Formulating Works Cited Pages

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Creating a works cited page might make you feel like this; let’s see if we can simplify it.

A works cited is really just an alphabetical list of the works you cited . . . aaaaaand that’s why MLA calls it a works cited instead of bibliography.  This list allows readers to easily find the sources you used to corroborate your results or to look deeper themselves.  We need to have a universal format for this list for simplicity and clarity.  Proper in-text citations paired with a properly formatted works cited builds a strong foundation for your argument, protects you against accusations like inadvertent plagiarism and allows your reader to trace the path you took in your research or look deeper into your subject matter.  Any pictures, quotes, summaries, paraphrases, etc. that you consult or use should be cited.  There is such a thing as over citing, but when in doubt, cite it.

Super Important Caveat!!! (again): While this covers the vast majority of situations you will encounter, the types of sources we use is constantly changing and expanding.  If you encounter a situation or source not addressed here, or if you simply are unsure, check out an online guide as they are updated frequently.  MLA has its own website ( but Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab is probably the best resource out there for this stuff.


Works Cited Technical Stuff:

Basic Format: It’s really just a list in alphabetical order, but there are some important formatting guidelines that people can get really uptight about, so let’s do it right:

  • The title Works Cited gets centered at the top of the page
  • Double space
  • Alphabetize
  • Use the same font and font size as the rest of your paper – don’t try getting all fancy on us.
  • No bullets, numbering, etc. Just alphabetize – again, stop trying to get all fancy
  • Use hanging indents. Say what now?  It’s when the first line is all the way to the left, but lines after the first are indented – the reverse of how we punctuate a paragraph.
  • To make a hanging indent in a word processing program like Microsoft Word, you can expand the paragraph tab, then under “indents and spacing” and/or “special” select “hanging.”

To make a hanging indent in a word processing program like Microsoft Word, you can expand the paragraph tab, then under “indents and spacing” and/or “special” select “hanging.”


You can also do this by moving the little triangles and rectangles on the ruler at the top of the page. That’s how you might have to do it on Google Docs.  In fact, when in doubt, just ask Google.  She’s pretty smart.


Check it out when it’s all put together:

How do we make those citations? the Modern Languages Association (MLA) talks about containers and stuff for citations, which can be kind of confusing.  Typically, each citation needs:

  • Who made it?
  • What’s it called?
  • Who published it?
  • When?
  • Where can I find it?

For book, insert each of the following, including the punctuation:

Author’s last name, first name.  Title of book.  Publishing company, copyright year.

All of which is easily found on the title page and copyright page:

All together it looks like this:

Boom!  Simple, right?  Well, yes, because that was a simple book.  OK, then let’s look at a few additions to this basic format.

Translator, Editor, or Multiple Editions

If you are citing a work that has a translator, editor, and/or multiple editions, you just add that information after the title.  For example:

Multiple Works by the Same Author

If you are citing more than one work by the same author, alphabetize by title, then replace the author’s name with three hyphens after the first entry, like this

Works with Multiple Authors

If you are citing a work with more than one author, just add the second author’s name in the format first name last name.  If there are more than two authors, put the first author’s name, then the abbreviation et al, (which is Latin for “and others”)

Sacred Texts

If you are citing scripture such as The Bible, just put the title in italics followed by the version you are using and the publication details, like so:

Works from an Anthology

If you are citing a work from a collection or anthology (like a textbook) do it like so:

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of work.” Title of Collection, edited by Editor’s Name(s), Publisher, Year, Page range of entry.

For example:


If you are citing a work from a periodical – like a magazine or newspaper – all the same stuff applies:

Author’s Last Name, First Name “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, pages.

For example:

Citing an online article that originally appeared in print: If you find an article like the previous one online, cite it the same as you would in print, just add the url and date of access at the end, like so:

This same concept goes for any of the previous examples if you read them online (like an ebook, for example): cite them as you would in print, then add sponsoring institution (if you haven’t already – we already had National Geographic in our citation and that’s where we found it online, so we don’t have to list it twice), URL, and date of access.

