Getting to grips with a reference-manager: two problems

April 4, 2013

Because I am preparing this paper from PLOS ONE, with its stupid numbered-references system, I am finally getting to grips with a reference-management system. Specifically, Zotero, which is both free and open source, which means it can’t be taken over by Elsevier.

As a complete Zotero n00b, I’ve run into a few issues that more experienced users will no doubt find laughable. Here are two of them. I need to cite Greg Paul’s classic 1988 paper on the skeletal reconstruction of Giraffatitan:

Paul, Gregory S. 1988. The brachiosaur giants of the Morrison and Tendaguru with a description of a new subgenus, Giraffatitan, and a comparison of the world’s largest dinosaurs. Hunteria 2(3):1-14.

When I render this using Zotero’s PLOS ONE style, it comes out as:

Paul GS (1988) The brachiosaur giants of the Morrison and Tendaguru with a description of a new subgenus, Giraffatitan, and a comparison of the world’s largest dinosaurs. Hunteria 2: 1–14.

So the first problem is, how can I get Giraffatitan to be set in italics?

And the second one, which is arguably more important, is how can I get the issue number included? I undertsand that PLOS ONE referencing style omits the issue-numbers by preference, since they are often redundant, with the pages of each volume being numbered consecutively across volumes. But Hunteria is one of those journals (PaleoBios is another) that resets page-numbers at the start of each issue. As a result, Hunteria volume 2 had at least three page 14s, one in each of its issues, so that issue number is a crucial part of the reference.

Help me, SV-POW! readers — you’re my only hope.

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17 Responses to “Getting to grips with a reference-manager: two problems”


  1. italics: when you enter the reference into zotero, use and . It flip-flops, too, so book titles in italics will have non-italic genus names.

    For Hunteria you need a different style (or you need to edit one), and the style defines if the Issue field gets read and added or not.


  2. aargh!!!!
    Wordpress reads the tags, and doesn’t display them. DOH!

    use and


  3. aaargh! it even reads tags I mis-type!

    <i>

  4. OK, this works :)

    <i> and </i>
  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    I will try that for the italics. I thought I’d tried it already without success, but we’ll see.

    How can you define a style for the journal you’re citing? I thought styles were only for journals you’re writing for? The issue is not that when I write for Hunteria it wants issue-numbers in the references; it’s that whatever journal I’m writing for, citations of Hunteria articles need issue-numbers in the references in order to be unambiguous.


  6. italics work, that’s how I do them.

    If I *know* I will always need the issue number I add it to the volume field:

    VOLUME 21(3)
    ISSUE
    PAGES 21-34

    instead of

    VOLUME 21
    ISSUE 3
    PAGES 21-34

  7. Mike Taylor Says:

    Huh! What an obvious solution to the issue-number problem! Both a neat hack, and a conceptually correct one (if we define “volume” as “unit of publication with consecutive page-numbering”). Thanks!

    On 4 April 2013 10:19, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    New problem: in the Book Section item-type of Zotero, I can’t see anywhere to enter the editors’ names. Am I just being really stupid here?


  9. you see the Author field? On the right end of the line there is the button for a new author. Click that.
    Now click where it say “author” and change to “editor” ;)

  10. Mike Taylor Says:

    Huh! How ridiculous. Thanks for the pointer.

    Next one: one of the articles I cite (“Oklahoma’s native giant”) isn’t in my own library, but in the “Dinosauria” group library. I need to edit it to set the genus name in italics, but I can’t edit it, presumably because it’s not mine. Fair enough. But surely there’s a way to say “make a local copy of this” and then edit that? I can’t find it in the Netscape app.


  11. hm, that’s not as ridiculous as it sounds: all contributors are treated the same and handled together, and then assigned different types.

    copy the article over :) Simply drag the entry to your library that is shown in the top left of the screen. Use the full-tab mode, btw – much easier! icon for that it top right next to the x for closing

  12. Bryan Riolo Says:

    Why not type it in? Or are you going the route of letting a computer do all your work for you? There’s something that actually disturbs me about all this. Think about it…

  13. Mike Taylor Says:

    I’m not following you, Bryan. Of course I want to the computer to do all the tedious, unskilled reference-handling — so I can dedicate my limited time and brainpower to making actual science. What’s disturbing about that?

  14. Matt Wedel Says:

    Why not type it in? Or are you going the route of letting a computer do all your work for you? There’s something that actually disturbs me about all this.

    Why not pull your head out and come to grips with the scope of the problem? In a paper with probably close to 100 references, doing numbered references by hand means that if you insert or delete a single reference, you have to renumber ALL the rest. Reference managers do it for you. Also, a lot of editors are now asking for manuscripts to be submitted with reference formatting handled by a reference manager.

    Think about it…

    We HAVE. Have you?

  15. adam3smith Says:

    Looks like you’re in good hands here. If your helpful commenters can’t answer your questions there is always forums.zotero.org (and typing in references by hand… pfff.)

  16. emanuel Says:

    concerning the editing in the dinosauria group:
    the setting should allow editing for normal members, strange that it did not work for you. the idea behind the group was helping each other with adding and editing references, so we should fix that somehow… maybe we can make all members admins? any suggestions?


  17. Chris has altered settings, Emanual, things should be fine now.


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