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Overview of Creating a Source List

Documenting the sources on a Works Cited page, References list, or Bibliography allows the reader to see easily where the information came from and even to retrieve the same information if the reader wishes. In scholarly writing situations, readers often want to obtain the sources used in an essay to check the context of the information or explore the topic further. Documenting your sources before you write your paper will help you to cite your sources within the text. Once you have created your list of sources, you will be able to see more easily and more quickly how your in-text citation should look.  As you work to document your sources, always keep in mind that your central goal is to give readers all the information they would need to access the same source in the same way you did. Following these steps is a good start to achieving this goal.

Identify the appropriate citation style.  MLA, APA, and Chicago are the most common styles asked for at IVCC. Check your assignment and ask your instructor if you are not sure which style you should use.

MLA (Modern Language Association) is the most common style for English, literature, and the fine arts. In these language-focused disciplines, readers are concerned with who said the information and where the exact language can be found, so MLA asks for full names of authors and page numbers of the cited information. However, articles in these fields are considered useful for a long time after they are written, so MLA does not require dates when referring to a source in a sentence or citation. An article of literary criticism, for example, may still be considered the authoritative source fifty years after its publication.

APA (American Psychological Association) is the most common style for the social sciences and health professions.  In these disciplines, research is considered objective, so authors are identified by last name and first initials only. Information is also evaluated on its currency, so dates are included in in-text citations. Readers want to know if the writer is using the most up-to-date research.

Chicago (The Chicago Manual of Style) is the most common style for many disciplines in the humanities, most notably, history. In these disciplines, readers are concerned with who said the information and where the exact language can be found, so Chicago asks for names of authors and page numbers of the cited information at the minimum. A notable feature of this style is the use of footnotes rather than parenthetical citations.

Follow these basic rules

1.  Identify the type of source

This is the most vital step. If you misidentify the type of source, you may use the wrong formula and include the wrong information, resulting in an incorrect citation. Ask yourself, "What type of source is this?" Some common types are books, individual articles or chapters from edited books, articles from library databases, or works from Web sites.

It is important to note whether you retrieved the document in a print publication form or through the Web. We retrieve much of our information from Web sources today. Often, there are separate formulas for print sources and Web sources, so be sure to choose the one that matches the way you retrieved the source.

2.  Choose the citation formula that matches that type of source

Once you have identified the type of source, look in the Stylebook or other source to find the correct formula that matches that type of source as closely as you can. For example, if you have an article from Studies in Short Fiction that you retrieved from Proquest, you will find the formula labeled "Article from a Library Database." There are handouts of the various citation formulas for the three styles in the Stylebook.

3.  Follow the formula, inserting the information from your source into the appropriate place in the formula. Make sure to retain the correct formatting of the individual pieces.

This step sometimes requires some searching, as not all types of sources place the needed information in the same locations. In the Stylebook, on the first page for each style, there is further information for where to find the needed information.

In general, notice these aspects of the formula. Do any titles need to be italicized? Do any need to be in quotation marks? How should the titles be capitalized? Are there any necessary abbreviations? The way the information is printed on the source is not necessarily how it look in the citation. For example, the printout from a database may have the title of the article written in all capital letters, but no style asks for that type of formatting. Format each element as the style requires, even if it is not that way on your document.

Helpful Tips

Consult a book. Use your textbook or consult the ones in the Writing Center. The Writing Center and the library have all three manuals. Also consider purchasing a handbook that has not only short guides to the citation styles, but also information about grammar and punctuation. The Writing Center recommends Diana Hacker's Pocket Style Manual.

Consider trying Noodlebib. Noodlebib is a guided citation generator provided free to IVCC students by Jacobs Library. Consult with your instructor before using this tool, and keep in mind that it is ultimately the student's responsibility to make sure that citations are correct. To access Noodlebib from off-campus, you'll need your 14-digit student ID. Click here for Noodlebib and here for a tutorial .

Ask your instructor. If you need to cite a source that these instructions or the manual do not give clear guidance on, ask your instructor for further information.