Fewer clicks and less clutter equal a new go-to site for citing sources

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Subjects & Topics

English Language Arts

Price: Free
Platforms: Web

Pros: The excellent, clean layout simplifies generating citations in any style and for any source.

Cons: Not all sites work with the auto-generation feature. Auto-generated citations often need tweaking.

Bottom Line: An intuitive site that takes the stress out of citing sources, but students will still need instruction to tweak auto-generated citations.

Add ZoteroBib to your class website or to your students' list of references for research papers or projects, and your students will thank you. Students can easily type in a title or paste in a URL, select the citation style, and export one or more quickly-generated citations. Students will still need a primer ahead of time, as well as some trusty references like Purdue's OWL, to check and tweak whatever citations they generate. While ZoteroBib is a handy resource, it makes mistakes, so make sure students know to double-check and modify.

Since ZoteroBib supports all kinds of publications and media, encourage students to use a range of sources -- from traditional to nontraditional -- by inviting students to manually create a citation for things like social posts, instant messages, emails, or interviews. To further validate their own research and knowledge, students can also cite peer presentations by using the manual entry option for "presentation." To help students understand citation formats more deeply, have them generate citations for the same title in different styles and note the differences. Discuss why English teachers may require APA or MLA, while college history professors may ask for Chicago. 

ZoteroBib is a simplified site for generating citations and bibliographies. Users can generate citations automatically by searching for a publication; pasting a URL, ISBN, DOI, or other publication ID in the search bar; or manual entering a citation. Once the citation is generated, there's a drop-down menu that allows the citation to be converted to 9,000 styles, with the most popular (MLA, APA, and Chicago) conveniently at the top of the list. Auto-generated entries can also be edited for accuracy. After generating citations and assembling them into a bibliography, users can download the bibliography, copy it (clipboard and HTML), or create a URL.

ZoteroBib is super intuitive, but it isn't perfect. If students are searching for sources, they're not always going to find what they're looking for -- especially compared to more established sites. Also, some websites don't seem to work when you paste the URL in the citation generator. Still, the manual editing and entry feature means anything can be cited if students put in the work. The support for all kinds of different media -- from artwork to podcasts to audio recordings -- and the thousands of styles mean students have tons of options. There's no option for tweets or snaps yet, but the "blog post" and "instant message" options will likely do the trick.

Typing a title and clicking "cite" is simple enough, but ZoteroBib's clean and functional design makes the process of citing multiple sources even easier. For those needing assistance, there are short and sweet explanations to key questions at the bottom of the home page or in the Q&A section. Unlike other citation sites that look like college-library catalogs, there's no small text or confusing options in the minimalist user-friendly layout, helping students focus and easing the stress of a major research paper or project. Compared to other sites, there are no pop-up ads, and there's far less clicking, searching, and scrolling, which means more efficient use of time in the computer lab or at home.

As with any citation generator, there's a risk that students won't build the foundational skills necessary to know if the citations they're making are accurate or not. This is where teacher instruction or focused assignments can take ZoteroBib from a lifesaver to a life skill.


Learning Rating

Overall Rating

It's satisfying to be able to gather citations and generate accurate bibliographies so quickly. The site's efficient and clean layout means fewer clicks and distractions than other sites. 


The main intent here is to generated cited pages quickly, so with teacher guidance and smart assignments students can focus less on citation and more on using quality sources effectively.


Support is available via FAQs, short and sweet instructions on the home page, and an extensive discussion forum. No live chat or email is readily available, but the site is pretty user friendly, so it likely won't be needed.

Common Sense reviewer
Vanessa A.
Vanessa A. Teacher

Community Rating

Great for Research and Formatting

I was very impressed by this product and wish that I had known about it a couple of years ago. It would have made my time writing as an undergrad much easier. My only possible criticism would be its appearance. It has a minimalistic, utilitarian appearance that might not be particularly inviting to some. Personally, I loved that about it, too, but I can certainly see how someone who was already not particularly excited about the prospect of doing a lot of research and writing a paper or putting together some other sort of research project might also be put off by the way this tool looks. They might even feel a little intimidated by it since it is not always all that intuitive. That is why I would recommend introducing only one or two functionalities at a time as they are needed for the stage of research the students are in. That said, once students become comfortable with it, Zotero has the potential to really demystify some of the most daunting and often least interesting parts of doing research and creating something out of it. All of that time students often spend trying to organize their research, losing and having to rediscover sources, misplacing notes or forgetting where they came from, and finally making sure that they use the right format to cite sources and build a bibliography is time better spent on the actual project. This may not be the sort of tool that can be used on its own to gain a deeper understanding of a particular topic but it allows teachers and students to spend less time on organizational and formatting matters so that there is more time to ensure that the assignment it facilitates does do that.

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