How to List References on Term Papers

When working on a term paper, it is critically important to acknowledge all of your references. Doing so helps other scholars know where to look for more information on your subject. In addition, listing your references gives credit to your sources and avoids plagiarism. Most professors require references listed in a specific format, depending on the field of study. For most undergraduate work, the MLA (Modern Language Association) style is preferred. Keep in mind that references should first be noted with in-text citations, and then listed alphabetically in the correct format in a "Works Cited" page at the end of your paper.

Works Cited in MLA format

Basic format for a book lists the book by the author's name. Pay attention to the placement of all punctuation: Author's last name comma(,) first name period (.) Title underlined colon(:) Subtitle underlined period(.) Place of publication colon(:) Publisher comma(,) date period(.)

Herrera, Hayden. Frida: A Biography_of_Frida_Kahlo. New York: Perennial, 1983.

If the book has a corporate author, list the entry under the name of the corporate author, even if it is the same as the publisher.

Articles from an encyclopedia or dictionary are listed by the title of the article, unless a specific author is given for that entry, in which case the author's name comes before the title of the article. (")Article title in quotation marks period(.)(") Title of encyclopedia underlined period(.) Date period(.)

Example: "Croatia." The_New_Encyclopaedia_Britannica. 1991.

Articles from periodicals should include the exact date of publication, not only the year. Author's last name comma(,) first name period(.) (")Title of article in quotation marks period(.)(") Title of publication underlined Date of publication colon(:) page numbers period(.)

Example: Bernard, Tinamarie. "The Threesome." San Diego_Jewish_Journal_ Jan. 2010: 32-34.

  • As you conduct research, keep bibliographic information for each reference on an index card.
  • Invest in a copy of the most recent MLA style guide to see formatting for a variety of sources, from books to musical scores and everything in between.
  • Some professors prefer styles other than MLA. Other popular styles are APA (American Psychological Association), used primarily by the social sciences, and Chicago, also known as Turabian, style often used by historians. Check with each professor before turning in your term papers.
Items you will need
Publication information for all references
  • Hacker, Diana. The Bedford Handbook for Writers. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994.
About the Author

Elizabeth Earne is a writer and teacher. Her writing has appeared in "San Diego Family Magazine" and on various websites, with a focus on education, parenting and travel. Earne has taught writing to children for more than five years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts, as well as certification in cross-cultural language and academic development (CLAD).

Photo Credits
  • notebook and books image by Sergey Galushko from