Choose an Organization Strategy
Why would I do this?
There are numerous ways to organize your archival sources in Zotero. You will need to find the strategy that best matches your research methodology.
"Remember, how you organize your data will have a profound effect on your thinking."
(Galarza, Alex. “Zotero in the Archives.” GradHacker. Accessed December 17, 2013. http://www.gradhacker.org/2011/08/03/zotero-in-the-archives/.)
Organize Using Tags
Instead of filing items into Zotero collections, leave all items in the default "My Library" collection (you can sort by date, title, etc.).
Assign tags to items to filter them according to research theme.
Here is a sample library for a research project on pay equity.
Organize Using Collections
Using Zotero Collections, organize your research by topic and archival collection consulted.
Here is a sample structure:
Collection Subject of Research e.g. Advertising
Sub-collection Each archival collection consulted e.g. Jean Wade Rindlaub papers
Sub-sub-collection Folders consulted e.g. Folder 7.9. Market research
Item Items of note within folders e.g. Notes regarding Betty Crocker
Here is how this structure appears in Zotero:
Use Zotero as a Research Log
A best practice of Archival Research is to keep a research log.
A research log may be kept on paper, in a word processing program, or as a spreadsheet. A sample research log is as follows.
Organizing your archival research in Zotero allows you to transform your research log into a personalized research database.
The fields that a research log includes are built into the item information that Zotero contains. Add comments and other information in Zotero notes.
Item Types for Archival Research
Best practices for using Zotero Item Types for archival materials.
To cite an archival collection as a whole (e.g. Julia Child papers, 1925-1993), use the Item Type Manuscript as shown below.
To cite items within an archival collection (e.g. letter, Julia Child to Paul Child, 1945), it is best to use the Item Type that most closely resembles the material being cited.
Note: If there is not an acceptable match in the Item Type list, do not use Document (the citation output for Document does not include all of the fields necessary to cite archival material). Revert to Manuscript.
Zotero Fields Cheat Sheet
Each item in your Zotero library has Fields.These fields provide information about the item that Zotero uses to create citations.
This cheat-sheet shows how to use fields so that Zotero creates accurate citation information for archival materials.
Field title Best use
Title Document or material title
Author Author of document or material
Abstract Can use for brief notes if desired
Date Date of document or material
Language Language of document or material
URL Finding aid / Catalog record URL
Accessed No suggested use
Archive Full name of archival repository
Loc. in Archive Important: Give call number, folder / box number in this field
Library Catalog No suggested use
Call Number Can input call number, but be sure to also put call number in “Loc. in Archive”
Rights Copyright notes, Access or Use Restrictions, Permission to Publish information
Extra Annotations; Zotero can create an annotated Chicago Style bibliography
Manage Research Images
Best Practice: Start managing your images before you link them to Zotero.
Decide on a file-naming convention and stick to it. This practice will allow you to use your images even outside of a structure like Zotero.
Here is a sample naming convention: [LastNameorOrgName]_[CallNo]_[FolderNo]_[ImageNo]
Example 1: Julia Child Papers Child_MC660_1.1_001
Example 2: NOW Records NOW_MC666_2.1_001
Capture Folder Titles
Never forget what collection your image came from!
Capture the folder title in your image or write the folder title on a slip of paper and capture it in your image.
You can also start each set of images by photographing the outside of the box.
Store your images on your hard drive and link them to your Zotero library.
Right click on the item to which you want to link your research images (OSX ctrl+click). Select Add Attachment then Attach Link to File.
Note: You cannot link to a folder, but you can select multiiple image files to link to your item.
Store your images in cloud storage like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Flickr and link them to your Zotero library.
Ensure your cloud storage is set to private. Photographs taken of archival collections are for personal research use only.
The following example shows how to use Dropbox and Zotero. You would follow a similar method for using other cloud storage services.
In Dropbox, create folders that match the Zotero collections and / or items that you have photographed
Copy the URL for the dropbox folder that contains your research images.
Add the URL to the "URL" field in the corresponding Zotero item.
Zotero is open source, so it has no dedicated support staff. You can still get help from Harvard Library, other Zotero users and even Zotero developers.
- You can check the Zotero forums at any time (postings of technical issues by Zotero users and responses from Zotero developers). Someone may have asked your question before!
- Browse our Zotero FAQs (Harvard-specific guidance for common issues with Zotero.
Librarians are generally available M-F, 9-5, for assistance:
- Use the form below to submit your Zotero questions to a Harvard librarian.