Speed Citations

The great thing about staff rooms is that they are excellent place to hear about a task and then use it in your class, so that’s what I am going to share with you today. A cool task on citations/ referencing.You can do this with your learners if you teach EAP or writing classes that require research and referencing. My colleague John, who works at the ELTC at Sheffield University, told me about this one, so shout out to him. I did change it a bit though.

Speed citations

I had already introduced citations and students were familiar with what they need to do when citing a source in their texts, but there was still a bit of uncertainty.  How does this task work? Students need to find the author and date of a publication as quickly as possible and write it down as they would do in in-text citations.


  • Give your students one publication/source each. If you have 12 students, you need 12 sources. I used books, journal articles, and a newspaper (I told them that one of the sources could not be used in their academic writing projects and that’s why the newspaper was in it. My students are not journalists and the newspaper was the Metro paper which is a free paper).
  • Put students in a circle and tell them that they only need a piece of paper and a pen.
  • Each student has about 30 seconds to find the author and the date of the source and write it down as they would as part of their in-text citation.
  • After the 30 seconds, students give their source to the person next to them and move on to the next source. This is done clockwise.
  • At the end, give them a couple of minutes to check what they have written on their paper and make necessary corrections.
  • In order to check their answers, each student comes to the board and writes what they have written. One source per student.
Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

My thoughts

Why is this a good task?
This was a follow up task, something like a revision which brought the element of ‘fun’ into my ‘dry’ academic writing classes. Students, especially Asian learners, struggle when it comes to identifying the difference between a first name and a family name. They also don’t know where to look for the date or which date they should put in their texts. Learners had a bit more fun cause this was like a game.
So, there you have it folks. Speed citations. If you are looking for more fun ideas, you may want to have a look at the calling all EAP tutors post and specifically the comments section.

One thought on “Speed Citations

  1. This sounds fun! I do something similar, but without the time limit/speed part. I bring in a variety of sources and hand them out one-between-two, then get the students to write the full bibliographic citation for each source, according to whichever style they are learning to use. (By this point we’ve already talked about formatting etc). Once they’re done with the source they have, they swap with another pair. And at the end, I show them the proper, full bibliography of all the source (I make it in advance) to compare their answers with.
    It usually turns out that a couple of sources (e.g. chapters in books, texts with corporate authors, etc.) are harder than the others, and the pairs try to avoid those ones! But this gives us a chance to talk about what makes them hard and how to cite them properly.
    I always had/have the impressions that a lot of teachers talk about how to format bibliographies, or perhaps give hand-outs etc, but don’t actually get the students to practise doing it! For me, this is a key step in ‘teaching’ citations! And it’s always better to practise and address issues in class than have to write the same comments on each student’s essay if they give it a go for the first time when writing their own assignment and get it wrong!!


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