Tech Tuesday: Zotero

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

This Tech Tuesday we are highlighting Zotero which is a browser extension and stand-alone desktop application for Windows and MacOS. Zotero is most commonly known as a citation manager similar to EasyBib or Mendeley. While Zotero is excellent at managing citations, it is capable of so much more. This article will provide an overview of its most useful features. Future blog posts will expand on Zotero with in-depth how-to guides. I like Zotero because it is feature rich and can help students keep readings and citations well organized. Another huge perk is that Zotero is open source software. Not only is it free, but it also has a number of useful plug-ins and add-ons.
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Managing Citations and Outputting References:

As mentioned, Zotero is an excellent citation manager. The base install of the desktop application comes with a variety of standard citation styles including MLA, APA, Chicago and others. Have an obscure citation style only used by a specific discipline, don’t fret, chances are you can find it in the Zotero style repository here.

Outputting in-text citations in Zotero couldn’t be easier. Select the reference or references you want a citation for, right-click and select “Create bibliography from item” choose in-text citation, your chosen style, and copy to clipboard. Then, simply past the citation where needed in your document. You can create full reference pages in much the same way. Simply choose bibliography in the output section.

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Add, Organize and Manage Citations

Zotero has feature rich folder options to keep your citations organized. You can create a folder for a given class or project and then store all your citations in the folder. Adding citations is easy. If you’re using Google Scholar, you can simply download an RIS file (RefMan) using cite function in Google Scholar and open it with Zotero. Books can be added using the wand button (zotero button.jpg) and then adding the ISBN for the book. Zotero will handle the rest. Using add-ons Zotero can even scan PDF’s of journal articles and collect all the citation and metadata info directly from the article. A how-to blog outlining just how to do this will be available soon.

Have a class with a heavy reading load? Zotero is great for keeping all your readings organized. Add them all to a folder for that specific class and then you can write summaries or outlines for each with the built-in note taking function.

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Alternatively, or in-addition, you can also add any attachment you want to a given reference. For STEM students, this could be particularly useful if you draw diagrams in your notes and you want to keep them together with a specific reading. As mentioned, Zotero is free you can download it here. Check back soon for specific how-to guides that will expand in-depth on the various features and options Zotero has to offer.

Staff Writer: Randall Perez


Tech Tuesday: Study with Spotify

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Midterms may have come and gone, allowing you to take a moment to breathe but finals are looming near and fast approaching. With around 6 weeks left of the semester, it’s time to mentally get into “hyper-focused” mode. Although there are many techniques and strategies that assist you in keeping your concentration, listening to music can be a way to increase academic performance. Ever heard of the “Mozart effect” (Rauscher et. al, 1993)? The study conducted by researchers Rauscher et. al (1993) revealed that by listening to Mozart for around 10 minutes, subjects were able to significantly improve their spatial reasoning skills. In addition, according to other and more recent researchers, “listening to a pleasant music while performing an academic test helped students to overcome stress due to cognitive dissonance, to devote more time to more stressful and more complicated tasks and the grades were higher” (Cabanac, et. al, 2013).

Of course, you might not get beautiful sonatas to listen to while taking your exams, but this a nice strategy to use while studying. At the very least, it could help with decreasing stress levels. Spotify is a free music radio app that can be downloaded from their website for any electronic device (laptop, phone, tablet). Once it’s downloaded, create your own playlist with any type of music that you think will help you stay focused. Or you can go into the “browse” section and click on pre-ready made “Focus” playlists. Whatever your taste may be, you might find it. There are playlists titled from “Electronic Study Music” to “Epic All Nighters”. Who doesn’t want a soundtrack to their life and why not even during the times of intense academic work? Here are some of my favorites:

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Fig. 1: General “Focus” playlist page. Scroll down this page within the app to find a playlist you like.

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Fig. 2: The “Peaceful Piano” playlist have some of the most relaxing piano pieces for when you are working at a slower and calmer pace.

