The Best Bibliography Tools for Students
One of the most challenging parts of writing a research assignment is giving credit for the sources that you use in your paper.
Typically, your instructor will specify the editorial style that he or she requires you to use for your document: commonly-used editorial styles include APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago Manual of Style, and Bluebook. An editorial style not only dictates the format of a document (margins, font, paragraph indentations), but also the appropriate use and credit of external resources, such as websites and journal articles.
Using an editorial style can get pretty confusing when you are using several types of sources. Each source may require slightly different information, formatted in a specific manner and order. While style guides are typically available in your library or local bookstore, there are great websites that will also help you with your formatting.
Check out some of the free or nearly-free tools listed below to help you get your research & writing underway:
This free tool helps you cite sources in MLA, APA, or Turabian style. Select your style, then the type of resource that you need to cite, and follow the prompts to fill in the information about that source. Or, type in the ISBN of a print book and Citation Machine will auto-fill the bibliographic information. Then, click on “Make Citation” to create the citation for your Works Cited or References page, as well as examples of your in-text citations, endnotes and footnotes. Once generated, you can copy those citations directly into your paper.
Noodlebib Express helps you create citations in MLA, APA, or Chicago/Turabian style. Select your style, resource, and then follow the prompts to fill in the needed information & generate your citation. For $8, purchase a one-year subscription to save your citations in a project folder and generate formatted Works Cited/References pages on demand.
Zotero defines itself as a “complete research assistant”, and it is as close as you can get in a free tool. Unlike most popular bibliographic software, Zotero is a plugin for the Firefox internet browser (although Zotero Alpha – a standalone product – is in public testing right now). Use Zotero to capture the sources and sites that you have visited, take notes on those sources, and then format in most editorial styles. Zotero integrates with Word and Open Office. If you are using Zotero on multiple computers, you can sync your work from one computer to another and collaborate with other students using Zotero on group projects.
PERRLA is a stand-alone bibliographic software that works on both Microsoft™ Windows (PC) and Mac platforms. Once downloaded (one license can be used on up to three computers), follow the prompts to format your research paper margins, title page, and citations. PERRLA preserves your resources in a database so that you can use them on future assignments without having to retype your data. A single license that includes both MLA and APA (Chicago style is not available) costs $49.95.
While this list is intended to identify some of the more popular and well-respected bibliographic tools, there are certainly other options available for free or at cost. Remember to check with your academic librarian to see if the library offers a tool through their services or recommends one over another.