“Be sure to cite your sources.” “Give credit where credit is due.” “Don’t plagiarize.” It’s possible all teachers have said these things to students. But what do those directives mean to students who, in all reality, haven’t had to do much citing? What does it even mean to cite your sources? The first step in the process is for students to understand the purpose and importance of citations. We found this great resource outlining that information from The Write Direction.
One of the co-authors of this piece, Jessica Steege, is a middle school writing teacher. In her first year of teaching she did her best to explain the importance of citing her work. But somewhere along the way, the message got lost. When a student turned in a research project citing just one source—www.google.com – she felt defeated and wondered where she’d gone wrong.
She realized that teaching citations from a “handbook,” especially one that would quickly become outdated, wasn’t the best way to teach her tech savvy students. So she turned to electronic resources.
The Internet offers an abundance of online citation tools, from the extremely easy to use, to ones that require more research on the part of the user. We’d suggest teaching students about a few tools and let them decide which one to use to help them successfully cite their research.
Check out these 8 tech tools that will make citations and bibliographies manageable for students at any level.
Easybib is great to use with students because the site doesn’t require you to create an account, but if you do, it will store all your projects in one place, and you can add to it over time–if you are using MLA. Using Chicago or APA style citation requires a paid account. When you enter a book title on the site, many citation options come up and you simply choose one. It’s a very intuitive tool, and there are lots of cues along the way to help you out. EasyBib also offers an app for iOS and Android for citing sources on the go, and although the app is not connected to your account, it makes it easy to email the proper citations to yourself. This site is best for students who are new to citing sources in MLA format because it’s hard to mess up the entry!
Another user-friendly citation tool is BibMe; it works with many source and formatting types. Once again, you type in the title of the source material, and pick the correct one from a list of options. You can copy and paste the generated citations right away, but you can’t save bibliographies unless you pay for a Pro account. BibMe is great if you are prepared to copy and paste your work into another document while using the site. The site is best for students who are at least familiar with bibliographies, as they still might require some guidance.
OttoBib creates citations from ISBNs. Users can enter more than one ISBN at a time. It also comes a simple Google Chrome extension. Although the site is super easy to use, there are a few downfalls. It’s only good for books with clearly visible ISBNs. OttoBib is best for students only using books for their sources.
Parenthetical citations can be tricky. Citation Machine simplifies such citations with just a click of a button. Researchers can type in the name of their source and pick one from a list that matches what they need. The only downside is that you can’t create an account, so you have to copy and paste your citation while using the site. Citation Machine is best for students who have all their sources ready to go– they can put all of the entries in at once and save or print right away.
Big, colorful buttons makes this site very easy to use. You can “auto cite” if you have the full title of the source, or you can manually add a source. Without signing up for an account, your bibliography will be saved for a week before it disappears. A paid account will also let you check for plagiarism. This site also features a “share with group” button for group projects. A Google Chrome extension is available, if that’s your thing. This site is great for teachers who want to show their students an easy way to cite their work.
CiteFast is, indeed, fast. It’s also simple to use. Without leaving the homepage, students can cite works in APA, MLA, and Chicago style. The website walks you through two steps and creates the bibliography in the third step. The fourth step allows you to copy and paste the bibliography or to download it. Students can also create an account to save their bibliographies. Otherwise, documents will be saved for four days. CiteFast is best for students who are first-time bibliography writers.
On the upside, Google Docs templates are free, and many students are probably already using Google Docs for their writing. However, this method will require more work for you and your students. Some of the templates are charts that students can use to gather the correct information, and others are examples of bibliographies that others have compiled. If you have students find their own template, you might need to check first that they have selected the proper style. The Google Docs templates are best for teachers who want students to really learn the nuts and bolts of compiling a bibliography.
This site offers encyclopedic information on citations, helping students reference video clips, maps, musical scores, and nearly everything else. Some of the features require a subscription, which also comes with iOS and Android apps. But students can create individual citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago style for free and then paste those into their documents. As students fill in each field to create a citation, NoodleTools provides windows with more guidance. NoodleTools is best for students using unconventional sources.
All students need to know how to properly cite their sources. Each website or tool offers a variety of help and accommodations. Some sites will do most of the work for student while others require a little more understanding of the citation process. It’s important to tell students to cite everything. You may want to consider using one of the plagiarism detection tools that are available to show students how their work can be verified.
The tool that will work best for your students depends on what they’ll be researching and what format fits their research. Whatever the case, citing sources is a lesson students will continue to use in college and beyond.
Editor’s note: This article was originally written by Katie Lepi and ran on November 5th, 2012. We had two of our seasoned writers, Jessica Steege and Sarah Muthler, revise and update this article with all of the latest and greatest tools that have been developed since then.