Three reasons to create citations without an online generator

by Meredith Hamilton

You’ve spent two weeks writing and editing your paper and compiling your citations on NoodleBib only to receive your paper back with red slashes through your Works Cited page and a less than ideal grade. You thought NoodleBib was foolproof. Unfortunately, online generators are never one hundred percent accurate—even the ones provided by the database where you found your article. Here are three reasons to start writing your citations yourself:


  1. You learn more. If you’re used to relying on an online generator to create citations, then you likely don’t understand why one style is ordered differently from another, why a certain style calls for commas over periods, or why the title of the journal is in quotations or italics. There are actually well–thought-out reasons for all of these things!


  1. It’s faster. It really is! Once you’ve mastered creating citations in your desired style (MLA, Chicago, APA, etc.) you don’t have to waste time plugging them all into an online form. When you’re first starting out I recommend using Purdue Owl to check yourself. This can slow down the process a little, but you’ll be a citation-making machine before you know it.


  1. Your future job may require it. Citations aren’t just a “college thing—” they’re a life thing. If you have any interest in pursuing a graduate degree or a career in academia, then you will still need to know how to cite in a specific style. When you create your own citations you demonstrate a mastery and understanding of them. Be this person!


So there you go, you should create your own citations because you learn more, it’s faster, and because citations aren’t just a “college thing.” Although the task may seem tedious, it’s simply a process of weaning yourself off of the online generator. Begin by using Purdue Owl or stop by the CTL or tutor café for help on citation styles. Happy citing!

Meredith is a senior majoring in English and political science. One of her favorite college experiences has been studying abroad in England and Spain. 

1 thought on “Three reasons to create citations without an online generator

  1. Lovely thinking, Meredith! Nice that you recognize the limitations of “auto” vs. thinking. By entering citation elements into a form you can still stimulate that thinking process: “Is there an author – and who is s/he?” or “Why can’t I find a current date?” while getting the pop-up help you need to remember the style’s conventions about these elements.

    1. The differences among styles have less to do with commas and italics and more to do with the way people who use that style think and what they believe is important, for example:

    – the placement of information: the date is up front in APA because currency matters in sciences
    – what elements are required: name of the website is not included for APA when it’s obvious from the URL or author, while MLA often wants “container” information explicitly stated.

    2. Rather than use a “secondary source” like OWL, go right to the MLA Style Center , the APA style support and blog or the Bluebook and the Chicago Manuals and help online. You’re getting the primary, accurate and complete information. That’s what we do at NoodleTools to keep up-to-date with style changes.

    3. I think about citation “mastery” as being:
    – evidence that your reference list includes the key players in the topic you’re discussing
    – ability to orchestrate the conversation among those sources and add your own voice
    – you ability to evaluate the strength of evidence based on the discipline in which you’re working (e.g., a scientist vs. a literary critic use different forms of evidence and place different weights on certain types of evidence)

    Best wishes in your future research challenges – hope you’ll continue to be thoughtful, ask good questions and create a compelling argument, as you’ve done here!

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