Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Works Cited vs. Bibliography vs. APA References


As we have learned in other articles on this site, there is a difference between the way you cite references in your school paper, including using a reference list or a works cited list. It all depends on what citation style your teacher asks you to use while you’re preparing your school project bibliography.

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Differences of Style

Many people use the terms “works cited,” “reference list” and “bibliography” interchangeably, but there are differences. First of all, it depends on the subject you are writing about and the citation style your teacher tells you to use.

Using MLA Style Works Cited

Usually, in high school English and even many college classes, your teacher will tell you to use MLA style. MLA style is used when writing about language, literature and other humanities subjects. MLA uses a Works Cited page. Works Cited is a reference list of all the sources you have actually used while writing your paper.

When to Use APA Style

In college, particularly in the social and behavioral sciences, such as psychology and sociology, you may be required to format your paper in the APA style. APA uses a simple author-date citation style.

References, Works Cited or Bibliography?

MLA’s work cited page and APA’s references are considered reference lists, not bibliographies. The big difference is that reference and works cited are lists of sources you have quoted or paraphrased within your school paper. Each time you use an in-text citation, you must include that source in your Works Cited or Reference list. Each in-text citation matches up to an entry.

Matching In-Text Source Entries

The in-text citation leads the reader to the complete source that you consulted. If a reader wants to follow through on an interesting idea, they can simply turn to the back and find the correct entry. This leads your reader to the actual source.

What Is a Bibliography?

A bibliography, on the other hand, is a list of all the sources you consulted to write your paper. Even if you did not use them directly in your paper, you’ll still list them in your bibliography. In order to make sources easier to find, you may section your bibliography by author, type of work, online sources or other designations. Chicago style requires a bibliography.

Generally, when you are writing in fields such as history, you will create a bibliography using the Chicago Notes-Biblio style of citation.

Although you use reference lists and work cited lists in APA and MLA style, you may also create bibliographies. Your teacher may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography. You may include a bibliography with your MLA or APA style school research paper. A bibliography created in MLA style is called a “Works Consulted” page. APA style uses the term bibliography.

Works Cited, Works Referenced

It may seem confusing, but once you understand the basic differences between citation styles, you will have a good grasp on completing your research project. Paying attention to formatting your paper in the correct citation style will make your teacher happy. You are on your way to an “A” research paper.

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