07 September 2009

Zotero: How to hide the journal issue number in an APA format reference list

I've been a big fan of Zotero for a long time. I'm currently using version 2.0b6.5, which is wonderful, and the Zotero forums are generally helpful, but there is one problem that I have come across now that I am finishing off the thesis: Zotero by default includes the issue number of a journal in the reference list. Now, I know what you're thinking. Who cares, right? Well, if you're thinking that then you are probably in the wrong place. Thesis examiners, journal reviewers and editors, conference reviewers all care. As an academic, having a properly formatted reference list is of paramount importance. A well-formatted reference list makes a good impression on your reviewer. An incorrectly formatted list... well you get the point.

Zotero is capable of formatting references in a variety of styles. One of the most popular is that of the American Psychological Association (APA), used in psychology and the humanities. According to the 5th edition of the APA Style Manual, "If, and only if, each issue of a journal begins on page 1, give the issue number in parentheses immediately after the volume number" (pp. 227). This means that 95% of the time, the issue number should not appear. So how do you get rid of it?

Well, Zotero has a .csl file for each of its styles, containing code that specifies what information should appear in the reference list and how it should be formatted. To make the issue numbers disappear, you simply remove the code that inserts the issue number into the reference list.

Finding the style file
The style files are located in the Zotero directory, C:\Documents and Settings\YourUserName\Application Data\YourBrowser\Browser\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\zotero\styles\. I have written YourUserName because yours will be different to mine, and YourBrowser because Zotero is compatible with any Firefox-based browser, so for most people this will be Firefox, but for others it will be Flock, and so on.

Removing the issue number
Open the apa.csl file and Find the issue number code and delete it (hint: it's right after the volume number code that you should leave untouched).

Update 18/07/2012: As tends to happen when new versions come out, the advice above will not work for newer versions of Zotero. You still open apa.csl with a text editor, but now find and delete the following text:

"text variable="issue" prefix="(" suffix=")"
on line 310.

Here's one we prepared earlier
To make this easy for those of you who aren't tech savvy, I have made my apa.csl file available for download (compatible with Zotero 3.0.8). Just copy it to your Styles folder and overwrite the existing file.


Joachim said...

Thank you so much! Great work. Just replacing the file works like a charm!!! I had been editing references in zotero...

butters said...

Thank you. The modified apa-style file works great. Unfortunately, recently an update of zotero has created problems with regard to the ordering of surnames like "van Dick", "van Dyne" etc. in the reference list.

Zotero has provided a fix for this problem (replacing the old file by an updated one), that - still or again ;-) - presents the issue (e.g., 77(8)).

I was able to fix the problem manually by deleting one line in the section related to journal articles. This section starts with:

"type="article-journal article-magazine" "

I have deleted the following line:
"text variable="issue" prefix="(" suffix=")"

In doing that the following documentation was very helpful in identifying the crucial section the code:


Mark Antoniou said...

Thanks for the heads up butters. File has been updated.

ec said...

Thank you very much. I managed to modify the style of JACC ( Journal of the American College of Cardiology ) with your advice.

Raj Solanki said...

I am really thankful to author for sharing such an wonderful information.
APA Style Editor