Zotero instructions

I want to give better instructions about how to get Zotero working and how to get your items into our Zotero group at http://www.zotero.org/groups/hist390-001-2013/items, since it’s a multi-step process. Do also see the Zotero help documentation.

  1. Download Zotero at http://zotero.org/download. If you use Firefox, you only need to download the Zotero Firefox extension. If you use another browser, you’ll need to download two things: the Zotero stand-alone application AND the Zotero browser extension for your browser: Zotero extension for Chrome or Zotero extension for Safari. If you use Internet Explorer, your only choice is to install a bookmarklet. If you have a Chromebook, you can use Zotero with just the Zotero browser extension for Chrome or the, although it might be a little buggy, or use the bookmarklet.
  2. Install the standalone application and/or make sure that your browser has the extension (also known as an “add-on”) installed; you might need to restart your browser.
  3. Sign up for an account at zotero.org by going to https://www.zotero.org/user/register/.
  4. Log in to zotero.org with your account at https://www.zotero.org/user/login/
  5. Join our Zotero group by going to https://www.zotero.org/groups/hist390-001-2013 and clicking the “Join Group” button. The “Join Group” button will only appear if you are logged in to zotero.org.
  6. Open the Zotero application on your computer and find the Preferences with the little gear icon. Enter your zotero.org username and password and click OK to ensure that your materials sync to zotero.org and that your Group membership shows up on your computer. See https://www.zotero.org/support/preferences/sync for fuller instructions.
  7. Use the browser icon to save sources to your Zotero library or enter them manually. Drag any books, articles, and so on in your own Zotero library to the folder in our Group library with your last name.

If you have any trouble, first look around in the help documentation on zotero.org at https://www.zotero.org/support/. If you can’t find what you need, email me.

Zotero group library

Exam #2 Questions

Here are 57 questions from which the 50 questions on Exam #2 will be taken. All the answers should be available from the study guides posted in the Research Skills Unit category on this site; if you don’t find those resources helpful, do some searching on the web, and when you find a helpful site, post it to the course’s Diigo group.

What is a library catalog?
What is a call number?
What is MARC?
What does MARC stand for?
What is a proxy server?
What is a primary source?
What is a secondary source?
Give an example of a primary source.
Give an example of a secondary source.
When would you want to use primary sources instead of secondary sources for your research?
What is an e-journal?
What is a pre-print?
What is peer review?
Why is it important to know if a journal is peer-reviewed?
What are the two widely used book classification systems?
What is ILL?
What does the acronym ILL stand for?
Name two of the Five Pillars of Wikipedia.
Describe how you would correct an error on Wikipedia.
What is metadata?
What is bibliographic metadata?
What is crowdsourcing?
What is a codex?
What is WorldCat?
Who is one of the founders of Wikipedia?
What is a wiki?
What is an ISBN?
What is a plug-in?
Name a search engine that isn’t Google.
What is an algorithm?
What does it mean to “crawl” or “spider” the web?
What is MediaWiki?
What is Wikimedia?
What is an ISBN?
What is OCR?
What does the acronym OCR stand for?
What is a codex?
What is DRM?
What does the acronym DRM stand for?
Give an example of an ebook file extension.
What is HathiTrust.org?
What is Google Books?
What is Duck Duck Go?
What is Google Scholar?
What is Project Gutenberg?
How many books (that is, unique editions) have ever been published, roughly?
What symbol do you use to indicate “NOT” in a Google search?
What is Wolfram Alpha?
What is Zotero used for?
What is a periodical?
What is Google News?
What is Google Images?
What is ProQuest Historical Newspapers?
What is the ProQuest Research Library?
What is Academic Search complete?
What is JSTOR?
What is America: History and Life?

Scholarly Journals and Databases

Philosophical Transactions

Philosophical Transactions

Proxy server

Proxy server


Primary source – any material that is of its own time rather than something reflective written later. The 1969 UCLA student newspaper article about the first ARPANet connection is a primary source, whereas the blog post that shares it and comments on it is a secondary source. Most magazine and newspaper articles are primary sources, because they are usually written quite close to the date of the events they discuss.

Secondary source – any reflective, narrative, or analytical material that uses and discusses primary sources or original data. Most books and scholarly journal articles are secondary sources. Of course, if you are writing a history of science, a scientific article published in 1957 would be a primary source rather than a secondary source.

e-Journal – an inaccurate and misleading term used by many research libraries (despite scads of evidence that they shouldn’t) to describe the full-text online version of any periodical. The online version of the Los Angeles Times is called an e-journal by many libraries, as is the online version of People magazine and the online version of the scholarly journal IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. Search for any periodical title via the e-Journals tab the GMU Libraries’ website to find a particular newspaper, magazine, or journal by its title.

peer review – the volunteer system by which scholars look at one anothers’ work to make sure that it is 1) original, and 2) reasonable. A peer-reviewed publication is (in theory) of higher quality than a non-peer-reviewed publication.

database – most scholarly databases available through library websites are large, searchable lists of related information. Any one database can include hundreds of thousands of records from thousands of magazines, newspapers, or scholarly journals.

pre-print – the final version of a scholarly paper before it has been copyedited, typeset, and published in a journal; the author’s own final draft. Many article authors post these online themselves for free now in addition to (or instead of) publishing them in journals that may require payment.

Open Access – a semi-political movement to make scholarly work (especially but not exclusively scholarly work that is funded by the government with taxpayer dollars) freely available online rather than “paywalled.” Open Access week is October 21-27, 2013, and GMU will hold many events for it: http://infoguides.gmu.edu/content.php?pid=295386&sid=3950037

Proxy server – A proxy server is a server (a computer) that will “stand in” for another server; you use it to access one network while you are using another. If you use GMU’s proxy server while you are (say) at home or at a Starbucks, you can get access to the information sources GMU pays for. Instructions for using GMU’s proxy server.


ProQuest Research Library – Scroll down in the Ps to find this full-text database, which “provides one-stop access to more than 4,000 periodicals from one of the broadest, most inclusive general reference databases ProQuest has to offer. Search from a highly-respected, diversified mix of scholarly journals, trade publications, and magazines covering over 150 academic disciplines.”

America: History and Life – Scroll down to this database in the History database list on GMU’s library website. Searches both citations and full text, and “provides English language abstracts of scholarly literature (journal articles, articles in collections, dissertations, book and media reviews) on the history and culture of the U.S. and Canada.” Goes back only to 1964.

JSTOR – a large general database of scholarly journals (JSTOR stands for “Journal Storage”). Note that recent articles from the last two to five years are *not* in JSTOR; only articles older than that can be found here. Some journal issues as old 1880s can be found here.

Google Scholar – a good general search engine for scholarly articles.

Microsoft Academic Search – Similar to Google Scholar, but better for Computer Science.

arxiv.org – an open access repository of scholarly papers in Physics, Math, and other sciences, including Computer Science.


Pick any database in the list of those GMU has access to and try to find out the following:

  1. What’s in the database? In other words, what are you searching for when you search it? Magazine articles, patents, chemical forumlas?
  2. What can you get: citations only, full-text only, or a combination?
  3. How big is the database? How many records does it have and/or how many periodical titles are included?
  4. What dates does the database cover?
  5. What special interface features does the database have (or lack)? Can you limit to peer-reviewed articles? Can you see how many times an article has been cited? Are there other features?

Magazine and Newspaper Articles

Sample periodical citation:

Bush, V. (1945). As We May Think. Atlantic Monthly, 176. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush.


Periodical – a publication that is released part by part, issue by issue, on a scheduled basis (daily, monthly, quarterly, yearly) rather than all at once like a book. Newspapers, magazines, and journals are all periodicals.

Issue – One full part of a periodical; a single instance of that periodical, such as the July 1945 issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine.

Volume – A collection of issues. Before the digital age, periodicals were bound into volumes for easier storage and reference. Volumes usually have numbers: in the example above, the article “As We May Think” was collected into Volume 176 of Atlantic Monthly.

Edition – A version; something that is mostly the same, with a small set of significant differences. Many newspapers release different editions in different countries, for instance. The term “edition” is also important in books.


Google News – allows you to search across many, many newspapers worldwide. Best for very recent news. Also allows you to create a personalized news page and to look at non-U.S. editions of newspapers.

Google News Archive Search – Allows you to search a limited number of newspapers easily; best for content after 2005, but does contain some earlier items.

Proquest Historical Newspapers – Go to http://furbo.gmu.edu/dbwiz/alpha.php?start=p and scroll down to find this database; it will let you search several old newspapers.

Academic Search Complete (by EBSCOHost) – Available from the list of databases beginning with ‘A’ on GMU’s library website. A general-purpose database that is the best first stop for looking for old magazine and newspaper articles as well as some of the bigger scholarly journals.

See also the databases listed under the subject “News” on GMU’s library website.




Library catalog – usually and historically, a master list of all the materials a library owns. Online public access catalogs (OPACs) in libraries are now often designed to provide access to all the materials a library has the right to access, whether or not the library owns that material.

Call number – the number that indicates the location of a book on the library shelves. For instance, the GMU call number for David Weinberger’s terrific book Everything is Miscellaneous is HD30.2 .W4516 2007. Books with similar call numbers have similar subjects.

Dewey Decimal Classification System – a system of classifying and organizing books by subject (and generating call numbers for them) that is usually used in public libraries.

Melvil Dewey – inventor of the Dewey Decimal Classification System, very weird and interesting guy.

Library of Congress Classification System – a system of classifying and organizing books by subject (and generating call numbers for them) usually used in research and university libraries.

Library of Congress Subject Headings – a set of official, authorized terms for describing the subject of a book — rather like “keywords” or “tags,” except very systematic and official.

Metadata (especially bibliographic metadata) – data about data. Bibliographic metadata is data about books (and similar items, such as journal articles): title, author, date, subject.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) – a book’s ISBN is a unique number assigned to that book that helps people and machines distinguish that book from other books. Only more recent books published since 1970 will have an ISBN.

MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging). A method invented in the 1960s of encoding bibliographic metadata so that machines could read it. Library catalogs still use MARC records today.

Interlibrary loan (ILL) – a service that lets people borrow a book (or similar item) from a library other than the one they have official access to and have it delivered to their own library. Since we are part of the WRLC, the Washington Research Library Consortium, we can borrow books from most DC-area libraries.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) – the technology that allows a scanner to recognize printed text characters on a page and convert them into digital text rather than just making an image of that page (like a photocopy).

Full text search – a search through the whole content of a digital book or article. If the full digital text is not available, either because the work has not been digitized or because the digital text has restrictions on it (if, for instance, you need to pay for it), you can usually still find the catalog or database record with bibliographic metadata that can help you decide whether you need to see the whole book.

Codex – the physical form of a printed book; cut pages bound at the back. In opposition to the scroll.

ebook – a digital book.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) – a set of technologies that controls which file formats can be accessed on which devices.

.epub – the file extension for ebooks published in the free and open EPUB format.

.mobi – the file extension for ebooks published in Amazon’s proprietary Mobipocket format.


GMU’s Library website – http://library.gmu.edu

WorldCat.org – a “catalog of catalogs” that includes library catalog records from thousands of libraries around the world, including of course GMU’s. There is a subscription version of WorldCat as well that is available from GMU’s list of databases under “W,” but the openly available one probably has almost everything you’ll need.

GMU’s Interlibrary Loan service – http://library.gmu.edu/requests/requests.html

Google Books – a collection of about 15 million scanned books from libraries that allows full-text search. Usually, however, you cannot read or download the full text of the book for free unless it is out of copyright (usually that means pre-1923 books), although there are a few more recent works that you can see the full text of. The Google Books project began in 2004 and its history is fascinating (and ongoing) — read more about it on the Wikipedia page about Google Books.

Google Books Advanced Search – a much better way to find books, especially specific books, than the default search; it will let you get more specific about what you’re looking for. 

HathiTrust.org – a scholarly website that in some respects is a duplicate of Google Books; it is a site where the libraries whose books Google scanned make available the scans of those books. HathiTrust is sometimes a much better place to look for books than Google Books, because trained librarians have done a lot of work to make sure the metadata is correct.

Project Gutenberg – an old (in Internet term) crowdsourced site where volunteers have put out-of-copyright books on the web. Project Gutenberg began in 1971 at one of the first computers on the ARPAnet (which of course became the Internet); as usual, please see the Wikipedia page about Project Gutenberg for its fascinating history.


Definitions / Terms

wiki – a website that runs on wiki software and thus allows collaborative editing. The word “wiki” is Hawaiian for “quick.”

MediaWiki – the platform on which Wikipedia runs, the best-known and most popular wiki software. MediaWiki is an open source CMS.

crowdsourcing – “the process of getting work or fundingor funding, usually online, from a crowd of people. The word is a combination of the words ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’. The idea is to take work and outsource it to a crowd of workers.”  http://dailycrowdsource.com/crowdsourcing-basics/what-is-crowdsourcing

Wikimedia – the name of the nonprofit organization that runs Wikipedia and related projects such as Wiktionary and Wikimedia Commons

Jimmy Wales – one of the founders of Wikipedia – http://jimmywales.com/about-jimmy/

Wikipedia “View history” page – the page on every Wikipedia article that allows you to see previous versions of that page

Wikipedia “Talk” page – the page on every Wikipedia article that allows you to see editor discussions of that page

Wikipedia editor – someone who edits Wikipedia. Anyone can edit Wikipedia, but some long-term, trusted members of the community have greater powers than others (such as the ability to freeze articles), and these are usually who we mean when we refer to Wikipedia editors.

The Five Pillars of Wikipedia – the five rules that govern Wikipedia: 1) Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, 2) Wikipedia has a neutral point of view, 3) Wikipedia is free content, 4) Editors should treat each other with respect, and 5) Wikipedia does not have firm rules. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Five_pillars





Note that this lesson is about Google the search engine, not Google the company. We’ll learn to use Google better, partly by learning what it is and how it works.





Zotero is useful for helping you acquire, manage, and share a collection of research sources that you intend to use in a formal research project. We will be creating a course Zotero group, and you are required to create a collection in it with the sources you have used for your presentation and final blog post.


  • Metadata – data about data
  • Bibliographic data – data used to describe books and other materials cited in bibliographies
  • Plugin / Add-on / Extension – a small application that is designed to “plug in” to an existing application. Zotero exists both as stand-alone software and as a browser extension for the Firefox browser.
  • Library – all your Zotero stuff
  • Collection – a themed subcollection of your Zotero stuff (show mine)
  • Group – a Library that can be contributed to by more than one person
  • Sync – just like with iTunes, you sync your library to the cloud at zotero.org
  • Address bar icon – the small icon that shows up in the Firefox address bar (aka URL bar) when you have encountered a savable resource (a book, an article, and so on)

Exercise (required homework)

  • Install either Zotero on your own computer — either the Firefox extension or the standalone version will work (or both).
  • Create an account on zotero.org
  • Join our course Zotero group