Put Together a Bibliography or Works Cited

When writing a paper, you need to acknowledge the authors of the resources you used for your research. You do so by providing a complete resource list called either a bibliography or works cited. These lists look similar, but there's a subtle difference:

  • In works cited, you list only the items you've actually cited — such as a book from which you quoted or paraphrased in your paper.
  • In a bibliography, you list all the material you consulted in preparing your paper — whether or not you actually cited the work.

Either way, the idea is to give enough information about each resource so that anyone reading your paper can refer to that source and read the content that helped you during your research. Think of looking through your library's catalog system where you can search by book title, author name, publication date, and so on. The same basic ingredients go into your bibliography or works cited.

Resources for listing your resources

The most widely used format used for academic papers is MLA (Modern Language Association) style, and the most complete resource is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Always be sure to use the latest edition of the handbook or ask the instructor about the preferred edition.

Web sites make quick work out of compiling a bibliography or list of works cited:

  • The Writers' Workshop MLA page offers clear examples for all kinds of citation scenarios.

  • EasyBib.com builds your bibliography or works cited list for you. All you have to do is fill in the blanks, and EasyBib takes care of the rest. The service is free to create a one-time standard bibliography, but you have to pay a small yearly fee in order to create an account and access some of the more advanced features.

Citing CliffsNotes content

Many instructors actually don't mind their students consulting CliffsNotes books for help on difficult subjects. But they will mind very much if you fail to include that CliffsNotes title in your list of resources. Here's a breakdown of how to list each type of content in your bibliography or works cited, according to MLA style guidelines.

Online CliffsNotes content: The standard format for an online citation is

Author's name (last name first).  Document title.

Date of access  <URL>.


Jacobson, Karin.  CliffsNotes Jane Eyre.

7 June 2005  <http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/LitNote/id-23.html>.

Content from a CliffsNotes book: The standard format for a book is:

Author's name (last name first).  Book Title.  City of publication:  Publisher,  Year of publication.  Page numbers.


Adams, Scott V., Peter Z. Orton, and David H. Voelker.  CliffsQuickReview Statistics.  Hoboken, NJ:  Wiley,  2001.  54-55.