07 September 2009

Zotero: Book titles are capitalised in my APA reference list when they shouldn't be! Fix it

As I've mentioned before, I am a big fan of Zotero. It is one of those pieces of software that you love more and more the more you use it. I've already shown you how to remove the issue number from appearing in your APA reference list. In this post, we're going to tackle incorrect capitalisation in book titles. The APA Publication Manual specifies that book titles should be sentence case and in italics.

Most of the time, Zotero handles this without a hitch. But sometimes, the title of a book Appears In Capitals, which is not consistent with APA formatting. Why does this occur? Well, there are a few potential reasons, and rather than going through them all, I will instead share with you my foolproof method for making sure that book titles display the way that they should. Always.

Let's start at the beginning
First things first. When importing a reference into Zotero, format it so that the capitalisation is correct. Zotero is a clever program, but it does not know if any words within a book title should be capitalised, for example, the name of a country, a language, or a word following a colon. Here's an example that has all of these:

Haugen, E. (1953). The Norwegian language in America: A study in bilingual behavior. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

As you can see, four words need to be capitalised: The, Norwegian, America, A. But when I imported this into Zotero from an online database, all of the words were capitalised. We need to fix this so that only the necessary words are capitalised. You can (a) go through and do it by hand, or (b) right-click on the book title in Zotero and select Transform Text | lowercase.

Now, all of the text will be in lowercase. Simply go through and capitalise the appropriate words manually. Easy.

When you cite Haugen's book in text, the full reference will appear in your reference list with the appropriate capitalisation. But, some people have complained in the Zotero forums that every word in the book title is capitalised in the reference list, even when they have manually corrected the capitalisation within Zotero.

Now, there might be more than one reason for this, but I have only come across one so far. When entering citations into a document, the reference will normally occur within parentheses at the end of a sentence.

For example, there are Norwegian bilinguals in America (Haugen, 1953).

This usage will not cause Zotero (and you) too many headaches. But sometimes, you will add some information within the parentheses because you have not gone into all of the details in your own writing.

For example, The number of Norwegian bilinguals in America is increasing (see Haugen, 1953).

The potential problem here is how you insert the word see, or any prefix for that matter. The wrong way to do this is to click Show Editor and to manually add the text.
The wrong way

Using the editor to insert the word see in this way may result in capitalised text in your book title in the reference list. Instead, what you should do is click on the Prefix field and type in the word see there.
The right way

If you want to type (see Haugen, 1953 for an excellent review), then you would enter see as the Prefix and for an excellent review as the Suffix. This will make sure that the book title in the reference list will be capitalised as you intended.

Easy, no?

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.