Citing Electronic Sources follows pretty much the same guidelines as books, but it can get pretty hairy out there in the interwebs, so let’s look at some of the more common situations you’ll encounter.

Websites: not all sites are created equal and you should keep this in mind both when choosing your sources and when citing them.  Some websites publish all of the following information clearly whereas others hide it or leave it off.  Take a minute to look for as much of the following information as you can.  You might have to scroll to the bottom to find a date or click on an info icon. In general, the more reliable your source, the more of this information you will be able to find.  If you can’t find most of this information that could indicate your source isn’t very good and you should look somewhere else or verify your information with another source.

Citing Websites and Web pages: 

Author or Editor’s Last Name, First name (if available).  Title of Website.  Name of institution, organization, sponsor, or publisher,  Date of creation, update or upload, URL or Permalink.  Accessed: Date of Access.   

For example:

Most of the time, however, we don’t use an entire website; we only use a page on a website.  To cite a web page, add the author and title of the page to the beginning of your citation:

Academic Databases

If you find an article in an online database like NCWiseowl, add the name of the database after page range.  Sometimes academic databases will give you a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), which is preferable to a URL.  If so, use that instead of a URL.  But the great thing about NCWiseowl is that it will formulate properly formatted citations in any style you choose.  Check it out:

Did you know that when you paste you have several options on how?  To get rid of the source formatting (that icky highlighting and stuff from the webpage) select merge formatting or keep text only and slap a hanging indent on it.

So when you’re done, it looks like this:

Citing Images: 

Let’s start with citing a piece of art:

Artist’s Last name, First name.  Title of Work.  Date of creation.  The museum or institution where the work is housed, City.  URL  Accessed: Date of Access.

For example:

Citing an Online Image: If the work only appears online, put the artist’s name and the title, then follow the format you would use for a web page:

Citing a Social Media:  

Tweets: Twitter Handle.  “The entire tweet in quotation marks.”  Twitter, date, time, URL

Discussion Boards and Blog Postings follow the same basic guidelines:

Author or screen name. “Title of Post.”  Name of site, Sponsor or Publisher, URL. Date of Access.

Other forms of social media follow the same guidelines too, except instead of a full quote, you put a description of the post there.

YouTube Videos:

Youtube (and other user-generated video sites such as Vimeo) citations are formatted almost identical to other forms of social media:

Author (if different from uploader).  “Title of Video.”  YouTube, uploaded by name or screenname of uploader, Date of Upload, URL.


Music comes in so many formats these days that citing it can get overwhelming (I know, I know, as if you’re not overwhelmed already), but don’t worry, it’s totally doable.

Start with the artist, song title, album title, recording studio, and release date:

That’s how you’d do it if you had the CD or physical album.  If you listened to it digitally on Spotify or something, just add that to the end:


Same basic concepts we’ve been doing, but start with the title:

Title.  Directed by Director’s name, performance by, list the names of the top 3-5 performers, Studio, Release Date.

If you retrieved the film through a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, just add the name of the service and the URL at the end.

Internet Searches

What about things like images and definitions I find in an internet search, such as

If you look closely at the bottom or expand the box, you’ll notice the information is not from Google, it’s from Oxford. When you cite, you are showing where the information is contained (that’s why MLA calls these things containers).

Another way to look at it is searching is a method of research, not a piece of evidence. Citing is where you show your evidence, not your methods.

So what do you do? Cite the Oxford Dictionary page for “caveat.”

Images are no different.

Look closely and you’ll see this is from Since is where it is, go there and cite it. Google is just how you found the image and doesn’t need to be cited.
Again, important caveat: this doesn’t cover every case you’ll encounter, so if you’re in doubt, go to a more in-depth site.  We highly recommend Purdue OWL.

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