How to Write Source Notes on a Book


Source notes serve several functions for both you and the reader. Source note information allows you to keep a formal reminder of the origin of your information. For the reader, it stands as a verification of the factual basis for the statement or assertion.


Write about your reference in the main text only briefly, citing the author's name, and the page number, in parentheses. A footnote (at the bottom of the page) or an end note (in the back of the book), are used to give additional information that helps to augment your point or argument but is not necessary to the text.


Write a separate source notes page for the back of the book and title it "Works Cited"--centered on the page.


Learn the citing guidelines for listing sources. For example, if you were citing a book you would use the author's name, the title of the book, the place of publication, the publisher's name and the date of publication. (See Resources below for all forms of Modern Language Association--MLA--citation style format.)


Use proper style for the "Works Cited" page such as: double-spacing the entries and listing them in alphabetical order using the author's last name first.


Leave the first line of the entry flush with the margin but indent the next line five spaces or 1/2".

Separate each main part of the entry using a period. For example: "Walker, Alice. The Color Purple, New York: Harcourt, 1982." Note that the publisher's format is slightly different.

Use capitalization for book titles excluding the articles or coordinating conjunctions, as in this example: "Legal Ease: A Guide to Criminal Law, Evidence, and Procedure. And titles should either be underlined or put into italics.


  • Source notes are not bibliographical; the format and content is different.

• Information about citing sources is often written using the MLA style format, a standard among colleges for documenting sources.

• Many publishers today dispense with such formal entries if you are writing a non-academic book, thesis or paper. Source notes can be used to describe the author's methodology in finding the source, and what they found most useful about the source.

  • Only works that you have actually used and not everything you've read should go in a source note.

• For works with up to three authors, include all names.

• Do not use the word "page" or "p." or "pp."

• Number each source note in the back of the book.

• The format for citing magazine articles, newspapers and Internet sources is slightly different (see Resources below).

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