Knowing the proper term for your paper’s list of citations can be confusing. Do I call it a works cited page? Should it actually be called a bibliography? How is it different from a reference list? In this article, we explain what these three terms mean and how they are different or related to one another.
To begin, each citation style has its own way of naming the list of sources you used in your paper. Here we break down the differences in these list types, so that you can better understand which option works best for your work.
A “Works Cited” list is an alphabetical list of works cited, or sources you specifically called out while composing your paper. All works that you have quoted or paraphrased should be included. Works Cited is generally used when citing sources using MLA format (Modern Language Association) style, and sources should be listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.
Example Works Cited entry:
Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford UP, 2007.
References or “Reference List”
A “Reference List” is very similar to a Works Cited list, and is a term used when citing sources using APA format (American Psychological Association) style. The page should be titled “References,” and is arranged alphabetically by author last name.
Example References entry:
Middlekauff, R. (2007). The glorious cause: The American Revolution. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Bibliographies, on the other hand, differ greatly from Works Cited and References lists. In Works Cited and References, you only list items you have actually referred to and cited in your paper. A Bibliography, meanwhile, lists all the material you have consulted in preparing your essay, whether you have actually referred to and cited the work or not. This includes all sources that you have used in order to do any research. Bibliographies are often used in Chicago and Turabian citation styles. They usually contain a long reference that has a corresponding footnote within the body of the paper.
Example Bibliography entry:
Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Works Cited, References, and Bibliography -
What's the Difference?
To: Works Cited page in MLA Style 6th ed.
To: Works Cited Sample Page in MLA Style 7th ed.
To translate a block of text or web page, click Bing Translate or Google Translate
Links to related pages:
1. How to Format a Research Paper in MLA Style, 7th ed
2. How to Format a Research Paper in MLA Style, 6th ed
3. Quoting Passages Using MLA Style, 7th ed.
4. Quoting Passages Using MLA Style, 6th ed.
5. Content Notes and Bibliographic Notes in MLA Style, 7th ed
6. How to Write Footnotes and Endnotes in MLA Style, 6th ed.
7. Footnotes and Endnotes - Examples in MLA Style, 6th ed.
8. Footnotes in MLA Style, 6th ed. - Sample Page
9. Endnotes in MLA Style, 6th ed. - Sample Page
10. How to Write Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 7th ed.
11. How to Write Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 6th ed.
12. Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 7th ed. Sample Page
13. Parenthetical Documentation in MLA Style, 6th ed. Sample Page
14. Works Cited, References, and Bibliography: What's the Difference? MLA Style, 7th ed.
15. Works Cited, References, and Bibliography: What's the Difference? MLA Style, 6th ed.
16. Guidelines on Writing a Bibliography or Works Cited Page in MLA Style, 7th ed
17. Guidelines on Writing a Bibliography or Works Cited Page in MLA Style, 6th ed.
18. How to Write a Bibliography or Works Cited Page - Examples in MLA Style, 7th ed.
19. How to Write a Bibliography or Works Cited Page - Examples in MLA Style, 6th ed.
20. Works Cited in MLA Style, 7th ed. - Sample Page
21. Works Cited in MLA Style, 6th ed. - Sample Page
22. Research, Writing, and Style Guides (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, Harvard, CGOS, CBE)
For a detailed treatment on citing sources using MLA style 7th edition with many more examples, please see:
of Research Papers by MLA (2009-01-01)
Information relating to MLA style 7th edition as presented on this site has been based mainly on this authoritative publication from the Modern Language Association of America:
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: MLA, 2009. Print.
Works Cited is sometimes referred to as References. The terms mean the same thing. Each is an alphabetical list of works cited, or works to which you have made reference in your essay. Works Cited is the term used when citing sources using MLA (Modern Language Association) style, while References is the term used when citing sources using APA (American Psychological Association) style.
Works Cited differs from Bibliography. In the list of Works Cited you list only items that you have actually cited in your research paper. In a Bibliography you list all of the material you have consulted in preparing your essay whether or not you have actually cited the work.
Entries in Works Cited, References, or Bibliography are put in alphabetical order by last names of authors, editors, compilers, translators, narrators, or by first words of titles.
If the first word of the title is A, An, or The, and the word is being used as an article as in the title: The Little Book of Irish Clans, the entry is alphabetically placed under Little and the article The is ignored. In the title: A Is for Apple, however, the entry is placed under A since A is used as a noun and not as an article.
Sometimes the article The is used as part of the name of a company, magazine, journal, Web site, or title for emphasis, such as The One (a 2001 action film), where The is used for emphasis and cannot be ignored. In this case, the title should be placed alphabetically under The.
For Web sites, we could use the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) as a guide. In the case of The Sports Network, commonly known as TSN in Canada, the URL of its Web site is www.tsn.ca. Here we can feel quite comfortable listing Canada's The Sports Network (TSN) alphabetically under The. However, the URL of its American counterpart The Sports Network (TSN) is www.sportsnetwork.com. There is no the in its URL. If you add the to this URL and access www.thesportsnetwork.com as of today, you will reach not TSN but a totally different Web site copyrighted by TheNewsChannelNetwork.com.
Now we are truly confused as to exactly when The should or should not be treated as an article and be ignored in our alphabetical list of Works Cited. Whichever way you decide to place your title, just be consistent and be able to explain to your teacher your reasons for your decision. Since your parenthetical references correspond exactly to citations in your list of Works Cited, there is absolutely no problem for readers to identify your sources, which is the real reason why we document sources borrowed.
When completing your Works Cited page, remember:
1. DO NOT number entries.
2. DO NOT list citations separately by categories. All references are placed in ONE ALPHABETICAL LIST by first words of citations, regardless of where citations come from.
3. Begin on a new page. Start on the 6th line from the top (or 1" down from the top of the paper), center, and type the following title: Works Cited. Double space after the title. List all entries in alphabetical order by the first word, taking into consideration the rules governing titles that begin with articles.
4. Begin the first line of each entry flush at the left margin. Keep typing until you run out of room at the end of the line. Indent 5 spaces for second and subsequent lines of the same entry. Double-space all lines, both within and between entries.
This page is merely a guideline based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. You are advised to follow the citation style preferred by your instructor.