If you are a high school or college student, you have undoubtedly been asked to use citations for your sources and to create a bibliography for your paper. This is not an easy task. It can be challenging to keep track of all the different formats and places to find information. Using a citation manager or citation builder will save you considerable time, freeing up more time for the actual writing of the paper. They will also reduce the number of errors.
So what are citation managers and citation builders? Which one do you need?
Citation managers store, organize and retrieve information for books, articles, websites, etc. You can also add abstracts, keywords, and other functions to make creating your paper more efficient. They also work with word processing software to insert your citations properly and create a bibliography.
Citation managers are actual software programs that need to be downloaded to work on your computer.
Citation managers are more time-consuming than citation builders but are best when you need to handle many complex citations. They are also great time savers when it comes to creating the bibliography and inserting it directly into your document in a word processor. Citation managers are best for college students and researchers who do a large number of papers requiring citations.
Examples of citation managers include the following.
Zotero is one popular option for managing your citations and sources. After downloading the software, you can sync your data with an online account. It works with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera browsers.
It’s free for a basic account, but you will need to upgrade if you want more online storage than the 100MB it provides free. Zotero integrates not only with Microsoft Word and Open Office but with Google Docs as well.
A unique feature of Zotero is the ability to save snapshots of webpages and annotate them. You can also scan the barcode of a book and have the information directly added to your sources.
Mendeley is a free software that has close to 1200 different citation styles built into its software.
It is not primarily a web-based app, but you can securely access your account from your computer, web browser, or even a mobile app. Your library is backed up in the cloud.
With Mendeley, you get 1GB of online data for your personal work and up to 100MB of data for work you are doing collaboratively. You can also share documents to a private group of up to three colleagues and annotate them together. There is also the option of public groups as part of the basic version.
EndNote Desktop is the only citation manager to offer spellcheck as part of their package. It also gives you unlimited cloud storage.
EndNote Desktop is an individual purchase, but Basic is offered through many universities for free.
Citation builders are free sites online where you can quickly create citations and bibliographies, but they do not allow you to save them. Nor are these sites able to integrate with your word processing software.
These citation builders work just fine if you are in a hurry and have just a limited number of citations to create. They would work well for high school students when writing an occasional research paper.
Here are a few citation builders that will meet the needs of most users who don’t need all of the features in citation managers.
Citefast is a free, online citation builder that supports APA, Chicago, and MLA8 with an option for MLA7.
This app supports multiple sources with both automatic and manual citation generation options.
It allows you to save and export citations that you create. Be careful, though, because if you use the free version, it deletes your citations after four days of inactivity.
The Bibme citation builder has a free version, or you can get the pro version for $9.95 a month.
Like most online citation builders, Bibme supports various popular formats. What it offers that most others don’t is a grammar and plagiarism checker, and it offers help with style mechanics. Unlike other apps of its type, it can generate citations for Tweets in MLA, APA and Wikipedia styles.
There are more citation builders on the Web that you can easily find by Googling.
If you are someone who does a lot of research and creates bibliographies often, you’ll want to look into a Citation Manager. For most students, especially those in high school, the builders will probably be sufficient. Either way, those of us who had to do it by hand in college are jealous of the simplicity these tools bring to today’s students.