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Fig. 3: The “Cello 50” playlist is a powerful collection of some of the most celebrated cello pieces. This helps me focus but also stay pumped and motivated to keep studying/writing.


Cabanac, A., Perlovsky, L., Bonniot-Cabanac, M., & Cabanc, M. (2013). Music and academic

performance. Behavioral Brain Research. Volume 256:1. Pgs. 257-260.

Rauscher, F.H., Shaw, G.L., Ky, K.N. (1993). Music and spatial task performance. Nature. Oct

                  14; 365(6447):611.

Staff Writer:  Victoria Gill




Power Down to Increase Productivity: The Best Advice You Don’t Want to Hear

Monday, March 30, 2015

Turn your cell phone off next time you study.


I know. I know. Just hear me out.

Turn the cell phone off for twenty minutes and start working.

Student Text Messaging On Smart Phone At Campus

Your brain is going to be mad.

What if your mom calls with a great story about the neighbor’s dog– the one that’s always prone to accidents? What if the funniest group text happens while you’re focusing solely on Chemistry? Channel that anxious feeling of being disconnected and keep working on your task at hand. DO NOT check facebook instead. Be disconnected. Be fully involved in your work. How much can you get done if your attention isn’t spread in several different directions?

Turn your cell phone back on when the to-do item is done. Did you finish it in less time than normal? Do you feel you did a more thorough job? Was the text you missed really all that important?
The answers might surprise you.

Staff Blogger: Jen Papadakis


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

For several semesters, in collaboration with Weigle Information Commons, the Weingarten Center has offered a workshop called “Tools Not Toys.” What we emphasize is that apps and technology are great and all, but the important thing is how you use those pushy little helpers. In this post, I’d like to share a few apps that are currently working with me. They may not impress your friends, but they are sturdy work horses that have helped me manage the constant inflow of information, appointments, and tasks that would otherwise overwhelm my composition notebook.

To start, I’d like to mention something that is not an app at all. It’s a pretty basic way to annotate your electronic course readings, but (I’ve noticed) it’s often not utilized by Penn students. If you use a Mac, take a look at the Preview application. Most likely, this is the default program that shows up whenever you open a PDF. At the top of the window, you’ll notice a pen icon, which is your very handy highlighter. You’ll also see a toolbox (#1), which has lots of interesting goodies. The thing that I recommend for students to use here is the sticky note or comment function (#2). This will let you annotate directly on the text, and then you can change the view (#3) to see all of your “highlights and notes” in the sidebar. When I was still taking courses for my doctoral program, this was an efficient way to review my readings before or during class lectures and discussions. Note for PC users: a very similar function is available in Adobe Reader.

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As far as apps, it’s not revolutionary, but I currently can’t live without Evernote. During every meeting and lecture that I attend, I’m typing away in this program and tagging my notes to keep them organized. I haven’t played around with the chat or share functions much, but these seem like great features for group projects and collaborative writing. I’m also using Wunderlist as my “to-do” list. It functions like every other to-do list, but you can set due dates and reminders and even share lists with collaborators, relatives, and friends (which, in my house, is great for groceries). My colleague in Wharton Advising, Liz Sutton, recently recommended Asana (not a yoga app) for to-do lists. The added benefit of this app is that it will display your items in a weekly or monthly calendar.

Because it seems almost impossible to keep up with the newest and the coolest in the world of apps, I find the App Smart video channel on the New York Times website to be a helpful curator. In each brief episode, Kit Eaton highlights three apps under a common theme, such as “Modernize Your Meetings,” “Improve Your English,” “Smart Calendars” and “Finding Happiness.” The “Back to School” episode is particularly useful for time management and graphing calculations.

As you can see, I haven’t discovered an app that will work as a panacea for the variety of challenges that come with academic life at Penn. But maybe you have! Please join us in the comments section to share the newest, greatest, and hopefully free apps that are currently working with you.

Staff Blogger: Ryan Miller