Skip to Main Content
Return to Library Homepage

How to Use Citation Generators Responsibly: Home

What Do We Mean By Citation Generators?

Citation generators include anything that offers to create a citation for you.  Publicly available ones include Citation Machine, EasyBib, Zotero, BibMe, NoodleTools, Scribbr, and more.  Microsoft Word and Word for Mac also have the ability to create citations.

Fox Hunt and Library databases also offer citations for your sources.

This guide is designed to help you better understand how these work, how to use them more responsibly, and how to correct the mistakes they make.

How Citation Generators Work

Citation generators create a citation based upon the information that is input into them.  This can be done one of two ways by those generators that are publicly available

  1. Typed in/Copied in by you
  2. Transferred in by giving the generator a URL 

This information is then matched to a field in the citation style and the generator applies the citation style's format.  They do not correct the information so if something is in all capital letters, it will remain in all capital letters.  If you leave out information or don't put something in the correct field, it will not correct it.  It is relying on you or the website to give it the correct information.

In Fox Hunt and Library Databases, the citation is created for the individual source, but again you are relying on the person or computer that entered the information into Fox Hunt and the Library databases to have done it correctly, which is not always the case.

Tips for Using Citation Generators Responsibility

Checking off things in a check box

  1. Make sure the information you put into the generator is correct. (ex. spelling, capitalization)
  2. Make sure you know what the citation generator is asking for and that you are inputting the correct information. (ex. volume number, issue number, etc.)
  3. Make sure you know what type of source you are working with. (ex. sometimes citation generators will make assumptions about a source that you will have to override such as categorizing an online news source as a website when it should be cited differently because it's a news article.) For help, check out the Library's page 
  1. Double-check your citation against an example to make sure it looks correct. You can find examples on the Library's page linked below.
  1. Make sure to use good sources, to begin with. You can cite anything, but that doesn't mean you are citing a source that will be accepted by your professor as a good source of information. Check to make sure the information is coming from a reliable source. If you have questions about this, you can always ask your professor, librarian, or check out these Help & How To pages: 

Common Errors in Citations from Citation Generators

While these are useful tools to get started with your citations, it is important to check that these are correct as none of them are always 100% accurate.  Common errors found in citations from these generators include:

  • Miscapitlization of information
    • Can be either over or under capitalizing
  • Citing a source as the wrong type of source
    • Many of sources get cited as webpages when they are not. for example, newspapers may be found through the internet, but they are still newspapers not webpages
  • Leaving out information 
  • Inclusion of information that is unnecessary
    • For example,
      • Including newspaper date ranges from library databases as part of the newspaper title, ex: New York Times (1851-2012) 
      • When both a publisher and name for a website are required, putting the same name twice, ex: WebMD,
      • If no named author, creating a name, ex: Reporters, Telegraph

Get Help

Get Help

Have an idea for a tutorial that we should make next? Let us know!