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Legal Citation Management With Zotero

This guide describes how to use Zotero to import, manage, and create citations for Canadian legal information.

How to create a Zotero record for a legal case

The Zotero Connector does not always detect that an online document is a case and therefore it may not grab all of the required citation information. If this happens, you will have to manually create or edit the Zotero record yourself. 

To manually create a new record in your Zotero library, click the green New Item icon  and select 'Case' from the drop-down menu. If you do not see 'Case' right away, click 'More', as shown below:

Screen shot of Zotero Library with Add Item icon highlighted.

The case template in Zotero lacks certain fields that are critical for Canadian legal citation. As a result, some workarounds are necessary.

First, the McGill Guide requires that when there is a neutral citation available, it must be used as the primary citation for a case. However, the Zotero case template lacks a space for a neutral citation. Therefore, one of the other fields in the case template must be repurposed. We recommend typing the neutral citation into the 'Court' field and deleting any information in the 'Date Decided', 'Reporter', 'Reporter Volume' and 'Page' fields (see example below). This will produce a properly formated citation in the resulting bibliography or footnote. 

Screen shot of Zotero case template

If the case does not have a neutral citation, then the McGill Guide recommends that a CanLII citation (if available) should be used as the primary citation. You can use the same process for cases with neutral citations as described above, except instead of typing the neutral citation into the 'Court' field, you can enter the CanLII citation. Note that you may type the full CanLII citation ino the 'Court' field, including the court abbreviation in parentheses at the end of the citation (see example below).

Screen shot of Zotero case template

Finally, if the case you are citing has neither a neutral citation nor a CanLII citation, then you may use another source as your main citation. The Zotero case template can accommodate the biliographic information for one print law reporter citation, as shown in the example below (notice how the 'Date Decided', 'Reporter', 'Reporter Volume', and 'First Page' fields are all filled in). Please note that despite the availability of some fields for print law reporter information in the Zotero case template, Zotero still may not be able to generate a correctly formatted case citation from this information (for example, if the date of the decision is different from the date of the law reporter). Therefore, you may may need to make further manual edits to the citation that Zotero generates in a resulting footnote or bibliography. See Fixing a Mistake in a Citation for further instructions.

Screen shot of item record in Zotero library.

In some situations, the McGill Guide requires the use of a second parallel citation to accompany the main citation. The Zotero case template does not include space for a parallel citation. If a parallel citation is required, we recommend saving the parallel citation into a Note that is attached to the Zotero record for the case (see example below). When it comes time for Zotero to generate a citation for this case within a footnote or bibliography, you can copy the parallel citation and paste it directly into the Zotero-generated citation. See Fixing Mistake in a Citation for further instructions.

Screen shot of Zotero Notes