Daily Archives: November 13, 2008

The Works Cited Page’s Lament: Why Do Students Hate Me?

Works Cited

When I taught English, I was amazed at how often Works Cited pages were done incorrectly. Students often lost many points from what were simple formatting mistakes. So here is the big secret behind writing the Works Cited or bibliography page: Don’t rely on your memory. Get a good style handbook and follow it religiously.

Seriously, I have three graduate degrees, including a doctorate in English, so I have written a lot of research papers. Still, every time it comes to writing the works cited page, I get out my MLA handbook and follow the rules. There is no way that I would even try to rely on my memory.

Still, there are some things that make the process a little easier:

  1. Keep up with your sources as you go. When you’re taking notes, go ahead and put the source material in the correct format. I actually start my Works Cited page with the first source I use in my paper. That way, I’m not trying to do them all at once. I’m less likely to make mistakes if I’m not rushed at the end of the writing cycle.
  2. Use the technology available. Almost every database now has formatting help which gives you an example of how to cite articles found in the database. Word 2007 has Citation Help, which allows you to plug in the information and then it puts it the correct order. These are only aids. Remember that YOU are always responsible for making sure that your format is correct! 
  3. If you’re not quite clear about how to cite a specific: journal vs. magazine, a forward or afterward in a book, then check with your professor and/or a librarian. Never be afraid to ask questions. Almost every professor I know would much rather have questions on the front end than have to deal with a poorly-written Works Cited page during the grading process.
  4. Also, remember a Works Cited page should only include those sources that are actually used in your paper. No matter how many times you use a source in the paper, you put it on the Works Cited page only once.

Here is an example of a Works Cited page from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University.

Nashville State professor, Michele Singletary also has a good tutorial on her website.