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Need A Bibliography? Check out KnightCite.
December 10, 2004

A new release from the Teaching and Learning Digital Studio at Calvin College is making a big impact on campus and beyond.

KnightCite is a seemingly simple tool, but it solves a big problem for a lot of students. Based on input from the user it generates bibliographic information for term and research papers. And it does so in any of three styles chosen by the user - Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA) or Chicago Manual of Style.

SearlsSince being launched this fall with little fanfare or publicity the site has garnered a steady base of users. In fact in November 2004 some 4,500 unique visitors made their way to KnightCite to take advantage of its free service. Users include many Calvin students plus students from a variety of other colleges, universities and high schools, including Grand Valley State University and Aquinas College - both of which have links to the site on their library website pages.

KnightCite was built this summer by Calvin sophomore Justin Searls (above), a native of Saline, Michigan. He is a student intern for the Digital Studio at Calvin and created KnightCite at the request of Calvin digital librarian Greg Sennema who recognized the importance of developing a tool to enable students to correctly utilize the MLA, APA, and Chicago citation formats in their research papers and other academic endeavors.

Calvin's John Niedzielski supervised the project. He says KnightCite is clean, intuitive and user friendly.

"Visitors to the site first can click on one of three icons," he says, "either MLA, APA or Chicago. From there the user simply plugs in the appropriate information into the forms on the screen, clicks submit and the appropriate bibliographical entry for the selected style is displayed, ready to be copied and pasted into the user's paper."

Although KnightCite looks simple, Searls, a computer science and Japanese major, says creating the tool was a complicated bit of programming - one that took much of his time this summer.

"There are a lot of details with citations," he says, "and so for the code in KnightCite I had to take into account lots of possibilities."

Indeed Searls notes that KnightCite includes about 12,000 lines of code (it's written in PHP, a popular internet scripting language).

"There are a lot of 'if' statements in the code," he says with a chuckle. "But that was the challenge. We wanted to build a site that would take a complex problem and make it appear simple. I think we accomplished that."

An ever-growing cadre of users around the country would agree.