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ENG 1320 Library Tutorial: 5. Citing Sources

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The last step of research is citing your sources. A complete works cited list allows you to give credit to the researchers who inspired and informed you and provides enough information for readers to find the same resources you used. Accurately citing your sources is also an important way to avoid plagiarism.

In this section, you will learn:

  • What MLA Style is
  • How to read a works cited entry
  • Why to use a citation manager
  • Where to go for help with citing sources

The Big Idea: How should I cite my sources?

In this video:

  • What is MLA Style?

  • What should be in my works cited list?

  • What do the parts of a works cited entry mean?

  • Should I use Refworks?

Are we talking about the same thing?

Keep in mind that the terminology is not always the same between MLA and other citation styles (such as APA or Chicago). You may find some places where the terms are used interchangeably.

Just so we're all on the same page, here's a quick comparison chart to consult if something seems unclear.

What it is What MLA calls it What other styles call it
The process of compiling resources used in a paper Documenting sources Citing sources
A reference to a source within the text of the paper In-text citation Footnotes, endnotes
An alphabetized list of the resources used in a paper Works cited list Bibliography
An entry on the list of resources used Works cited entry Citation


What do the parts of a works cited entry mean?

REMEMBER: This is a works cited entry for a journal article. If you need to create a works cited entry for any other type of resource, check your Bedford Handbook for more information on what to include.

Why should I use a citation manager?

Got a lot of resources to enter in your works cited list? Want to save time, energy, and stress? Try a citation manager software program.

RefWorks is a web-based citation manager available (for FREE!) to the campus community via the Library website. RefWorks will help you:

  • Export information about your resources directly from databases or import information from other sources
  • Organize your resources by class, assignment, or any other way you want
  • Automatically generate works cited lists and bibliographies in a variety of styles
  • And, if you're a real Refworks whiz, add formatted in-line citations to your paper while you write (using the Write-N-Cite tool)

The Library teaches workshops throughout the semester on using RefWorks. You can also schedule an hour-long Individual Research Consultation to have a librarian give you some one-on-one RefWorks pointers.

Who can help me with my works cited list?

If you have specific questions about citing your sources, writing tips, or help with editing, you can go to the following places on campus for more assistance.

Student Learning Assistance Center (SLAC)

Get in-person tutoring at the Student Learning Assistance Center, or SLAC, located on the 4th floor of Alkek Library. Check the website for hours and availability.

SLAC also maintains good handout page for quick reference.

Texas State University Writing Center

The Writing Center is located on the first floor of ASB North. You can get help with all types of writing, including papers, essays, and resumes.

The Writing Center offers in-person and online tutoring (check their website for more information). You can also print out documentation handouts.

Round Rock patrons can seek assistance from the Round Rock Writing Center.

Where can I find the MLA style guide?

Alkek Library and RRC Library Services own several copies of both MLA publications listed below. Follow the links to find out where the books are located and if they're available to check out.

For more information about how MLA style works, check your Bedford Handbook.


MLA handbook for writers of research papers

LB2369 .G53 2009


MLA style manual and guide to scholarly publishing

PN147 .G444 2008

Useful Links

From the video

Alkek Library: RefWorks - create an account or sign up for instructional workshops

Texas State Writing Center - make an appointment with a writing tutor

MLA style and citing sources

Calvin College: KnightCite Citation Service - fill in information about your resource and get an automatically generated works cited entry in MLA, APA, or Chicago styles

Northwest Missouri University: MLA Citation Style Examples - includes examples from specific databases

Purdue University: Online Writing Lab - lots of information about citing sources and writing papers in general

RefWorks Tutorials - learn how to use the citation manager software

University of Wisconsin-Madison: MLA Documentation Guide


Texas State University: Avoiding Plagiarism

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to create a citation or works cited entry for X resource?       There's no simple answer to this question without knowing how you used the resource in your assignment. At the very least, you'll need one works cited entry for each resource used in an in-text citation. The Bedford Handbook is the best place to look for more information about what to cite and when—in the 8th edition, that information is in sections 51-53.

I found the works cited entry for this article right in the database!      

Many databases include a sample works cited entry for each article you find (look for a button or link like the ones below).

But be cautious: always double check your works cited list to be sure it follows MLA style rules before you turn in an assignment. Sometimes automated entries mess up on capitalization or punctuation.

How can I avoid plagiarism?      

The fact that you're even asking yourself that question is a good start. Some of the most important things you can do are be organized in your research so you know what you've used and take good notes so you can easily match up what information came from which source when it's time to write your works cited list.

If you would like more information on this subject, the library has a good guide to avoiding plagiarism, and there are some other helpful websites listed in the Useful Links box to the right. You can also read more in your Bedford Handbook, or ask your instructor.