Using MLA and APA Citations On Your Blog

If you are a student or an academic, there are two citation styles that dominate the landscape (and likely much of your life), Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) styles. Typically, MLA is used more for liberal arts programs and APA is used more in science fields, but individual instructors and schools often have differing opinions on what style should be used.

Blogs, however, don’t use APA and MLA styles. Though both are effective and useful for citing a variety of sources, they are not short, easy to use or quick. Basically, they just aren’t practical in a blogging environment.

Still, there are some blogs that do have academic aims, such as blogs for scientific organizations, those at universities and so forth. These blogs may want to use MLA or APA style for at least some of their citations to keep up with the standards of the industry they are in. However, doing so can be tricky, not only are blogs not natural places for such citations, but the time and energy required to create them may be too much in many cases.

Fortunately, if you are interested in using MLA and/or APA citations on your blog, there are easy ways to do so, if you’re willing to look.

Adding Citations to Your Site (Cites on Your Site)

When it comes to using academic citations on your blog, WordPress users will likely find the best relief in the plugin directory. There, at least two plugins offer this functionality and make it easy to add formal citations to any blog post or page.

The first is Netblog, which works by adding references to an individual post or page. The references can be displayed in a traditional bibliography, complete with strict formatting, a footnote system, in a more user-friendly “further reading” list or in a combination thereof. In short, it’s a powerful citation and reference system that can do virtually anything a blogger might need.

Papercite is the other, which interprets BibTeX files and automatically formats them into HTML. Though it’s clearly ideal for those who already are familiar with and have BibTex content, Papercite also supports external files, such as citeulike and BibSonomy, which can be easily used to generate BibTeX files. It’s a more complicated system than Netblog, but may be easier for those already working with BibTeX content.

Outside of plugins, there are a variety of services that make generating bibliograophies and citations easy, including EasyBib and KnightCite. However, the export methods of these tools usually favor word processors, not blogs, and will likely require some reformatting before hitting publish.

Still, there’s no reason that a blog can’t have a full bibliography, the only thing standing in the way is the time required, even with these tools.

Making Your Blog Easier to Cite (Cites of Your Site)

If instead of (or in addition to) adding full citations to your site, you want to make it easier for others to cite your work in their papers, it is a fairly easy trick that just about any blogger can do. In fact, Science Daily has a great example of such a citation system underneath their posts.

The one on Science Daily appears to be a custom creation but there are other services on the Web. Easybib, for example, has a simple widget that you can drop into your site anywhere. The script can be easily added to a template and customized with PHP to be relevant for every page.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a test of this script to work on this page for a sample, but I will update if I am able to get it working.

However, no system I could find is anything near what I could consider perfect and there’s definitely room in this area for WordPress plugins or other tools to help make citation easier, ideally including APA, MLA and other key citation styles, both formal and informal.

Unfortunately, though a handful of plugins might have offered this feature in the past, it seems none have been updated for the more recent version of WordPress.

Bottom Line

Do most blogs need to mess with MLA or APA style citations? Probably not. In the majority of cases a simple link will more than suffice for citation.

But for blogs who do need such citations or wish to offer it to others, there are solutions out there that can help. Unfortunately, there is still clearly a long way to go here and I’m hoping that some developers out there might be willing to offer a helping hand.

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