The benefits of online referencing tools: as told by a Master’s student

Referencing when writing an essay is often considered a nuisance and time-consuming.  Having spent hours researching, putting together sources and writing the best argument possible, we now have to signpost the reader to where exactly our information came from. This often feels like raising your own chicken for breakfast eggs. In the past, I used to avoid this part of essay writing until the last minute. However, I have since learned to embrace it with the use of online referencing tools, making the process so much easier.

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RefMe is one of these tools: a website with accompanying apps for your iOS or Android device. Once you’ve created your free account, it allows you to paste in the link or title of whatever source you used (be it a video, book or journal article) and it then automatically generates a reference list in your chosen referencing style. A link works best for online news articles and for journal articles, but sometimes it is better to type/copy in the title of an article. The apps and a Google Chrome extension let you scan bar codes from physical books or save links directly from your web browser. You can then save your complete reference list under the project title you’re currently working on – you can create as many different projects as you like. Once you’re done, all you have to do is export the list into your Word document and go from there!

The pros:

Referencing tools save you time – which I think every student would agree they need more of. Furthermore, they decrease the likelihood of minor errors in your reference list or citations. Remembering where all those commas, italics and other referencing conventions go can be difficult – especially if you are tired and stressed from doing long shifts at the library – so automatic citation software can save you not only time, but stress. One of the pros of online referencing tools is that they allow you to organise your sources with ease. Simply click a button and arrange a long reference list into alphabetical order, a specific referencing style or format.

But remember…

Don’t wait until you have finished writing to begin working on your references. Inputting your sources as you go along will make the whole process less overwhelming. Secondly, always proofread the final generated reference list.  While the software does make your writing process less time consuming, you must always make sure the final product is as it should be.  You are responsible for making sure that the format is the one required by your course. Not paying attention to this minor detail might lead to a reduction in your final mark.  It’s also worth noting that not all online referencing websites are as reliable as others – make sure you can trust the one you use. Finally, while the referencing software will save you time, don’t forget to proofread a second time to make sure all the sources mentioned in your essay are in the final list. This is probably the easiest part, as by then, everything should be typed and ready to go.

Though reference software can’t write your essay for you, it will make the process less stressful and a bit more enjoyable! Please leave us a comment if you have any questions about referencing and tweet us your tips! 🙂

By Fignola from the Student Team

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