QuickCite, a citation app: How does it stack up?

Want to  scan bar codes and quickly build a list of books you have read? Assemble a list of books you aspire to read?  If students are working on papers that make use of mostly modern or recent published sources, this may be a tool of use for you.

QuickCite is a new citation app to include in your scholarly arsenal.  It is not a free app, but almost. It costs $0.99 for iPhone users, and $1.03 for those with Droid users.

This is a creation of students for students. A group of Canadian programming students entered a “Seven Developers Write an App in Seven Days” app design contest called “SevenCubed” at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Among the sponsors was Facebook. When one team of students emerged from the competition with a viable app, they began to call themselves Spectappular and pushed their creation out into the iTunes App Store.

QuickCite, as they readily admit, does not produce 100% perfect soup-to-nuts references. It is, however, a laudable effort to tackle one of the more tedious aspects of paper writing: citations. The creators even claim they are responsive to suggestions, comments, and users who discover bugs.

Working on a paper that uses sources like the parched leather-bound volumes of the diaries of a petticoated governess from the Victorian Era?   A government publication from the 1950s?   For humanities scholars delving into primary sources, perhaps QuickCite is not going to be for you. Anything produced long before the 1970s advent of bar codes and ISBNs you will still need to transfer into a “Works Cited” list the old-fashioned way, with transcription and some degree of conscious effort. Still, QuickCite remains useful with books with codes printed directly on hardbound covers. Just the same, researchers will easily be able to scan textbooks and other book with intact jackets with bar codes.

I was surprised about how quickly QuickCite worked.  It was impressive that it worked at all in a dimly lit office location with the sun having already halfway gone down. It instantly sent a citation right to my email inbox and displayed the citation in a pop-up on my phone’s touch screen.

Users will have to enter their email address repeatedly for each individual citation. This can be arduous, but assuming you are scanning a manageable number of books, and not thousands, it is a minor inconvenience.  Isn’t it one most researchers are used to?  I’m sure you’ve emailed article citations to yourself in the course of repeated database searches, and QuickCite is going to provide a similar process.

The first scan I did was set to APA style, but sent over the author’s full first name, instead of the author’s initials. There are a number of other issues with the results you can produce in the other citation styles in QuickCite as well. There is no italicization, no underlines. Chicago and MLA citations don’t order the authors’ names correctly, and words are often not capitalized correctly. Some elements of Chicago and MLA do not show up at all, including series names and, sometimes, the countries of publication. Almost everything requires a second review and a little clean-up.

If this does not bother you, and you are not put off by the prospect of a combing through your Works Cited list, then you may enjoy QuickCite and snapping up the bar codes you find as you peruse print sources in the library and elsewhere.

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