February 4, 2014

Using Citation Generators for Research

This may not be a popular opinion among ELA teachers, but I don't think it's necessary for students to learn how to write bibliographies by hand. When I first began teaching, I did this, and it was nothing but a huge headache for me. I don't recall ever creating a Works Cited page until my junior research paper, so teaching it to middle school students (who still can't punctuate a regular sentence correctly), is frustrating. I believe firmly that here in the 21st Century, students will forever have access to the abundant websites that construct Works Cited pages for them, so there's no reason for them to learn how to do this manually (at least not in middle school).

I do, however, feel responsible for teaching them how to use these websites effectively. The computer, as they say, is only as smart as it's user, after all.

My personal favorite bibliographic website is Easy Bib. It's cheap (free for MLA), allows you to search through an existing database of citations, and really takes out the intimidation-factor.

When you first load the page, you will see this:

My favorite feature of this website is that you can simply select the type of source you're using (from 59 options) and search for the title or author in that search bar. The site will then give you a list of possible citations. Of course, it doesn't include everything in the world, but it's a great place to start. Here's an example of my website results for "Emmett Till" just to give you an idea:

If you're searching for a book, it's even easier because you can just throw in the ISBN. It's really that simple!

After you select your source, you will have the option to confirm the information in the citation. This is an important step because there may be missing or wrong information. What I like, though, is that it shows students exactly what information is being used in the citation. It's easier for them to confirm and modify than to create from scratch. 

Once you create your citation, you have the option of going back and adding more sources. It will even sort your sources into an alphabetical list for you and allow you to export the entire Works Cited to Word (or you can print from the website directly). 

I'm curious to know how the rest of you tackle citations during your research units. Do you teach your students how to write these by hand, or do you allow them to use web resources? What other sites are you using with your students?


  1. I teach Easy Bib. You are correct. It is uneccesary to teach citation when they will use a citation generator.

    Miss A's Planning

  2. I'm all for anything that makes life easier. Easy Bib looks like it does just that! XO
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. We just finished a research unit using Noodle Tools (dot com) and it is AWESOME!!! In addition to copying and pasting the premade citations from the Biography in Context database, the kids did note cards and their outline in Noodle. They shared them with me, so I have access to it, too. They wrote their papers in Collab (Google Docs) which is where we grade their writing. We are working hard on integrating tech & it's been great for student writing. I'll write more tomorrow in my Thursday Throwdown :) Michelle from Happy in the Middle