Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WotW: Simplify Citation with EasyBib

When I was a freshman in college, the thing that was more difficult than anything else to me was trying to figure out how to correctly cite sources in research papers. I would spend hours looking at the MLA guide trying to decipher what all that gibberish meant and the only thought that kept going through my mind was, "This is an awful lot of nitpicky work to say, 'I read it here.'"

Unfortunately, my personal opinions have little bearing in the world of academia and citation remains a bedrock of sleepless nights. Until now.

I'd like to introduce you to an amazing tool called EasyBib (, a website that facilitates your ability to cite whatever it is you're researching with just a few clicks of the mouse and keyboard.

At first glance, EasyBib looks like a complicated search engine and it does indeed have some great search features. To get started, you should choose what type of source you're going to be citing. If you look above the search bar, you'll notice some tabs that allow you to select the type of source you'll be using.

Let's say my teacher assigned me to write a research paper about influential economists and I decide to write about Frederic Bastiat. I do some research and find a website that has a nice biography and I want to cite it. 

I simply copy the URL from the website and paste it into the search bar on EasyBib and press Cite this.

After thinking for a second or two, a review page will pop up and EasyBib will show you what it was able to fill in just from the limited information you gave it. Here you have a chance to review and make any changes. Sometimes EasyBib gets everything for you and other times you'll find yourself having to fill in some gaps, but even then it's not so bad because it provides all the fields you need to look for, which is half the battle with citation.

For this particular article, I make a few changes: adding an author, changing the website title and publisher. It takes me all of 30 seconds to do that. Once everything is just how I want it, I press Create Citation and...

Viola! A citation for that website in MLA format is presented to me. I didn't have to worry about formatting, where to place all the stupid periods or anything.

But it gets better. Most research papers involve multiple sources and EasyBib can handle that. Let's try it again, this time with a book. In my research I decide to quote from a book by Bastiat titled The Law. EasyBib has an ever-expanding catalog of books, so I click on the book tab above the search bar and type The Law as my search term.

A few results are presented to me. 

I select the most pertinent choice and again am taken to a review page where I'm given the opportunity to make any needed changes. Once again, I press Create Citation and my results are shown.

If I scroll down beneath the results, I'm greeted by an even more wonderful creation: a running bibliography. 

Not only does EasyBib simplify the citation process, but it will build a simple Works Cited page for you that you can either copy and paste out or even download as a Word file.

I didn't know about this website until about a year ago and wish I had known about it when I was in college. But while I may not have much use for it anymore, hopefully many of you out there will find it helpful for you and/or your children.
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