Easy Citations in Google Docs

Digital citizens are constantly sharing other people’s content.  We are all cultivators of stuff.  Images, quotes, GIFs, artwork, you name it – we share it.  It is very important that we teach kids to give credit where credit’s due.

Unfortunately, students are very resistant to citing their sources when they do schoolwork.  Why?  I believe it’s because it’s a pain to do so.  Who would want to cite their source if you have to do tons of sleuth work to figure out who the original source really was?  Who would want to cite their source if you have to enter a boatload of information into a separate site to prepare the citation to put in your document?

In my book, the goal for students, especially those in middle school, should simply be to get them to cite their sources.  I’m not going to stress out about if it really is the accurate original source.  I also wouldn’t stress about them correctly placing their periods and commas in their MLA citation.  I just want them to recognize that the content is not their own and that the originator deserves credit.  Google Docs makes that easy with two tools.  Let’s check them out . . .

Using the Explore Tool in Google Docs

This will only work for resources on the web (not books), but it’s super easy to use.  It creates footnotes, which I’ve heard aren’t commonly used in K-12 writing.  However, as you’ll see in this animation, you can easily copy those footnotes and turn them into a Works Cited.  Check out this GIF to see how:

Using the EasyBib Add-On

This tool is great for citing books, but not as good at citing websites.  It keeps track of your entire bibliography until you’re ready to add it to your doc.  If you are using the Explore tool for your websites, you can just combine them when you’re done, just like I do in the animation below.

Disclaimer: I’ve heard from a few sources that these two tools do not always produce 100% accurate citations.  In my opinion, as stated above, this is a risk that I’m willing to take, at least until students are in college prep high school courses.

CopyDown Add-On

Years ago, as a STEM teacher, I had my students build basswood bridges.  We’d then test them by hanging weights from them.  I’d submit the results to a Google Form, which would kick it to a Google Spreadsheet, where a formula was all set up to calculate the “Engineering Efficiency” (a measure that leveled the playing field between heavy, strong bridges and light, strong bridges).  Unfortunately, formulas don’t automatically apply to the new rows created by new Form Submissions. I had to have a student manually drag the formula down each time a new result was submitted.

Enter the CopyDown Add-On

I later discovered this wonderful little add-on.  It automatically pulls that formula down to a each new form submission.  No manual dragging necessary.  This is super, super useful when your Form & Sheet are part of a bigger system that triggers other actions in other add-ons (i.e., autoCrat, formMule) that require those formulas.

Here’s a GIF of how it works, followed by a step-by-step guide to using it:

CopyDown Add-On Animation

  1. Set up your Google Form.
  2. Open up the connected Spreadsheet.
  3. Start with an initial form submission.  You’ll need this in the next step.
  4. Create your formulas in Row 2 (the row with your first submission).
  5. Click Add-Ons and follow the steps to add CopyDown.
  6. Click Add-Ons > CopyDown > CopyDown Settings.
  7. Flip the switch to “On.”
  8. Generally, I select to paste the results “as values” (otherwise it puts the formula itself into each cell which, if it’s a lengthy spreadsheet, will ultimately slow it down).
  9. Save Settings.
  10. Start gathering form submissions!

FormRanger Add-On

I love me some Add-Ons. One of my favorites is FormRanger from New Visions Cloud Lab. It can be used to pull in a column of information from a Google Sheet as multiple choice or dropdown options.

This is nice for quickly creating a lot of options for a multiple choice or dropdown question, but what takes it from nice to awesome is  . . . you can set it to automatically update based on changes made to the spreadsheet. Whaaaaat!?  I know, right?

There are two main cases for use: Continue reading FormRanger Add-On