Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Works Cited vs. Bibliography vs. APA References

You’ve come to the end of your paper and now you need to cite your sources. Should you use a works cited page now? Or, is it a list of references? What’s the difference for a bibliography vs. reference lists? Knowing the answer for what citation format to use comes down to the topic and whether your paper is MLA, APA or Chicago style. Using this knowledge, learn if you should use a bibliography vs. works cited or APA references.  

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Using MLA Works Cited

Usually, in high school English and even many college classes, your teacher will tell you to use MLA style. MLA, which stands for Modern Language Association, is used when writing about language, literature and other humanities subjects. MLA format uses a “works cited” page.

Works cited is a reference list of all the sources you actually used while writing your paper. You’ll list your citations in alphabetical order. Also, remember that you’ll create a works cited in addition to parenthetical citations used after paraphrased or quoted information that includes the author and page.

An example of a works cited page looks like this:

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird. Cornerstone, 1989.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Press, 2016.


When to Use APA Style References

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, which stands for American Psychology Association, uses a simple author-date citation style for in-text citations and a “references” page at the end.

Much like the MLA works cited, the APA references will include all the sources that you cited in your paper. So, what that means is that information for every quote cited in your paper needs to appear in your list of references.  

References will look like:


Lee, H. (1989). To Kill A Mockingbird. Cornerstone.

Smith, Z. (2016). Swing Time. Penguin Press.


What’s the Difference: Bibliography vs. Reference List?

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. This is a key difference between works cited and bibliography. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding between using a bibliography vs. reference list for your paper.

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.”

Chicago Style Bibliography Example

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

Check out an example of a bibliography citation list:


Lee, H. To Kill A Mockingbird. London, Eng: Cornerstone, 1989.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. New York: Penguin Press, 2016.

MLA, APA & Annotated Bibliographies

Although you use reference lists and work cited lists in MLA and APA style, you may also create bibliographies. Your teacher may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography, or you may include a bibliography with your MLA or APA style school research paper. 

You will label your bibliography in MLA style as a “works consulted” page. APA style uses the term “bibliography.”

References, Works Cited or Bibliography?

Smiling girl student looking at bibliography vs works cited on a computer with her teacher

MLA’s work cited page and APA’s references are reference lists, not bibliographies. The big difference is that references and works cited are lists of sources you have quoted or paraphrased within your school paper. Each entry in the body of your paper matches up with information in your reference list. While the exact format of works cited vs. references entries will vary, the main objective is the same.

But, what about a bibliography vs. reference lists? In a bibliography, you will be citing every source you consulted. That’s the main thing to keep in mind when comparing a bibliography vs. works cited lists.

Works Cited, Works Referenced

It may seem confusing, but once you understand the basic differences between a works cited in MLA style, APA references or bibliography, 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 now well on your way to an “A” research paper.

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