Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Referencing Headaches? There's an App for That

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Referencing Headaches? There's an App for That

Article excerpt

In just under a year, a UK-built online tool that takes the sweat out of citations has attracted almost 1 million users. Chris Havergal writes

Compiling references and bibliographies has long been a time-consuming bugbear for academics and students alike: a swift comedown after the relief of finishing a paper.

It is therefore not surprising that a free online tool, RefME, that claims to make the process dramatically quicker and easier has been downloaded by nearly 1 million users around the world.

But what is more startling is the pace of RefME's growth since it was released last September. It is currently gaining an average of 10,000 users a day, and expectations are that it will add 5 million more in the next 12 to 18 months.

The secret of its success appears to lie in its simplicity. Rather than having to write citations, academics and students can use a mobile app to simply scan the barcode of the book or journal that they are reading. The app instantly creates a reference, in any one of over 7,500 styles that the user might choose.

The tool also has the capability to create references for a much wider range of research materials, such as websites and YouTube videos.

RefME can also recommend other pieces of work that users might find useful, based on the citations they have created and the reading history of users with similar interests.

RefME has developed from an early version of the app created by co-founder Tom Hatton, who was frustrated by referencing software when he was studying music and history of art at Oxford Brookes University.

He is now chief executive of the London-based firm, which claims to be growing faster than both Twitter and Pinterest did in their first year of trading.

The 25-year-old said that user feedback showed that RefME is proving to be a "lifesaver".

"It's clearly had a hugely positive impact on students' research behaviour," Mr Hatton said. "It allows them to focus on doing their work more efficiently. Referencing, instead of being a primary nag, is a secondary action which is automated and done for you."

The next step in RefME's development is to focus on its relationship with universities and publishers.

At the American Library Association conference, held in San Francisco between 25 and 30 June, the company launched RefME Institute, aimed at libraries and universities. For a "one-off nominal set-up fee", members receive teaching materials, referencing training and product support. …

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