informational writing · research · research-based writing

A Quick Way to Deal with Bibliographies for Elementary School Writers

As a professional writer, I understand the importance of citing texts and having a comprehensive reference list. The importance of attributing my sources is on my mind when I write a book. It’s important to credit to the educators whose work I stand on the shoulders of when I write.

While I learned about direct quotations and bibliographies as a kid, it wasn’t until college that I came to understand the importance of why this mattered. While writing my senior thesis, I found other articles by paying attention to the citations in journal articles. Finally, I understood why proper citations and reference lists mattered (to me as a researcher).

Last spring, I worked in fourth and fifth-grade classrooms with students at various stages of research-based writing projects. I remember too many conferences with students that focused on how to properly cite a book or a web article. As I conferred with students, it didn’t seem like it mattered to them why they were keeping track of their sources. Rather, the students were spending time trying to “get it right” for their teacher (so they wouldn’t be penalized). I was a literacy consultant, not their teacher, so I assisted students with creating reference lists and attempted to explain why it mattered (beyond a rubric score).

A couple of months later, I attended EdCamp Hershey where I learned about a Chrome Extension called Cite This For Me: Web Citer. The purpose behind Cite This For Me is simple: It helps people create perfect citations QUICKLY. This matters because:

Citing isn’t something you usually think about, but it’s important nonetheless. Without even realizing it, you do it already in your everyday life in little ways. Have you ever said, “I heard on XYZ News that . . . ,“ or “I read in XYZ that those two celebrities are dating,” or even “Mom said that you can’t do that.” By saying where you got your information, you are casually citing a source.

We do this because it gives credibility to what we say, but also because it credits the originator of the information and allows others to follow up if they need more information. Formal citing done for papers and projects takes this a step further. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, citing sources in academia provides evidence of your research process and helps you avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism is a word you never want to hear describing your work. You’ve probably seen headlines in the news and heard stories in school about the negative consequences of plagiarism. It’s not good but it is preventable. By visiting Cite This For Me to create citations, you’re taking steps to help avoid this. (Retrieved from on 10/12/18.)

Once you select the citation style (e.g., APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA) you’d like to use, a new page opens and encourages the user to think about the credibility of the source. There are numerous questions – most of which are too complex as written for elementary schoolers – that encourage the user to think about the authority, accuracy/reliability, purpose, relevance, etc. of the source. Teachers can easily adapt the questions on the credibility page to meet the needs of their students when creating a minilesson about source credibility.

Here’s how Cite This For Me works if you’re using the Chrome Extension while searching the web.

Cite This For Me How To
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Cite This For Me Add Book
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Cite This For Me Book Citation Complete
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There is a flaw I noticed as I was citing an article from The Washington Post for this blog post. (I found a work-around, but it requires additional instruction for kids on making sure a citation is complete.) Take a look at the problem and the solution I discovered in these screenshots:

Cite This For Me Flaw
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Cite This for Me Flaw 2
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Cite This for Me Flaw 3
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If we want young writers to gain experience creating bibliographies for research-based writing, then I think using a tool like Cite This For Me is useful. After all, why penalize kids for errors like missing periods or a lack of italics? I believe learning to keep a reference list is a worthy endeavor for elementary school students. Perfect-looking bibliographies created from scratch are something that can wait for the high school years.


Wondering what the difference is between works cited, references, and a bibliography? Click here for more information.

4 thoughts on “A Quick Way to Deal with Bibliographies for Elementary School Writers

  1. This is very similar to the EasyBib Google Add-on, which is what I teach our students to use in elementary school. If your district/ school uses G-suite, it’s easy to add from a Google Doc and stays on the student account through graduation.


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