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How to Write Notecards in MLA Format


The Modern Language Association style is often required for writing liberal arts and humanities papers. One way to organize information from resources is to create a notecard for each idea you want to incorporate into your paper. Also create notecards that include the reference’s information in MLA format, which you can just plug into your Works Cited page when you finish your paper. Creating notecards in MLA format helps you arrange your information, and that makes writing the paper much easier.

Creating Bibliography Cards

Bibliography cards assist with writing the Works Cited page at the end of your paper. Use one 3-by-5-inch notecard for each reference. The format of the text on your card depends on the type of source you use. A citation for a book in MLA format, for example, looks as follows:

Hawking, Stephen. A Brief History of Time, 10th Anniversary Edition. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.

Since your Works Cited page will have a hanging indent, you can indent the second and subsequent lines on your index cards. In MLA format, the author’s last name always appears before the first name, separated by a comma. Book titles are underlined, while article titles are placed in quotation marks. MLA no longer requires uniform resource locators, or URLs, for references obtained online, but you can include URLs at the bottom of your bibliography cards; write the URL exactly as you see it in your browser in case you need to go back to the source.

Organizing Bibliography Cards

After you write all your bibliography cards, organize them in alphabetical order based on the first letter of your citation, which will most likely be the first letter of the author’s last name. This card order will be the order you use for your Works Cited page. Number each card in the upper right corner and draw a circle around the number. You can add the source location in the lower right corner. If you found the book in a library, for example, write the call number and name of the library.

Summarizing the Information

In addition to your bibliography cards, you need to create notecards. These cards will assist with the actual writing of your paper. Each notecard should have only one idea on it, so you might have multiple notecards from one resource. Use 4-by-6-inch notecards to differentiate them from your bibliography cards. After reading your source, make notes on the cards in your own words; to avoid plagiarism, write the notes without looking at the text again. If you want to use a quote, write it word for word on your notecard and place it in quotation marks. After completing your cards, organize them by topic; you might have three or four topics for one paper. On the top left of each card, write the topic; this will help you organize your notes for writing your paper.

Writing Bibliographic Information

Notecards should also have some bibliographic information to tie them to your bibliography cards. In the upper right corner, write and circle the number of the reference; this number should correlate to the number on the bibliography card. At the bottom of the card, write the first word from your bibliography card, most likely the author’s last name, and the page number from the source. Place this text in parentheses. For example, write, “(Hawking 84),” though you won't use quotation marks on your card. In MLA format, there is no comma between the last name and page number. If your note encompasses information from multiple pages, write “84-90” with a hyphen between the numbers to indicate the page range you referenced. This information will become the in-text citations in your paper.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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