AMITIAE - Friday 16 January 2015

Creating Bibliography Citations with the iPhone (1): EasyBib

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


For the writer of books or journal articles, or for students conducting research, accurate citation is important. Producing a citation that is correct is not an easy task: better to get these right before the works are submitted to the journal or to the thesis supervisor.

Citations and Styles

Although I did not go to university until my 30s I did fairly well in the UK, but even better in the US, where I studied for a couple of years in the mid-1980s. With most of my fees covered by the university, I had to keep up my GPA.

I managed this quite well apart from one course at the very beginning. This was an Introduction to Graduate Studies course and I did learn a lot under the cranky guidance of Dr. Rodger Tarr who managed to instill in me a detestation for Emily Dickinson and Thomas Carlyle in the three months I studied under him. He also gave me the lowest grade I ever received: a "C". After that it was mainly As with some Bs.

An important part of the Introduction course focused on library research. I found this easy, especially with the good facilities at Illinois State University and the early network links to other libraries in the State. What was less easy with my UK background was the idea of Style. This was not in the sartorial sense that Carlyle would have considered, but the way we write academically: including punctuation, spacing and, above all, citations of works used as references.

Dr. Tarr taught us how to write these lists of works-cited following the (then) recently updated MLA Documentation Style, as outlined by Joseph F. Trimmer in his new guide to the system. I still have this although it is out of date. The MLA style was updated last in 2010.


I also shared an office with a professor through whose hands every thesis submitted had to pass. He checked the pages for style, referring to the three types that the university used: MLA, APA (American Psychological Association) and Turabian (Chicago Manual of Style). There were sometimes tears in that office (I have learned to keep a box of tissues handy).

For the writer of books or journal articles, or for students conducting research, accurate citation is important. One purpose is to help track down a work if needed, or for those checking on research to confirm that what the writer claims, is so.

From my own experience with MLA, and these days helping Engineering students who use the IEEE system (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers), getting a citation right is not an easy task and it is not uncommon for me to find errors in submissions: better that I get to these before the works are submitted.

An App for Citations

I checked on a free app a while back that uses barcodes on books as part of its toolset: EasyBib. The free app, from EasyBib will create a citation from input using one of three styles: MLA, APA or Chicago (Turabian). The original text has now been rewritten. The app is unchanged at Version 1.0 and there is also a version for Android.

There are two ways to select the work that is to be used. We may either search using the book title, or we may scan the ISBN barcode that is usually on the back of most modern works. I started with a search and entered Edwin Drood (Dickens' unfinished novel). Unsurprisingly several results turned up.

EasyBib To test, I selected one of these (a Chapman and Hall edition from 1899) and the MLA citation was created in an instant. I also tried Gallo's The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. The search brought up several versions as this was published in a number of different languages. I tapped the US version which I have and the citation was completed.

I added to the list a number of other works that were in my office. I later scanned the barcode of a recent Xmas present - The West End Front - and that was added to the list that was originally created a while back.

At the top of the list of citations a user creates, there are buttons for the other styles. By pressing one, the entry is reformatted immediately to that style. At the bottom of the list are two green buttons, One (right) is used to send the list by email. The button at bottom left is marked "Add Citation" and this takes us to the main search panel.

The scan function uses the search panel, but is activated by pressing a button at the top. This accesses the camera.

A bulb symbol at bottom left turns on the flash LED if needed to light the subject. I grabbed the first book I could find in the office of the department where I work, which was on CDMA - a book on telecommunications. Like some of the QR Code scanners, it took a shot as soon as the ISBN barcode was in sight and began to search on the internet. Within a couple of seconds, the correct citation was entered in the list that it was building. I ran this again with the Gallo book (above) and saw that as it connects, it is fetching data for each of the citation methods, rather than converting the data within the app.

As it already had information via the search from that book, I tried several more, although some of my older books had no barcodes. Many of these did have ISBN numbers, however. On a whim, I entered one of these into the search facility and it produced a correct result. When I tried a number of others, these also came up. This would allow additional tracking down of a book, thus adding to the usefulness of this app.


If only I had had this app when I had studied under Dr. Tarr (and the iPhone and the Internet: Macs had arrived by then and the prof whose office I shared had one). Being able to search and to scan the barcodes to produce a full bibliographic entry in an instant, seems a luxury for someone like me who had to write term papers before the advent of the PC.

For those who will be required to produce lists of works cited in any of the three styles that this app works with - 7th ed. of MLA, 6th ed. of APA, and 16th ed. of Chicago (7th ed. Turabian) - this is a wonderful shortcut. It is less useful for me these days as my students will need to cite using the IEEE style.

The app will export the list of citations as email, so work may be continued on a computer, which is probably where most of the writing would be done anyway.

The EasyBib website offers a bibliography creation service and this is not only for books but for creating entries from websites, newspapers, journals: 58 options in all. There are a number of options in addition to the three guides used in this app: AMA, ASA, Harvard, Chicago Author-Date, CSE and ACS. I wrote to the developers of the app asking about inclusion of other styles (particularly IEEE) but as considerable time has passed since then, this is probably unlikely. Creation of an account allows a number of services that are useful to those writing academic papers.

There is now a version of the app for the iPad (also free). With the larger device, scanning of bar codes may need a steady hand before the image is captured. The design of the iPad app is similar to the iPhone one, with the usual exception of menu placement.

For those who work with the limited styles that EasyBib offers, this is a good app to have at hand,

See also:

Creating Bibliography Citations with the iPhone (2): RefME

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page

All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2015