Using Citation Generators

Lesson Plan

Objective: 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 under way: 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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