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Skidmore College
The Skidmore Guide to Writing

Preparing a Works Cited List

One purpose of documentation is to allow your reader to check your sources. Perhaps he has become so interested in your subject that he wants to learn more; perhaps he mistrusts your interpretations and wants to compare them with the original source. In either case, the reader should easily be able to find your sources using the bibliographical information you provide in your list of works cited.

Bibliographies list sources related to the topic of your paper. A bibliography provides your reader with a general listing of the sources that you have used or that a reader may wish to consult in researching your topic. There are essentially two types of bibliographies:

  1. Works Consulted and
  2. Works Cited (sometimes called References or Sources).

Works Consulted is essentially a bibliography; it is a list of all the sources you looked at in the course of researching your topic. Like the bibliography, Works Consulted lists all the works you consulted, whether you mentioned the sources in the text or not.

If you were writing an essay on homeless people in Chicago, all the works you consulted (articles, studies, books, statistics, charts, graphs, and interviews) would be listed in your Bibliography or Works Consulted. Let's say that a reader was interested in homelessness in Chicago; that person would consult your Bibliography or Works Consulted to find out where to find information on this issue. In contrast, Works Cited, References, or Sources at the end of your paper would tell the reader just the sources you specifically cited.

Entries must include three parts:

  1. Author: last name, first name.
  2. Title, appropriately punctuated.
  3. Publishing information
    • Place of publication:
    • Publisher,
    • Date of publication
    • Page numbers for articles and short pieces from collections

The three parts are separated by periods. Note how a sample entry is arranged and punctuated:

Author. Title. Place of publication: Publisher, date.

These are the basics. It gets a little more complicated when there are editors, translators, multiple authors, anthologies, magazines, newspapers, lectures, broadcasts, and sources from the Internet to be cited. Nevertheless, the principles remain the same. On the following pages you'll find a number of examples that should serve you well for most of your work. However, if you come up with a tricky problem that is not covered in these examples, we suggest that you consult the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 5th edition, by Joseph Gibaldi for works in American studies and English. Consult the sections in this guide on American Psychological Association format for works in psychology, economics, and government and the section on American Chemical Society format for citing papers in chemistry. If you are uncertain as to the documentation format your professor expects, ask him or her.