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7.6.1: Create Works Cited Entries

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    What is a Works Cited Entry?

    MLA guidelines are designed not only to streamline your paper's format, but to standardize source references in a brief, easy to understand format. In academic research papers, the writer is making an argument backed by strong evidence in order to convince readers. The writer is responsible for all the work! Simply copying and pasting a URL link to a source requires your readers to 1) interrupt reading to click on the link, 2) evaluate the link's credibility, currency, relevance, and accuracy, and 3) return to reading. Your paper won't be very convincing if you require readers to do this much work. As a matter of fact, they may become distracted or frustrated, and they may stop reading altogether.

    In MLA works cited entries, the writer provides all of the necessary source information in a compact, standard form. The works cited entries are listed alphabetically at the end of the paper to provide author, date, and publication information for each source, enabling readers to look up the original if necessary. MLA guidelines are designed to accommodate all types of print and electronic sources in a format that groups works cited information by its location, referred to as its “container.” Often a source of information will have multiple containers, so its works cited entry will reflect all of these, from the original source of publication to the place where it was aggregated or published, such as a print anthology or an electronic database. For example, your source, a newspaper article, has a title, or headline, and 1) was printed in a specific newspaper on a specific day, but then you found the article in 2) an electronic database. You will need to compile all of that information on your source and its two containers for your works cited entry.

    Definition: Works Cited

    Works cited entry: Complete information on a source, including author, title, publication, publisher, date, and online location if applicable.

    Example: Buiten, Miriam C. “Towards Intelligent Regulation of Artificial Intelligence.” European Journal of Risk Regulation, vol. 10, no. 1, 2019, pp. 41–59.

    Works cited page: An alphabetically arranged list of works cited entries at the end of a paper.

    Use Citations to Document Sources and Add Credibility to Your Paper

    You need to cite all your information: if someone else wrote it, said it, drew it, demonstrated it, or otherwise expressed it, you need to cite it. The exception to this statement is common, widespread knowledge, but if you are ever in doubt, go ahead and document the material.

    A reader interested in your subject wants not only to read what you wrote but also to be aware of the works that you used to create it. Readers may want to enter the discussion on your topic, using some of the same sources that you have. They also may want to examine your sources to see if you know your subject, if you missed anything, or if you offer anything new and interesting. Your sources may offer the reader additional insight on the subject being considered. It also demonstrates that you, as the author, are up-to-date on what is happening in the field or on the subject. In sum, giving credit where it is due contributes to research on your topic and enhances your credibility.

    Throughout the writing process, be scrupulous about documenting information taken from sources.

    Again, there are multiple reasons for doing so:

    • To give credit to others for their ideas
    • To allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired
    • To build your own reputation as a writer

    It is important to indicate the source both in your essay and in a bibliography, list of references, or works cited, to prevent the possibility of plagiarism. If you follow the appropriate style guide, pay attention to detail, and clearly indicate your sources, then this approach to formatting and citation offers a proven way to demonstrate your respect for others and earn their respect in return.

    Formatting Works Cited Entries

    MLA source citations follow several principles in place of specific rules. The style has been adapted in recent years to respond to the evolving nature of text in an increasingly digital world. Thus, the MLA Handbook is organized by the process of citation, rather than listing rules for every type of source. However, certain overall guidelines apply. When you cite a source, first identify core elements that are present. These are author(s), title of source, title of container, version, number, publisher, publication date, and location.

    Buiten, Miriam C. “Towards Intelligent Regulation of Artificial Intelligence.” European Journal of Risk Regulation, vol. 10, no. 1, 2019, pp. 41–59, AF1AD1940B70DB88D2B24202EE933F1B. Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

    Author. The entry above begins with the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the remainder of the name. The author’s name is followed by a period.

    Title of Source. The title of the source follows the author’s name in purple highlighting. The title is either italicized or placed within quotation marks, depending on the type of source, and followed by a period. Book titles are italicized, while print or online articles are placed in quotation marks, as shown.

    Title of Container. The container is the larger work to which a source belongs. An article may belong to a website or journal, a song to an album, or a video to a video-sharing site. This container comes next in the citation. It is generally italicized and followed by a comma. However, some sources do not have containers; for example, a book (versus a chapter in a book) or an entire website (versus a single page on a website) is self-contained and thus has no container to cite.

    Version. Next, the version is listed, if there is one. For example, a textbook edition or version of a text would appear here, followed by a comma. This citation example doesn’t have a version, so that information is skipped.

    Number. Some sources, especially academic journals, are part of a numbered sequence. Journals usually have both volume and issue numbers; include both in your citation, separated by commas.

    Publisher. The next element in the citation is the publisher, followed by a comma. The publisher does not have to be listed for some sources, including periodicals, works published by the author or editor, websites with the same name as the publisher, or websites that host works but do not actually publish them. Because this sample source is a periodical, no publisher is listed in the citation.

    Publication Date. List the most recent date of publication available for the version of the source you used. The date is followed by a comma.

    Location. Location, shown in dark and light gray highlighting, refers to where in the source you found the information, including page numbers and URLs. Be as specific as possible, as this information allows readers to return to your source to read it for themselves. When listing a URL, remove the beginning tag of http:// or https://.

    Alphabetizing and Indenting Your List of Entries

    Other rules also apply to MLA citations in a research project. Most of these are formatting and style rules that add to a polished final product. Remember to list sources in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name. If the source has more than one author, list it according to the last name of the first author mentioned. If the source has no author named, insert it into your alphabetical list according to the first word in the title. For example, if Miriam C. Buiten’s name were not mentioned, you would enter the item under T, the first letter of the first word in the title, Towards. In your bibliography, double-space the citation, and do not leave a space between entries.

    Indent the source citation after the first line. In most word processing programs, you can create this formatting by highlighting the citation and annotation paragraphs and then creating a hanging indent. In Microsoft Word, open the Paragraph Settings icon on the Home tab. Under the tab that reads Indents and Spacing, find the section labeled Indentation. On the right side of that section is the label Special. Click the drop-down menu, and choose Hanging. Different word processing programs may require you to create hanging indentations in another way. Consult an MLA guide often to ensure that your citations are correct.


    It's Never Too Soon to Write Your Works Cited Entries

    Include a works cited page in your working notes. As soon as you decide a source could be useful, format its works cited entry on the page. If you find the source in a database, use the database citation tool to request an MLA 9th edition entry, and then proofread the entry for correct formatting and punctuation before copying and pasting it. Include a link to electronic sources so you can quickly reopen the source when you're taking notes.