Free Online Tools to Cite Sources and Format References for Your Paper

Free Online Tools to Format Your Paper in APA Style, MLA Style, and Chicago Manual of Style

These free tools will help you cite, format and organize your references in APA Style, MLA Style or Chicago/Turabian Style, as well as automatically create your Bibliography page, Works Cited Page or References List page.

No matter what type of paper you're writing (i.e. dissertation, thesis, or research paper), your teacher or publisher will request that you follow specific guidelines based on one of the above styles. Each style has numerous rules for citing and formatting different sources, such as books, newspapers, websites, journals, and so on. Referencing an article or a journal has a different format than referencing an article or a magazine. A journal article with more than six authors has a different format than a journal article with five authors. Different formats also exist between online and offline sources.

It's difficult to know what information to collect for citing a source, and then deciding how to format that source without having to consult a handbook or style guide. Even consulting a style book is confusing because you don't know where to look or which example to use for your specific source.

A more troublesome task is creating your paper's Bibliography page—the last page of your paper that lists all your sources. You must know correct margins, paragraph indention, font size and typeface, and how to list each source.

So how do you remember all of these rules? Do what most writers, students and publishers do: use one of these free tools. Each one handles the tedious tasks of citing, formatting, and laying out your references on a Bibliography page. You can worry less about the formatting, and focus more on the writing.

(Note: for simplicity I will refer to MLA's Works Cited page and APA's References page as a Bibliography page.)

Citation Tool #1:
Build Your "Works Cited" Page Quickly and Easily - MLA, APA, Chicago or Turabian Styles

Use this tool for free:

Citation Tool #1:

BibMe is my favorite citation creator because it will automatically find the sources that you are using in your paper and will import the necessary data to cite and format a reference. BibMe supports all styles: APA style, MLA style and Chicago and Turabian styles.

BibMe has seven tabs from which you can select the type of source: Book, Magazine, Newspaper, Website, Journal, Film, or Other. By default, it selects the "Auto-Fill Mode" option, which enables you to find your source by title, author, ISBN, and so on and import the necessary information with a couple of mouse clicks. This feature is amazing! Otherwise you can select the "Manual Entry Mode" and key in your reference information according to BibMe's custom citation entry form.

Each time you reference a source, BibMe will add it to a Bibliography page which it automatically creates for you. Not only does BibMe create your Bibliography page, but it will also format and organize your references correctly as well as layout your page with correct margins, indention, typeface, headings, etc. When you are done, you have a perfect Bibliography page with correctly-formatted sources.

You can save your Bibliography page to use in any word processor or save to your account.

BibMe saved me a tremendous amount of time when I was writing my last research paper according to APA style. I worried less about gathering the correct information for each source and making sure I spelled all author names correctly.

Citation Tool #2:
APA Style, MLA Style, Chicago/Turabian Style

Use this tool for free:

Citation Tool #2:

CitationMachine will help you accurately cite your sources and format them correctly in APA style, MLA style, Chicago style and Turabian style. To make it easier to cite book sources, you can enter the book's ISBN # and CitationMachine will automatically import the necessary data to create and format that reference. With all other types of sources, such as magazines, journals, websites, etc., you will need to manually enter the data for each source.

CitationMachine makes it simple and self-explanatory to cite and reference sources since it guides you each step of the way. For example, if you need to cite an article from a magazine in APA style, simply select "APA Style." On the next webpage, you can choose from a variety of sources, one of which is "Magazine." When you click on "Magazine," the next webpage instructs you what information to enter in each citation field. In less than 15 seconds, I was able to enter all information and click on "Make Citation." CitationMachine formats the reference correctly so you can copy and paste into your paper. It also provides a correct format for in-text citations if you are following APA style.

Citation Tool #3: KnightCite
APA Style, MLA Style, Chicago Style

Citation Tool #3: KnightCite

Hekman Library of Calvin College offers a free citation generator for all styles: APA style, MLA style, and Chicago Manual of Style. This citation tool greatly simplifies the painstaking tasks of compiling information to cite a source as well as formatting the source correctly based on the style.

I recommend you register for a free account so you can save and manage all of your citations as well as assign them to a specific paper. Also when you register for a free account, it will allow you to set a default style—whenever you re-visit the site it will default to your preferred style.

KnightCite lets you key in data for both digital and print sources. When you are ready to create a citation, simply click on the "Make Citation" link. On the left side of the webpage, you can select the type of source, such as a book, magazine, periodical, multimedia, and so on. Once you select the source, KnightCite will instruct you on what information to key in. When you are finished, it will save your citation and allow you to assign it to a specific paper. It will now auto-save all further citations to this paper.

Not only does KnightCite collect and format your citations correctly, but it will also create and format your Bibliography page with correct indentions, typeface, spacing, etc. You can export your Bibliography page and open it in any word-processor.

Citation Tool #4: NoodleTools Express
Advanced Citations and Reference Formatting - 
APA Style, MLA Style and Chicago Manual of Style

Citation Tool #4: NoodleTools Express

NoodleTools Express is a free version of its premium service called NoodleTools. The free version lets you cite your sources with all of the necessary information. It will format each source correctly based on APA style, MLA style or Chicago style.

