Bibliography Cards Are Easy 

Bibliography Cards are usually easy to write. They require a small amount of information, and once they are written in their correct format, you can forget about them until it's time to write the Works Cited page.  

By the way, Works Cited is the new name (Modern Language Association) for the bibliography page.

Note to Parents: I was surprised when I began browsing the Internet on bib cards that there are no sites that really lay it out for the parent and student, so you've come to the right place. You will find explanations and images that will help your teen visualize what these cards should look like.

However, don't begin the research project until you have purchased your index cards.

Your teen will need at least a package of 100 for the bibliography cards and the notecards. 

Multi-colored cards can help keep sources and notecards more organized too.

Photo by Diana Boles

Follow MLA Style

To have a good learning experience with writing bibliography cards, your teen should try to choose research sources from a wide range of materials available.

I'm pretty sure she could write a good paper simply by choosing sources from the internet, but would that teach her how to use a library, how to use the index of an encyclopedia, or how to interview someone? 

Remember the research paper is about hunting for information. It's like detective work in a way, and learning to gather information from 

  • a book, 
  • a magazine, 
  • a newspaper, 
  • an interview with a knowledgeable person, 
  • and a website or online scholarly journal

will advance her critical thinking skills and prepare her for college, which is exactly the purpose of the research paper.

Sample Bibliography Card 

Top Left: Write where the source was located, so if you need to find it again, you can. If it's a book, write the call number as well. 

Top Right: Give this research source a Roman numeral. You will use this number on all your notecards for this source. It saves time. 

Body of Card: Write the correct MLA style for this type of source. Notice that the author's name starts at the left margin and all subsequent lines are indented five spaces. Your teen will simply alphabetize all the bibliography cards and copy the information from the card to the Works Cited page exactly as it's listed here. This is a big time saver.

Bottom of Card: If you wish to make any notes about this source, it can be done here. In this example, I wrote down the library's hours. 

A Brief Note on Notecards

More details will come on how to write good research notecards, but for now, I thought it would be helpful to see a sample one with the bibliography card.

Top Left: Write topic and subtopic here. Note that even though my subject is "The Ocean," I haven't written it. Instead, I wrote a subtopic and a sub-sub topic. This will help with writing the outline. 

Top Right: This information comes from my first source; hence, the Roman numeral I. The hyphen and the number indicate which notecard it is. In this case, it's the second one. 

If it were the fifth notecard from the fourth source, I would have written: IV - 5. Notice also the color coding. If this helps your teen stay more organized, use colored cards. 

Body of Card: Notice that the note from this source is written as a sentence. Composing sentences now rather than "jotting down notes," will make it easier to write her paper when the time comes for that. 

Sample Notecard

Wide Range of Research Sources

Without a personal copy of the  MLA stylebook, your teen will have to search online for the right format for her sources. This could mean much eye strain over a period of time.

At times, however, I have used the Purdue University Online Writing Lab to help me get my bibliography cards correct if I left my stylebook at school.

It is a very reliable website.

The delicate balance between finding the right source and writing the citation correctly often happens easily. However, sometimes, it can be confusing. For example, here are 14 different types of MLA book citations. 

  • Book with One Author
  • Book with More Than One Author
  • Two or More Books by the Same Author
  • Book by a Corporate Author or Organization
  • Book with No Author
  • A Translated Book
  • Republished Book
  • An Edition of a Book
  • Anthology or Collection (e.g. Collection of Essays)

  • A Work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection
  • Article in a Reference Book (e.g. Encyclopedias, Dictionaries)
  • A Multivolume Work
  • An Introduction, Preface, Foreword, or Afterword
  • Other Print/Book Sources

This is all part of the learning process though, and figuring out the right MLA format to use is all part of this. 

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