Second Temple de Jérusalem (IIe siècle avant notre ère – Ier siècle de notre ère),” ASEs 33.1 (2016): 31–77.

But Zotero will naturally give you

Steeve Bélanger, “L’Épître Aux Hébreux Dans Le Contexte Spéculatif Sur La Figure de Melchisédech Durant La Période Du Second Temple de Jérusalem (IIe Siècle Avant Notre Ère – Ier Siècle de Notre Ère),” ASEs 33.1 (2016): 31–77.

So, in cases like these, you need to turn off Zotero’s capitalization engine. You do that with the Language field for your source.

In the Language field, it’s best to enter the specific locale code for the source.5 For the Bélanger’s article, this might be “fr” (French in general) or “fr-CN” (Canadian French in particular).6

But really entering anything in the Language field besides “en”, “en-GB”, “en-US” or some other English designator (e.g., “Eng”, “English”) will stop Zotero from applying headline-style capitalization to the article title.

Conclusion

Headline-style capitalization rules aren’t always the easiest to remember and apply completely. But Zotero can handle this capitalization for you for sources with English titles. And it’s straightforward to turn off this capitalization when you cite non-English sources as well.

In either case (if you’ll forgive the pun 🙂), it’s work Zotero can perform while you concentrate on writing rather than managing capital letters.


  1. Header image provided by Zotero via Twitter

  2. University of Chicago Press, The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), §8.158. 

  3. Chicago Manual of Style, §8.159. 

  4. Chicago Manual of Style, §8.159. 

  5. How Do I Prevent Title Casing of Non-English Titles in Bibliographies?,” Zotero, n.d. 

  6. Home: Citation Style Language Locales Wiki,” Github, n.d. 

Zotero Can Easily Support Your Students’ Research

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.

An Example

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.

Conclusion

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.


Starting fall 2022, Faulkner will offer 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.


  1. Header image provided by Marvin Meyer