The Secret Tricks of Academic Referencing

By Lee Raye, Tutor, ADL Online Education on April 20, 2016 in Job Interviews & Study Tips | comments
In the last post we learned how to reference manually. The trouble is, humans find this difficult; it is so easy to skip commas or forget to italicise when you have a long List of References.Computers, on the other hand, find referencing easy. Today, I’m going to show you two ways to hijack computer power and reference sources automatically.

Secret Trick #1: Citation Generating Websites

There are a few free websites which can automatically generate references. My favourite of these is CiteThisForMe, but others like EasyBib and CitationMachine work in a similar way.With websites like these, you search for the source you want to cite. Once you’ve found it, you can copy and paste a citation into your essay or assignment. It’s as easy as that!

There are a couple of small problems with these websites. First, only the basic functionality is free, which means there can be lots of advertising. Second, because the websites work from basic catalogues, they sometimes miss required information like publication date and city.



Image shows a screenshot from CiteThisForMe.


Secret Trick #2: Referencing Software

Serious academics prefer a more serious solution. Reference management programs are downloadable pieces of software. To use them, you import “metadata”. This is information about your source like the title and author which is put into computer code by catalogues. You can also add personal notes describing each source.

Once you’ve downloaded and checked the metadata, citing is easy. A “citation” button is added to your word processor. With that you can search through your personal library to find the correct source and automatically generate a correct citation. At the end of the document you can create an automatic bibliography of all the sources which have been cited in that document.



The Mendeley plugin on Microsoft Word.

The reference management program available in most universities is EndNote. However, if you are not affiliated with a university, EndNote is expensive. Two competitors, Mendeley and Zotero work just as well and are free to download and use.

The software trick is usually more reliable than the website trick, because the metadata can be more easily checked and altered. However, this solution does still have some problems. Most importantly, it takes some manual work to populate your library with all the metadata for your sources, so this approach only really saves time if you cite the same sources frequently.


More Help

If you are reading this, you are probably looking for help with academic research. Here at ADL we offer distance-learning modules to develop your research skills and have expert tutors ready to comment on your work. Contact us to find out more!