Best Citation Generator – Ranking 20 Referencing Tools

Writers no longer have to painstakingly document every single source manually. Citation generators allow easy generation of references in different formats in a fraction of the time people used to cite sources by hand. After evaluating the perks and limitations of citation machines I find Citethisforme to be the best citation generator from the list.

1. Citethisforme

On my list of most effective citation generators is Citethisforme. The citation machine was launched in 2010 and is run by Chegg.

Pros

  • Citethisforme has the most extensive citation style options including APA, MLA, Chicago, OSCOLA, Turabian, IEEE, Vancouver, and much more.
  • Accurate referencing styles with minimal errors.
  • Copy + paste option for citations.
  • Using this citation generator is straightforward
  • One can download bibliography to word.
  • Free version allows 15 references, which is almost enough for basic research papers and essays.
  • Automatic copying of in-text citation
  • Premium site does not contain ads.
  • Possible to search for journal articles using their DOIs.
  • Many different source types are permitted
    • Books, journals, pdfs, broadcasts, podcasts, websites, etc

Cons

  • Interface is crowded with ads for free option
  • Some of the ads including Chegg video are intrusive.
  • A maximum of 15 references is bad for long papers such as dissertations that require extensive citation.
  • Copying in-text citation leads to a pop up that must be closed manually.
  • It has a timer. When the seconds run out, you have to create an account to regain your references.
  • Failure to create an account means you will lose your citations by starting a new bibliography.

2. Citefast

Citefast is my go-to citation generator when writing any paper in APA. Even though it has its problems, the designers did an impressive job with the nice interface.

Citefast is older than Citethisforme as it was launched in 2008.

Let’s look at these referencing tool in detail.

Pros

  • Even though it runs ads, the banners are well placed and does not affect user experience.
  • Citefast is completely free.
  • Limitless number of citations. I have gone past 30 references and no subscription was required.
  • Automatic storage of citations after signing up. I can still track the citations I produced in 2015 because I signed up.
  • Citation is more direct and faster.

Cons

  • Lacks Harvard referencing style and several other referencing styles.
  • No citation option for PDF or edited book
  • You can’t use DOI when searching journal articles.

The absence of limit on the number of references one can compile makes Citefast a big yes for me. I place it as the second best citation generator.

3. BibMe

Bibme operates like Citethisforme. It is also a Chegg Service. So, similarities in the citation generators would be expected.

It has fewer referencing styles compared to Citethisforme. Only four citation styles are permitted. These include:

  • APA
  • MLA
  • Turabian and
  • Chicago

The interface is not user friend and it may take a long time for one to familiarize with how it operates.

Students only have 3 days of free trial, which then automatically converts to a monthly membership plan.

The premium version charges $9.95 per month.

Fortunately, its list of items one can search is huge and range from books to emails and live performances.

4. Easybib

Easybib is also managed by Chegg. It was launched in 2001.

Easybib bibliography creator also allows automatic creation of bibliography for all types of academic papers.

The citation machine offers note-taking and research tools too.

Pros

  • A user can save unlimited citations.
  • 22 different types of sources are allowed.
  • Has copy and paste option.
  • Allows export of references to Word, Google Docs, Dropbox, OneDrive and email.

Cons

Unfortunately, you can only get in-text citation in the Pro version.

The user interface is not quite impressive as it is clotted with ads and too much information.

I tried to use the citation tool and got lost in the middle of the website without knowing where to insert the titles I wanted to reference.

5. Citationmachine

Citationmachine.net is also a brilliant tool for arranging references. It is also a Chegg Service and is similar to Bibme and EasyBib.

6. Mybib

The third position in my ranking of best citation generators goes to Mybib.com.

This tool has an interesting and very fast user interface. Creating a citation is only three click away.

I call it the smaller sibling of Citefast.

The only extra advantage it has over citefast is that it offers multiple citation styles other than the common MLA, APA and Chicago.

7. Bibguru

Bibguru is an interesting citation generator that provides different styles for free. However, I find it difficult to navigate the interface.

To get to the citation, one has to make several clicks, which is not good for time-conscious individuals.

8. Google scholar

Whenever I am stuck and do not want to go through the tedious process of searching for references using the citation generator, the most preferred location is Google Scholar.

Using Google Scholar is simple and that is why I place it here as the eight best citation generator.

(i) Type scholar.google.com in your browser.

(ii) Type the title of the citation you want to reference.

(iii) Click on the two quotation marks at the bottom of the source.

(iv) Copy the reference based on your preferred citation style.

The only obvious limitation of Google Scholar is that it does not have some sources. Citing them would be almost impossible.

Also, the only citation styles available are APA, MLA, Harvard, Vancouver, and Chicago.

I would also like to mention the other citation machines that could also be useful.

9. Jabref

10. Bibtex

11. Paperpile

12. Zbib.org

Below are not citation generator but they are citation software that help arrange your references in order. They may require a little bit of technical skills.

Their usefulness and sometimes mandatory use gets them into this list of best citation generators.

13. Zotero

14. Microsoft Word

15. EndNote

16. Citavi

17. Refworks

Other citation generators targeting e-Learning

18. Citelighter

Citelighter calls themselves an award-winning free online bibliography and citation tool. However, I have never used it. 

It has both free and premium options.

19. Docear

Open-source academic literature management and free online bibliography and citation tool with lots of interesting features.

It has an easy-to-use layout and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

It targets mostly those in e-Learning. Docear is completely free.

20. OttoBib

Ottobib is used specifically for book sources. It provides 6 citation styles and has a Google Chrome extension.

How a Citation Generator Works

Citation generators are capable of introducing semantic errors that a researcher may not anticipate.

However they work by running automated programs that arrange a source/reference into a correct format based on pre-coded guidelines. The three-step process is as follows:

  • Citation generator receives information about the source, e.g. book title
  • The information is processed and structured into correct format.
  • The citation machine then displays the output to the user to copy and paste.

How to Use Best Citation Generator Wisely

  1. Cross-check to ensure that the information put in is correct.
  2. Designate the correct medium e.g. journal article, book or website.
  3. Designate the referencing style and edition for each source.
  4. Confirm the information about the source for accuracy e.g. year of publication, page numbers, etc.
  5. Rely on reputable sources. Citation non-reliable sources is a bad referencing practice even if the format is correct.
  6. Observe the way the generator has handled capitalization and formatting.
    • For instance, that there are different rules for capitalizing titles in MLA and APA styles.
    • Different styles handle numbering differently. Some, for instance, require page ranges to include all numbers in the start and end pages (e.g., 267-268), while others allow redundant numbers to be omitted (e.g., 267-8).
  7. Ensure in-text citation is made in a way that makes sense. Bibliographies are not the end of the story when it comes to citations. Citations must also be used in the text to indicate when information is being borrowed from a source.

Final remarks

While it is not always reasonable to memorize the overwhelming specifics of making a correct citation, students need to fully understand the details of what goes into generating proper citation.

Too often, even the best citation generator fails to explain the rules or rationale behind the different citation styles.