A citation is a reference to the source of information used in research. Any time when you are directly quote, paraphrase or summarize the essential elements of someone else's idea in your work, an in-text citation should follow.


An in-text citation is a brief notation within the text of your paper or presentation which refers the reader to a fuller notation, or end-of-paper citation, that provides all necessary details about that source of information.

Direct quotations should be surrounded by quotations marks and are generally used when the idea you want to capture is best expressed by the source. 

Paraphrasing and summarizing involve rewording an essential idea from someone else's work, usually to either condense the point or to make it better fit your writing style.

what is citation?

example of apa citation

There are many citation styles used in academic research, APA styles are the most common styles used to cite your sources which most commonly be articles from scholarly journals, and the citation for an article typically includes: 

For printed Sources:

  • author(s)

  • article title

  • publication information (journal title, date, volume, issue, pages, etc.)


for online sources:

  • DOI (digital object identifier).

  • URL of the information source itself

  • URL of the journal that published the article

  1. BibMe
    The fully automatic bibliography maker that auto-fills. It's the easiest way to build a work cited page, and it's free. Search for a book, article, website, or film, or enter the information yourself. Add it to your bibliography and continue citing to build your works cited list. Download your bibliography in MLA, APA, Chicago, or Turabian format. Bibme is very easy to use, but you need to pay for a pro account to save your bibliographies.

  2. (Son Of) Citation Machine
    Citation machine helps students and professional researchers to properly credit the information that they use. Its primary goal is to make it so easy for student researchers to cite their information sources. However, again, if you want to save your bibliographies you need to pay for a pro account.

  3. Citavi
    A reference manager, knowledge organization, and task planning program for Windows, published in Switzerland. The free version is limited to 100 references per project, so it is ideal for students. Is also integrates with Chrome and Word.

  4. Cite This For Me
    Cite This For Me allows you to automatically create website citations in the APA, MLA, Chicago, or Harvard referencing styles at the click of a button. Simply browse to the page you wish to cite and click the button to generate a correctly formatted citation. Then copy-paste the citation into your assignment, or add it to your online bibliography for safekeeping until later. Cite This For Me also comes with a Google Chrome extension.

  5. Citefast
    Cite your work at APA, MLA, and Chicago without leaving the homepage in 3 easy steps. The fourth step allows you to download your bibliography; you can even save it if you create an account. Your citations will be kept as long as you keep visiting the site, but after four days of inactivity, your citations will be deleted.

  6. Citelighter
    Store, organize and share your education and research for free. Creating internet-research bibliographies can be infuriating, to say the least, so Citelighter grabs all relevant info to create accurate citations for you. The best part? Anything Citelighter misses you can add yourself, and it will save your additions for future users!

  7. Docear
    An open-source reference manager that is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and offers PDF metadata retrieval, free online backup of your mind maps, a monitoring function for new files (PDFs, images, etc.), and an MS-Word add on. Oh, and it also allows you to have full control over your data (no registration required).

  8. Recipes4Success
    Creating a complete and correctly formatted citation is a challenge for many students, especially documenting sources such as art and music that aren't included in traditional citation formats. Create a citation formatted in either APA or MLA style. Students will still need to completely document the information, but the Citation Maker will format it for them.

  9. OttoBib
    Creating creates citations from ISBNs (which means that your book needs to have a clearly visible ISBN), OttoBib allows you to enter more than one ISBN at a time. Perfect for students who use books for their sources, it also comes with a Google Chrome extension.

  10. Zotero
    Zotero is a veteran and completely free browser-based plugin that helps you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. This tool lives right where you do your work; in the web browser itself. Whether you need to create footnotes, endnotes, in-text citations, or bibliographies, Zotero will do all the dirty work for you, leaving you free to focus on your writing. Create citations in Word and OpenOffice without ever leaving your word processor and add references to an email, a Google Doc, or some other editor simply by dragging one or more references out of Zotero. The only disadvantage? Zotero doesn’t allow you to annotate a PDF document.

top 10 best free online bibliography & citation tools

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Last updated: 1st November 2019