Learn and Master Bibliographies, Works Cited, and References

Using Note Cards for MLA Research Papers

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In today’s digital age, it seems strange that organizing your research sources would be done on index cards. Instead of a mobile app or Google Doc, writing your sources on separate 3 X 5 index cards may still be a better way to help organize your citation sources. Although some teachers provide Word document templates that follow the same pattern, having the cards available makes it easier to sort through each source.

Teacher explaining bibliography

Using MLA Container System

The MLA container system uses nine elements that you need to include in your citation. Of course, you won’t necessarily have all nine MLA core elements for each source. However, follow the template to make sure you’re finding everything you need to create the works cited entry.

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

The main purpose of creating works cited entries is to lead the reader to the exact source you used in your school paper. Designed to be flexible, MLA 8 provides a way to capture data such as the version and web location of your research sources.

To create research note cards using index cards, follow these steps:

  • Create one note card for each source
  • Write down all data necessary to locate that source, using the core element list
  • If you are using a direct quote from that source, write that down on the index card and specify it’s a direct quote
  • Write a summary of the source, similar to preparing a preliminary bibliography.

Incorporating Note Cards Into Works Cited

When you’re finished collecting your sources and writing out the note cards, separate the cards into subtopics. As you write your paper, consult the research note cards to make sure you are citing quotations correctly.

Most teachers have specific procedures they want you to follow. Follow their guidance, collect your sources, enter them into your research paper and organize properly in your works cited list and you are on your way to an excellent grade.

About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico. As Editor-in-Chief of SJSU School of Information SRJ. Adrienne guided the editorial team through the scholarly journal’s double-blind, peer reviewed process to provide quality, cited articles to library information and science researchers. Her passion for digital inclusion and information literacy led her to volunteer as a digital training team member of Librarians Without Borders. Adrienne has over 25 years of experience as a freelance writer and editor.

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