Zotero group bibliography assignment

I decided before the start of this term, the first term in which I would be teaching a credit class in almost eight years (and I’m teaching 2!) that my Library Skills for English Majors class would collaboratively create an annotated bibliography in Zotero for their main group project.

I want them to develop some facility with Zotero, and this seems like a good way to do this.  The ins and outs of working with metadata on Zotero connects back to a lot of the course themes, making even those that are a little abstract seem more concrete.  At least I hope so.

I’ve barely explored the Zotero group settings for all that I have been there for a while (and for all that I have group libraries and everything) so I was not at all sure how well it would work or even if it would work for students in this class.  I’m still not sure because I’d like them to do a lot of the work in-class, and they don’t have their own computers there.  It should be possible for them to sync what they do on library machines to their online libraries, but until we try it, I just won’t know.

So yeah, that’s the reason why I was so happy to find that I’m not the first person to try this -(Profhacker author) Brian Croxall at Clemson did it before and he did it for English and he wrote about it extensively which is so amazingly awesome.  I drew heavily from it even when it didn’t directly – it’s amazing how working with someone else’s assignment online is like talking it through, having someone to get you thinking about the stuff you’re forgetting.

Anyway, so the theme they’re building this bibliography around is the scholarly and creative output of their own faculty,  This is only a 1-credit class (more on the challenges of doing anything meaningful in a 1 credit class later, I promise) and they don’t have a common research assignment in other classes (or any research assignment, in many cases) so it’s really hard to make it relevant.  I am hoping that this focus will add a note of relevance to a kind of abstract skills-for-skills-sake class.  I am also fascinated by what our faculty are producing and will enjoy what the students find and choose to add in any event.

The full text of the assignment is under the cut.

Zotero Group Bibliography Assignment

This assignment asks you to find, contextualize, critically evaluate and summarize five (5) sources and contribute them to a shared, collaborative bibliography.  We will build this bibliography using Zotero (http://zotero.org).

Why Should English Majors Do This?

Contributing a source to an annotated bibliography is different than using a source in a research paper.  In a research paper, you focus on the part of the source that is most useful to you as you build your own argument.  Annotating a bibliography entry gives you the opportunity to focus on the whole source, understanding its place in the larger academic conversation.

The focus of our bibliography is the scholarly and creative output of the OSU English faculty.  Understanding their scholarly work will help you as you learn from them in classes and on projects.

This project should give you a good working knowledge of Zotero, a tool that allows you to build your own library of useful sources, making it easier to integrate and build upon the work you do in one course in later learning experiences.

General Requirements

Add a minimum of five (5) sources to the class bibliography.

For all of your entries:

  • Add the sources using Zotero, and make sure the metadata is clean and accurate.
  • Use the Tag field to add metadata to the entries (more on tags below).


  • Choose five entries that you believe are the most important, or representative.
  • Use the Note field to add a brief annotation (more on annotations below).

You should submit:

  • At least one book.
  • At least one peer-reviewed journal article or creative piece.
  • At least one review.
  • At least one primary source.
  • At least one additional source.  It can be another example from one of the categories above, or another type of source.

Make sure that your entries have all of the metadata they need to be accurately formatted in MLA style.

There are four due dates you need to be aware of:

  • Unit 1: Scholarly Articles and Sources (due 11/5).  Add at least one (1) annotated source here.
  • Unit 2: Books and Reviews (due 11/17).  Add at least one (1) annotated source here.
  • Unit 3. Primary Sources (due 11/24).  Add at least one (1) annotated source here.
  • 12/1.  Everything must be completed.

Details about the ANNOTATIONS and TAGS


For your five selected sources write an annotation that is at least 2 paragraphs long.  In this annotation you should:
Summarize the major themes of the work.
Describe how this work connects to your faculty member’s research agenda.
Explain why you selected this work – what is notable or important about it, in your view?

Add your annotation to your Zotero entry as a Note.

NOTE:  Keep a copy of your annotations in a text file somewhere just in case the technology fails.  While re-adding a source to Zotero is a simple thing, re-writing your annotations will not be.


For all of your entries, you should add your own metadata by adding tags.  Choose your tags thoughtfully, thinking about findability and organization.

There are two required tags you must use:

  • Your name (Firstname, Lastname).
  • The type of source (monograph, edited book, scholarly journal article, etc.)

Consider also tagging with time period, field (or sub-field) of study, genre, etc.

Details about the SOURCES

At 3 points over the rest of the term, you will add sources to the bibliography, using Zotero.

Part 1.  Scholarly, peer-reviewed and academic articles.
Due: Friday, 11/5

Using the tools demonstrated in class (Google Scholar, JSTOR, MLA International Bibliography, Historical Abstracts, America History and Life and the Arts and Humanities Index), find at least one scholarly article to add to the bibliography.

Do not add the first sources you find.  Make sure that you have searched thoroughly and are selecting the most appropriate sources to add.  Here is a quick guide to help your evaluate and prioritize:

  1. Peer-reviewed, academic articles where your faculty member is an AUTHOR.
  2. Peer-reviewed, creative pieces where your faculty member is an AUTHOR.
  3. Non-peer reviewed pieces published in scholarly, creative or academic journals, where you faculty member is an AUTHOR.
  4. Articles where your faculty member (or their work) is a SUBJECT.
  5. Articles about the field or sub-field in which your faculty member is publishing.

Note:  If you are having trouble finding something appropriate because your faculty member didn’t publish much in this realm – get in touch with me!  Everything here can be tweaked based on your individual faculty member, but I need you to communicate with em to make that happen.

Part 2. Books and Reviews
Due Friday, 11/19

Using the tools demonstrated in class (Google Books, Project Gutenberg, OSU Libraries catalog, and SUMMIT) as well as the tools demonstrated earlier, find at least one book to add to the bibliography.

Do not add the first sources you find.  Make sure that you have searched thoroughly and are selecting the most appropriate sources to add.  Here is a quick guide to help your evaluate and prioritize:

  1. Books or creative works where your faculty member is the main AUTHOR or CREATOR.
  2. Edited works where your faculty member is a CONTRIBUTOR
  3. REVIEWS of books (or other creative works) written or created by your faculty member.
  4. Books or other creative works about your faculty member.
  5. Books about the field or sub-field in which your faculty member is publishing.

Unit 3. Primary Sources or Archives
Due Wednesday, 11/24

Find at least one primary source, or archive of primary sources, relevant to your faculty member’s work.

To evaluate and prioritize:

  1. Primary sources actually used by your faculty member in a scholarly or creative work.
  2. Primary sources useful to a researcher or creator working in your faculty member’s field or subfield.


Create your entries using Zotero.  When you have found a source you want to add, use Zotero to “grab” the metadata for the source and add it to your Zotero library.

Once you have added the source and checked it for accuracy, add it to our class’ Group Library in Zotero.

For more help – there is a tutorial available that will walk you through the steps of adding resources to our Zotero library.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

2 thoughts on “Zotero group bibliography assignment

  1. Pingback: CELT Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s