Creating Works Cited Entries (or "You Have to be Smarter than EasyBib")


[ Overview ]

This mini-lesson explains how to properly create entries for your Works Cited page. It first explains how to create an entry completely by hand, then addresses the proper use of automated citation makers (e.g. EasyBib, BibMe, Son of Citation Machine).

[ Creating a Works Cited Entry by Hand: An Example ]

Say you're using the following article from NPR as a source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/01/25/145820585/obamas-daniels-speeches-follow-classic-party-lines

To create a Works Cited entry for this source, you first need to know how to format that entry -- in other words, how to properly arrange and punctuate the information about this source. To do this, you'll need to consult a formatting and style guide for the citation style you are using. In high school, this is most often going to be MLA format. An excellent online reference about MLA formatting is the MLA Formatting and Style Guide from the OWL at Purdue.

The format of a Works Cited entry varies based on the type of source used. In this example, we're using an article from a website, which is considered a type of "electronic source." The "MLA Works Cited: Electronic Sources" page of the OWL's MLA Formatting and Style Guide gives the following information about using a single page from a website:

"For an individual page on a Web site, list the author or alias if known, followed by the information covered above for entire Web sites. Remember to use n.p. if no publisher name is available and n.d. if no publishing date is given."

The Guide also provides the following example:
"How to Make Vegetarian Chili." eHow.com. eHow, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2009.

From this information, we can figure out the basic format of a Works Cited entry for a page from a website:
Author last name, first name. "Article Title." Website Title. Publisher, date published. Web. Date accessed. <URL>.
(Note that URL is no longer required by the current edition of the MLA handbook, but should be included if your instructor requests it.)

Now that we know what the Works Cited entry should look like, we can plug in the information from our source. The completed entry should look like this:
Elving, Ron. "Obama's and Daniels' Speeches Follow Classic Party Lines." NPR. NPR, 25 Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Jan. 2012.

Because the author's last name is the first thing that appears in this Works Cited entry, that's what you should use for all in-text citations for this source -- i.e. (Elving).

[ What About EasyBib? ]

EasyBib and other automated citation makers like it are helpful tools, but they often don't get things quite right. Here's what EasyBib comes up on its own with for the source we used above:

"Obama's And Daniels' Speeches Follow Classic Party Lines : It's All Politics : NPR." NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. Web. 25 Jan. 2012. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/01/25/145820585/obamas-daniels-speeches-follow-classic-party-lines>.

That looks pretty good, right? Wrong. The problems with this entry are as follows:
  • The author's name, publisher, and date published are all missing.
  • The article title and website title contain all kinds of unnecessary gibberish. The words "It's All Politics : NPR" are not part of this article's title; they actually refer to the section of NPR on which this article appeared (a blog called "It's All Politics"). Similarly, the words "NPR : National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts" are not part of the true title of the website; they're intended to give more detailed information about what can be found on the site (and to create hits in search engine results). Because these phrases are not actually part of either title, they should not appear in the Works Cited entry.
  • The URL is automatically included, when it actually should not be present unless the instructor specifically asks for it.

In order to use EasyBib effectively, then, you need to be able to identify and correct errors in what it creates. EasyBib and sites like it are helpful tools, but only if the person using the tool truly knows what he/she is doing.

[ The Moral of the Story ]

If you're going to use EasyBib to create Works Cited entries, be sure that you fully understand how to do it yourself first. EasyBib will make mistakes, and you need to be able to correct them.