77aa99b53b82d17d5f03ca8a3fcbfe35All learning is a form of research as we test our mental models of reality against the cold hard facts of the world.

When someone keeps making the same mistake we can say that they have not learned what that mistake is and how to avoid it.

Humans have evolved the ability to keep track of our successes and failures in order learn.

Keeping track of and analyzing what happens is the basis of research, which I claim is the foundation of learning.

It follows that treating your education as a research process will make you a more capable learner.

Technology can help you to become a more capable researcher and to better understand the relations of information and reason to knowledge.

Zotero is an OSU supported no-cost application that assists with collecting, organizing and citing research sources.zotero_logo_300x300

You should be using Zotero or a similar tool because when you write a paper or produce a project the sources upon which it is based are critical.

Your sources are established by citations which follow formats including APA, MLA, Turbian and IEEE.

If these are not familiar to you, then you are at a distinct disadvantage when developing a paper or project for a class as many instructors place significant grade value on well-formed citations in the correct format.

Check your syllabus and assignment description to ascertain the citation format then install Zotero and access the OSU Library resources to learn how to use it well.

Zotero has a stand-alone version to install on Windows or Mac and also as plugins for FireFox, Safari and Chrome and apps for iOS and Android

Build your Zotero “Library” by creating a “Collection” and adding sources as you search for sources.

A Collection may be for a project, a class, a topic or whatever you need to gather information for.

The sources can be books, articles, websites, videos and other forms of information that you have used in developing your work.

While developing your work, such as a paper or project use Zotero to retrieve sources and then to cite those sources for your bibliography.

A bibliography is the part of a work that lists the sources that form the research upon which the work is based.

The purpose of a bibliography is so that readers can retrieve the sources in order to check on the accuracy of the claims in the work.

Bibliographies consist of references which provide the information that anyone needs to find and retrieve the source referred to.

Citations are the expressions embedded in the text of a work that indicate the reference on which that portion of the work is based.

In my work as an Editor I have received submissions that included bibliographies that contained numerous references that were not cited in the text of the paper.

I sent those submissions back for revision because the relevant references are those that are used in creating the work.

It is an error to pad a bibliography with books and articles that you did not read or use in your writing.

If you did use a source, then cite and reference it properly.

If you did not use a source, then do not refer to it.

2447112317_b1f13112cbIf any of these aspects of research puzzle you, then you should visit the OSU Writing Center at 123 Waldo.

Writing Center assistants will help students, staff, faculty and community members with all aspects of writing from brainstorming to writer’s block to bibliographies and beyond.

Once you understand what citations and bibliographies are and know what formats are required for your papers, then you are in a strong position to use writing tools like Zotero effectively.

A powerful feature of Zotero is the capability to create Collection items contextually from your Web browser so to gather relevant reference information from whatever web source that you are viewing.

This contextual sensing feature is amazing when researching journal articles, news articles and books in the OSU Library; see the Valley Library tutorial “Using Zotero with 1Search.”

I emphasize again that finding likely titles and capturing reference information is not research unless you read the sources and use them in your work.Research-Illistration-4x4

Once you have a collection of sources Zotero helps you tag, sort, move, copy, annotate and edit your sources.

Organizing and connecting your sources, which are prior information about a topic, is a powerful way to construct knowledge out of your research.

Knowledge constructed from intentional collections of sources may involve finding patterns, drawing inferences, producing new research questions, identifying problems and much more.

A research-based paper and project is designed to communicate the knowledge that you have constructed, your findings, from the sources that you have collected and analyzed.

That is a basic description of how research and learning work.

Zotero supports sharing collections online which vastly increases its power as a research tool, for instance when working on a group project designate a role for “research managerin the group and have them curate the Zotero collections.

With your thesis, narrative, and references accomplished you then use Zotero to produce the bibliography which can export to Word and OpenOffice documents.

With a collection and bibliography created it is easy to re-format your references to different citation standards.

Valley Library has many resources including workshops and online tutorials for becoming proficient with Zotero at guides.library.oregonstate.edu/zotero

In addition to Zotero I have used Citation Machine, a web-based citation creator, to create bibliographies for publications – citationmachine.net.

Both tools provide a form in a selected citation style that prompts you for necessary information about a source such as author’s name, book title, publication date, page number and publisher.

Both tools allow switching citation styles for already created references.

Zotero is the more powerful of the two, but Citation Machine is handy.

Social bookmarking is a technology that is related to the research-oriented tools.

Diigo and Delicious are powerful social bookmarking applications, also called “social tagging,” with browser extensions that support tagging, annotating and highlighting web sources including pages, PDFs, blog posts, images and videos.

The social character of these tools is changing the way that information and knowledge works.

Think of the efficiency with which disinformation such as rumors spread.Wikipedia_-_taste_the_fruit_of_knowledge

Now imagine similarly efficient information but grounded in referenced sources.

Our information environment is changing fast and you will be better equipped for that change when you are able to use social bookmarking and referencing tools.

Most important is your understanding of how information constructs knowledge and how references provide evidence.

Of immediate value to you is how you can use these tools to do a stronger job of writing papers and projects.

Image Acknowledgements