Citations are an essential component of any academic paper, no matter how much of a pain they can be to compile. Not only do citations help your readers locate the original sources of your ideas, but they also help you avoid plagiarism. Fortunately, there is a way to easily gather citations and format them in the proper style: with what’s known as a citation generator.
Citation generators (also known as digital citation tools or bibliography sites) are digital tools that compile and format citations for you. Just paste or type in the URL, title, author or other identifying information (e.g., ISBN) for the source you want to cite, and the citation generator formats it for you in your preferred style.
Digital citation tools come in mainly two forms: web-based tools or browser extensions. They come in a range of price points, from free bibliography sites that put all your citations on a clipboard to premium versions offering advanced features like plagiarism detection. The best citation generators offer support for APA, MLA, Chicago, and other common styles, while some offer support for thousands (yes, there are literally thousands!) other citation styles.
To help you with your search, we compiled this list of the 10 best citation generators in 2021:
Zotero’s free software for Windows, Mac, and Linux helps you collect, organize, cite and share research. Although Zotero requires a download, it’s technically an online bibliography tool because it automatically senses and cites research you find on the web. Let’s say you want to cite an article from JSTOR, a news story from an online newspaper, or a book from a digital library. Just click your Zotero browser extension to export the citation to your Zotero software. Best of all, Zotero can synchronize your data across devices–keeping your notes, files, and bibliographic records up to date.
ZoteroBib, a separate service belonging to Zotero, is the best web-based bibliography maker, mainly because of its simplicity. This web-based citation generator helps you build your bibliography instantly from a computer or device, without having to create an account or download software. Simply go to the ZoteroBib homepage, type or paste the book’s URL, title, or ID (ISBN, DOI, PMID, or arXiv ID) and the book will automatically be added to a clipboard on the page. Once you’re done, you can copy all the citations from the page, export them in a range of formats (RTF, HTML, RIS, BibTeX), or save them to the Zotero Connector (requires a download). It really couldn’t be simpler.
BibMe, part of ed-tech giant Chegg, is a freemium web-based citation generator. If all you need is to compile bibliographies, then the free version will serve you just fine. Like all good free bibliography sites, BibMe doesn’t require any registration or downloads. It’s not quite as user-friendly as ZoteroBib. However, the premium version does offer features not found in other citation websites, such as recommended improvements to writing style and sentence structure as well as checks for missing citations and unintentional plagiarism.
EasyBib is the second Chegg website to feature on our list. The free version is pretty much the same as BibMe, but the premium versions are different–hence the separate entry. EasyBib Plus ($9.95/month), gives you unlimited grammar checks, unlimited plagiarism detection, and expert help on up to 15 papers a per month. Easy Big Plus & Chegg Study Pack ($19.95/month) provides all the aforementioned features plus millions of textbook solutions, practice problems and video solutions, and Chegg’s instant math solver.