I know many students dread writing to begin with, and writing academic papers adds one more layer of frustration with the need for citations. Even I, who love writing, remember hating having to find the names of writers, titles of books and articles, page numbers, years of publications and other minutia that then, had to be arranged in a certain order. To this day, I still pull out a handbook to make sure that I am doing it correctly.
One advantage that a modern student has is the on-line MLA Citation generator; a simple web tool that asks for information about the source being cited and then arranges the details into the proper MLA formatting. If you prefer APA or Chicago style, you can choose those options as well. Listen, it’s time that analog luddites accept that there are certain things that digital tools can do better and faster than people, and I tend to encourage adopting use of these tools. Sure I can divide 13,583 by 81 on paper in about 45 seconds or I can use my calculator to figure it out in 5 seconds. (By the way I think it’s most important that you can actually do the long division on paper BEFORE you turn to the calculator – I’m still a little analog). Here then, is a short list, with brief commentary, of these handy, free to use MLA Citation tools. I recommend that teachers and students try out the various sites and judge for themselves which one best fits their needs.
Citation Center is very straightforward and easy to use, though it is limited in the kinds of sources it will format. Missing are choices for various kinds of media such as podcasts, videos, and audio. The simplest of all the websites I review here, I would only use Citation Center if all my references were traditional sources such as newspapers, magazines and books.
NoodleBib express is a reliable, yet “clunky” program. Rather than using pop down menus on a single page or form, NoodleBib leads you through a series of detailed questions about the source you are trying to cite. To proceed you must hit a next button several times which automatically refreshes the page and leads you to the next question. While this is time consuming, it does guarantee the accuracy of your citation. Each citation is independently generated and NoodleBib Express does not allow you to save a series of sources. Instead, you must CUT and PASTE each citation to an open document in a word processor.
Son of Citation Machine, like the previous website, is also clunky and imperfect, but it gets the job done. Here, too, you must CUT and PASTE each citation to an open document in a word processor. Easy to use and understand, with options for different types of information sources.
Easy Bib is a citation generator site that I have recommended in the past to students and teachers. It has been around for a while, so I trust that they have slowly improved their usability and accuracy. While EasyBib does allow you to generate multiple citations, you must download a file to your computer, and it’s only available as a Word file. While I am always wary of downloading anything unnecessary to my computer, my personal experience has been that Easy Bib is fairly safe and comes highly recommended by other reliable sites.
I can hear the purists out there complaining that this is just one more sign of the apocalypse. I don’t agree. While citation generators are not perfect tools, they do make the job of properly formatting referenced works easier. Even though the formatting is done for you, the user must still collect and input the author’s name, the title of the work, the publishers information, the date of publication and so on. Students still learn the value of citing their references, without the unnecessary stress of knowing where the page number and publisher’s name is supposed to go. To avoid all of this hassle, I recommend academic users such as teachers and students to turn to subscription databases for their information. Most subscription sites such as e-library, EBSCO host and InfoTrac provide the citation information with each article, ready to be cut and pasted into any bibliography or works cited page.
Hope you find something useful and thank you for reading.
Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved