The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

The Chomp

The Student News Site of Gateway Regional High School

For the Love of MLA, Stop Using EasyBib

Citations without the Fluff
Alex Noble
Five minutes after keying in the web address, the site is still trying to load with all of the pop-ups and ads running on the page. One cannot type or navigate.

EasyBib and Citation Machine and all the others, like Chegg, are junk regularly promoted by teachers. They are shoved full of ads and trackers and promote their paid plans at every turn. I mean, I personally can’t wait to sign up for a Chegg account, check the box to sell my data, and pay $9.95 each month for the privilege to use citation styles other than MLA! It’s always a good time! Certainly the best part of Chegg is an unparalleled dedication to the full college experience; their full-suite subscriptions ($19.95) come with “FREE” DoorDash DashPass Student and Tinder Gold subscriptions.

Woo, commercialized software, the free market always wins, whatever.

Citations That Aren’t as Bad

Yes, even for the 99% who don’t even know “what MLA is,” there are citation systems that aren’t as terrible, for free, without ads.


The direct replacement for EasyBib and Citation Machine (they are exactly the same software) is ZoteroBib, at And my gosh, the page even loads in less than ten seconds! (I’m serious. A Lighthouse performance audit gave EasyBib a 22 along with a warning that the page didn’t finish loading in time, and ZoteroBib a 79 with no such warning.)

Just like EasyBib, the software acts context-free, which is a term I just made up meaning “paste in a link.” The citations occasionally are sharper in specificity, but as shown below, all the major citation tools are bad at their jobs without manual entry.

But again, there aren’t any ads (especially ones refreshing every few seconds!), there aren’t any trackers, it’s open source, and the whole thing runs in your browser. Did I mention it doesn’t try to sell you anything? It’s objectively better in every way.

NoodleTools and desktop Zotero

NoodleTools and Zotero (the full desktop app) are citation management tools that allow you to cite information from external sources, e.g. through the cite menu on databases. Then you can export your bibliography to Google Docs or other word processors.

Our library purchased access to NoodleTools for the school. It doesn’t work context-free, but some academic databases allow exporting citations to it easily: JSTOR, Gale, and some EBSCO databases (through RIS file) come to mind. Simply log in with Google on their website.

In the same vein are other research tools like Zotero. The full Zotero app is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux (flatpak) and provides a highly integrated research system with a browser extension, organization tools, and integrations with text editors to quickly format bibliography. No accounts are required, but if you want to support development, you can get cloud sync via their service.

Obligatory Yes It Works

I would have liked to end this with a ChatGPT-generated conclusion, but I felt it necessary to do tests for whatever reason. So I tested the two context-free citation managers, EasyBib/Citation Machine (“Chegg”) and ZoteroBib. For each of these tests, the user-facing URL was provided, and no additional help was given to the program. For the cases when Chegg asked for information to be filled in (all of them), it was left blank or uncorrected. (Obviously, if provided correct information by manual entry, both tools work perfectly fine.)

As a test, I took the current featured article for Wikipedia (May 5, 2024) and put it through Chegg and ZoteroBib, for which both produced a valid citation. ZoteroBib also provided a link to the current revision of the page, which EasyBib did not.

Chegg: “Can I Get It.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 May 2024,

ZoteroBib: “Can I Get It.” Wikipedia, 5 May 2024. Wikipedia,

Wikipedia-provided citation: Wikipedia contributors. “Can I Get It.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 6 May. 2024. Web. 6 May. 2024.

My second test was that I searched two ISBNs. The first was the book Ten Myths About Israel by Ilan Pappe (ISBN 978-1-78663-019-3); and the second was, fittingly, the MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition (ISBN 978-1-60329-262-7). In each case, Citation Machine made me select from a list of books and correct the metadata myself. Though the initial citation was messy for both, it still just worked in ZoteroBib.

  1. Chegg: America., The Modern Language Association Of. MLA Handbook. Modern Language Association of America, 2016.
    ZoteroBib: Modern Language Association of America, editor. MLA Handbook. Eighth edition, The Modern Language Association of America, 2016.
  2. Chegg: Pappe, Ilan. Ten Myths about Israel. Verso Books, 2017.
    ZoteroBib: Pappé, Ilan. Ten Myths about Israel. Verso, 2017.

The third test was citing journal articles. I took one from JSTOR, one from EBSCOhost, and one preprint from arXiv. For JSTOR, Citation Machine tried to search the URL provided as a string and came up with something completely different, while ZoteroBib easily found the metadata. Neither could access the metadata for EBSCO and both successfully pulled metadata from arXiv.

  1. Chegg: JSTOR Www.Jstor.Org, Accessed 6 May 2024.
    ZoteroBib: Williams, Juan. “The 1964 Civil Rights Act: Then and Now.” Human Rights, vol. 31, no. 3, 2004, pp. 6–15. JSTOR,
    JSTOR-provided citation: Williams, Juan. “The 1964 Civil Rights Act: Then and Now.” Human Rights, vol. 31, no. 3, 2004, pp. 6–15. JSTOR, Accessed 6 May 2024.
  2. Chegg: could not access
    ZoteroBib: could not access
    EBSCO-provided citation: L. S. “Ada Lovelace.” Discover, vol. 38, no. 4, May 2017, p. 46. EBSCOhost,
  3. Chegg: Bertaglia, Giulia, et al. “New Trends on the Systems Approach to Modeling SARS-COV-2 Pandemics in a Globally Connected Planet.” arXiv.Org, 3 May 2024,
    ZoteroBib: Bertaglia, Giulia, et al. “New Trends on the Systems Approach to Modeling SARS-CoV-2 Pandemics in a Globally Connected Planet.” Mathematical Models and Methods in Applied Sciences, Apr. 2024, p. S0218202524500301.,

In any case, the citations were rough around the edges. Because citation generators are generally terrible at their jobs, when used context-free. It’s probably best to learn how to make a citation on your own

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