If you are seeking a tool to cite and format a few sources, then use NoodleTools Express. It offers convenient drop-down menus from which to choose the type of source. For each field on its citation entry form, it pops up useful advice and tips. After you submit the information for the source, NoodleTools Express formats it correctly. You simple copy and paste the finished reference it into your word-processor.

Although NoodleTools Express won't create a finished Bibliography page for you, I actually enjoyed using it to format one or two references at a time. I think its citation entry form (where you enter all of your data) is the best because the layout is simple and it provides options to cite complicated sources.

Citation Generator #5: Cite-O-Matic
Free Works Cited and Bibliography Page Maker
APA Style and MLA Style

Use this tool for free:

Citation Generator #5: Cite-O-Matic

Cite-O-Matic focuses more on creating a Works Cited or Bibliography page in either MLA style or APA style for only two types of sources: books and articles (digital or print). In this respect, its functions to cite other types of sources (such as multimedia and encyclopedias) is limited.

As you add new sources, Cite-O-Matic formats the source and adds it to the Bibliography page. For book sources, you can enter the title of ISBN # to have Cite-O-Matic "auto-cite" the source for you, meaning you do not have to key in any information. It does it for you. Once you have entered your sources, you can print your Bibliography page or copy and paste your formatted references into a word-processor.

Citation Tool #6:
A Free Automatic Bibliography and Citation Maker - MLA Style

Use this tool for free:

Citation Tool #6: offers a free service to cite and format sources in MLA style as well as to create a Bibliography page automatically. Its "Cite This" feature lets you auto-cite sources: simply provide either a title, ISBN #, website address, keywords or a DOI number and will find the source. If it finds more than one source (if you are using keywords), you can select the correct source and will import the necessary information and format the source for you.

If you choose not to auto-cite sources, you can select the "Manual Entry" option and enter your information into a custom citation entry form. Once you submit the information, EasyBib will format the source for you. EasyBib's easy tabs navigation and drop-down menus for citing different sources make it easy and hassle-free.

As you continue to add sources, EasyBib begins to create and format your Bibliography page. When you are finished, you can save your formatted Bibliography page and open it in any word-processor or you can save it to your GoogleDocs account.

EasyBib offers a paid service if you need APA style or Chicago style. Based on its free MLA style citation generator, I would recommend its paid services.

Citation Tool #7:
Automatic Citations and Bibliography Reference Lists - APA Style, MLA Style and Harvard Style

Use this tool for free:

Citation Tool #7: has a powerful auto-cite feature that lets you search for your sources by title, subject, ISBN #, author, and ISSN # (for periodicals). WriteCite will import the information to cite your sources and format them correctly according to APA style, MLA style, or Harvard style. You can also manually enter your source data and WriteCite will format your references for you. As you add each source, WriteCite begins to build your Bibliography page. When you are done, you can save your formatted Bibliography page and open it in any word-processor.

WriteCite has an accessible and convenient tab navigation at the top for selecting different sources to cite. Its manual citation entry form is simple and provides the necessary entry fields to plug in a source's information.

WriteCite offers a handful of other neat features such as formatting in-text citations, spell-checking, adding notes, and saving your citations.

Citation Tool #8:
Convert your Works Cited into MLA, APA & Chicago Style Formats

Use this tool for free:

Citation Tool #8: is my second favorite tool to cite sources, format references and create a finished Bibliography page automatically in APA style, MLA style or Chicago style. The reason why is because auto-cites sources for books, journals, newspapers, and websites. Simply include a title, ISBN #, or keyword and will find the source for you and import the information into its citation entry form. Just click the "Add This Source" button and it will format the source correctly and add it to your Bibliography page. When you have added all of your sources, you can save your formatted Bibliography page and open it in any word-processor. also provides automatic formatting for endnotes and footnotes as well as in-text citations (for APA style).

I recommend registering for a free account so you can save all of your data and assign your formatted references to one or more work-in-progress or finished biographies.

What Style Are You Following for Your Paper?

What Style Are You Following for Your Paper?

You should know which style to use before you write your paper. If not, ask your teacher or publisher. The style will dictate how you format references, as well as the entire layout of your paper. In academia, students rely on one of three styles, depending on the focus of study and type of paper. The three main styles are:

1) APA Style is abbreviated for the style created by the American Psychological Association. Its handbook, "APA: The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," is the official source for citing sources and formatting scholarly papers in the social and behavioral sciences. The principal application of a style guide is to obtain uniformity. (See how I format a new paper in APA Style)

2) MLA Style serves as the style format for citing sources and presenting research set forth by the Modern Language Association. MLA is usually used in Humanities, and its style is understood worldwide. MLA publishes two style guides: the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (a.k.a. MLA Handbook) is for high school and undergrad scholars and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing is for graduate students, scientists and skilled writers.

3) The Chicago Manual of Style (referred to as CMS or CMOS, or shortened as Chicago style) is a style guide sanctioned by the University of Chicago Press. Papers covering history, humanities, art, the social sciences, and the natural sciences prefer to use Chicago style. Its main style guide, The Chicago Manual of Style, is used primarily for works which will be published. Turabian style, developed by Kate L. Turabian, adheres to the basic format of Chicago style but is meant for materials that will not be published.

If you need to work remotely (i.e., you don't have Internet access while working on your paper), try StyleEase, an MS-Word plug-in that performs the same functions but has more powerful features.

—Brian Scott