Lesson Plan #4

Zotero: Bibliographic Information Management

This lesson plan will teach students how to better organize and easily located their research sources by using the bibliographic information management system, Zotero. By using Zotero, students can give greater focus on their research and assignment rather than keeping track of previously found sources. The lesson plan in designed to help the Ballod’s library largest patron group– students and researchers.  This lesson will provide instruction and helpful tips on how to best use Zotero.

An abundance of research information online may result in disorganized projects. Zotero allows students to save, organized and customize their sources into clear and findable folders as they do their research. Later, these sources can be quickly imported into word documents and formatted into various citation styles.

A great resource for local students is New York Public Library. While NYPL provides access to many databases, some can only be used on-site. If a student has found a journal article using a proprietary database but later cannot find that article, they would normally have to return to the library. With Zotero, students can save a pdf copy with all the bibliographic information for the journal article and have access anywhere.

The Ballod Library wants to encourage and promote patron scholarship. Zotero allows students to seamlessly curate source information without interrupting research.

Lesson Context
This lesson would be taught in the Ballod Library to an outside group of undergraduate and graduate art history students but can be adapted for different education levels and disciplines.  The library’s instruction is limited to teaching patrons how to use the resources the library has, i.e. patrons in the library are assumed to already have some technology and literacy competency. It is designed to be a one hour class.

This lesson will consider ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, in particular standard one: “the information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed”, standard three: “the information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system”. It also follows the ACRL’s Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators. In particular standard 6.7, to “integrat[e] appropriate technology into instruction to support experiential and collaborative learning”.

Student Profile
This lesson would be taught to a class of undergraduate and graduate students majoring in art history. Because these are higher education students, we assume that they already have begun to learn how to research in an academic setting, and have some awareness research concepts like peer-review, primary vs secondary sources, database, etc, even if this awareness is at the most basic level.  This lesson should help develop these concepts further.  

Essential Question
How can technology help us learn about art history?

Students will learn to incorporate Zotero in their research.

Students will recognize different types of sources- journal articles, books, webpages- and save them to their Zotero library.

Students will learn how to edit and enhance their saved bibliographic information, including attaching notes and files.

Students learn how to import sources into a document and sync their Zotero library with the Zotero server.

Participants will watch a presentation on how to start a Zotero account, download the Zotero plug-ins for word processor and Firefox and/or Google Chrome.

Using the Zotero browser plug-in, participants will search and bookmark web-pages, journal articles and books from the library’s catalog and organize them by subject.

By separating and organizing different subjects, students will learn to use Zotero to work on different assignments and able to able group related research materials into folders.

Participants will insert newly bookmarked entries into a document as formatted citations.

Participants will receive a handout to follow along and for their personal reference.

Lesson Outline:

The lesson will be broken up into six parts: Setting up an Account, Saving Sources, Attaching a Files, Organizing Zotero, Importing Citations and ending with topic specific questions. Each part is designed to build upon the previous section.

After a brief introduction to what Zotero is and how it works, students are guided as they create Zotero accounts and download the correct plug-ins. While students are encouraged to bring their laptops if they own one, the information saved to Zotero servers can be accessed anywhere.

Students are then instructed how to save their sources and how to identify the different symbols Zotero uses for source types. Zotero identifies four main types of sources: journal articles, web pages, books and book selections. This is explicit on the lesson handout. A search in Oxford Art Online is used as an example for saving a web page and, for comparison and contrast, a search in NYPL’s catalog is used for a book entry.
Stored web pages typically have the page title, url, date accessed and sometimes the author. Stored books, both saved from a library’s catalog and e-books like Google books, save additional information, like isbn, publication date, publisher, number of pages, and, for books from a catalog, the call number. While the method of saving a source- clicking the icon- is the same no matter the source type, two examples are used to demonstrate the slight difference in bibliographic information.

Next, the participants are asked to find a journal article on Jstor and save it to Zotero. For this step, participants are given the task and are expected to follow the steps from the two previous examples with limited guidance. The students are then instructed to save a pdf copy of the article and are shown how to attach it to the Zotero entry. This provides students with access to this journal article whenever they log into their Zotero account. Attaching files to entries provides students access to the article no matter database restriction, particularly in cases where databases can only be accessed in specific locations. This also can be used as a safety net if an article is ever lost.

Students are then shown how to create folders and tags for their entries. This is particularly helpful for students working on multiple assignments, as they can group related materials together. This leads into importing citations into word documents. Students are shown different options, including importing an entire folder or a single entry. While importing citations simplifies the effort in creating a bibliography, the importance of double-checking the citations for formatting errors is stressed.

At this point, students are encouraged to ask questions regarding Zotero and specific research assignments. The beginning of the lesson uses pre-selected examples, so this section should reinforce those skills by using examples relevant to the students’ needs.

Lesson Handout: Google Doc
Andrea Daniele,
May 9, 2011, 6:03 PM