Zotero is a free citation manager from the Center for History and New Media. Zotero makes it easy to capture bibliographic records of your research sources, store them in a database for future retrieval, share them with others, and generate bibliographies, all without having to deal with cumbersome citation rules. Once you integrate Zotero into your writing process, you can even use it to automatically reformat a project from one citation style to another.
Install Zotero to your computer from the Zotero downloads page. From here you can also install the Zotero Connector for your web browser, a very handy feature. You will probably also want to install the plugin for your word processor.
Once Zotero is installed, you can follow their easy quick start guide to understand collecting and organizing references. However, for Zotero to really be effective, you have to get used to making it a part of your research and writing process. Here are some tips that should help with that.
First, get into the habit of creating collections to organize your research sources as you go. Create a collection with the create collection button on the extreme left of the main Zotero toolbar (the icon looks like a yellow folder with a small green plus sign). When I was writing my dissertation, I used one collection for each of my chapters. You may want to create a new collection for each new piece you write, course you take, or research project.
As you do your research, Zotero will often be able to save reference information about your sources automatically. When Zotero is able to do this, it displays a Save to Zotero capture icon to the right of your browser’s address bar. Zotero will save references to your Library, then you can select the collection you want to sort your references into.
Right click on an existing collection, and you can Create a Bibliography. The Citation Style manager will allow you to select a common style such as MLA, or a more specialized style required by a publisher or organization, and save your bibliography, copy, export, or print it.