Using Citation Generators

By Nora Carr

Lesson Plan


To help students identify and correct errors in works-cited-list entries produced by a citation generator and to encourage students to evaluate sources with an eye toward accurately representing the source and helping readers understand essential information about it.

Total Estimated Class Time

45 minutes

Course Work or Assignment Underway

This assignment can be done independently of or in conjunction with a research-paper assignment. If the assignment is not part of a research-paper project, students should come to class with a list of three to five potential sources they have found while conducting preliminary research.

Resources Needed

Computer and Internet access for individual or pairs of students.

In-Class Activity

Students can work individually or in pairs. Using their own list of sources or a list provided by the instructor, students should use an online citation generator recommended by the instructor and enter each source, recording the results. When they have generated a works-cited-list entry for every item, students should mark any errors or inconsistencies they find and then use the MLA template to rewrite each entry.

Follow-Up Discussion

The exercise will prompt a range of instructional opportunities related to the style for discussion. You may want to have students answer one or all of the follow-up questions below as a low-stakes writing assignment after they complete the activity:

  • What patterns did you observe in automatically generated citations?
  • Can you summarize the types of decisions you needed to make when manually entering information into a generator and when correcting entries?
  • How might your emendations to the works-cited-list entries assist readers?

After this assignment, remind students to be vigilant when using citation generators. They can continue to practice identifying and correcting generator errors during subsequent peer-review exercises.

Lesson Materials

Examples of students’ work

Published 17 November 2016

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