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Citation apps for mobile devices

Mary K. Van Ullen (University at Albany, Albany, New York, USA)
Jane Kessler (University at Albany, Albany,New York, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 8 February 2016



The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the accuracy and functionality of a selection of basic Android and iOS apps for mobile devices designed to generate bibliographic citations.


A number of inexpensive or free apps were installed on several different tablets and phones. Book citations in MLA and APA format were generated and evaluated for accuracy.


Results show that the majority of the apps tested produced unacceptably inaccurate citations, and many had limited functionality. The best of the apps tested was EasyBib.

Research limitations/implications

There are infinite combinations of operating systems, apps, citation styles, material types and devices. Testing for this study was limited to uncomplicated apps likely to appeal to undergraduate students. It did not include more sophisticated apps for managing reference libraries. The study investigated how well several Android and iOS apps installed on mobile devices functioned to generate MLA and APA citations for print books.


As the role of mobile technology in education continues to grow, librarians need to remain aware of solutions that can help students manage their research. Librarians have an opportunity to provide feedback to developers by reviewing and rating apps.


Undergraduate students face challenges in learning to appropriately acknowledge materials they have consulted in their research and writing. Librarians can play an important role in helping students select the most appropriate tools to make citing sources easier and more accurate.



Van Ullen, M.K. and Kessler, J. (2016), "Citation apps for mobile devices", Reference Services Review, Vol. 44 No. 1, pp. 48-60.



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