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How to Write a Bibliography: Basic Rules

Elsie Goycoolea
By Elsie Goycoolea. Updated: January 20, 2017
How to Write a Bibliography: Basic Rules

A bibliography is essentially a list of all sources used to write up an essay or a research article. For academic purposes you may be required to use a list of sources when writing your school’s or college’s papers that must be included at the end of the paper. Differently from a reference page, in a bibliography you must include also those sources that were not cited in the paper. Creating a bibliography will protect you from plagiarism and illicit copying claims.

In this OneHowTo article we will explain the basic rules on How to Write a Bibliography.

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  1. Bibliography Basic Steps
  2. APA Style Bibliography
  3. MLA Style Bibliography

Bibliography Basic Steps

Before you start writing your essay make sure that you set aside a page on your document for the bibliography. This will help you list each source as you use it and not end up forgetting to include it before submitting the essay.

For each source you are going to need to record a few details. Check with your institution how many sources you are required.

For print publications (including those that are scanned and upload to the web) you will need to gather:

  • The author’s first name and last name
  • The title of the publication/journal
  • The title of the article or chapter
  • The date of the publication
  • The place of publication and publishing company
  • The volume or edition of the publication
  • The page number(s)

For online publications, try to find as many of the details specified above. It is best to use online databases that provide scholarly articles with full references. These resources offer up-to-date and trustworthy sources. Make sure to gather the Web address of the page and the date you retrieved it.

Most of the information is located either on the first or home pages, on the last pages or in sections titled “About”.

You can create the full reference for each source as you go (recommended) or gather all the details and before submitting craft all of the references.


How to Write a Bibliography: Basic Rules - Bibliography Basic Steps

APA Style Bibliography

Most institutions will use either APA or MLA styles. Make sure to check which one you are required to use as they do differ significantly.

  • The APA citation for a book will follow this rule:

Author, A.A. (Year of Publication). Title of work. Publisher City, State: Publisher.

Example: Smith, C. (1999). The magical book. Chicago, IL: Barnes & Heff

  • The APA citation for a website will follow this rule:

Author, A.A. (Year, Month Date of Publication). Article title. Retrieved from URL

Example: Hopkins, C. (2001, March 8). Extraordinary life. Retrieved from www.CNN.com

In APA style the bibliography page should be titled “References” and each entry must be added with hanging indentation. This means that the second and subsequent lines of each reference must be indented.

MLA Style Bibliography

As you will see, MLA style differs slightly from APA style but you are still required to use the same details of each source.

The MLA citation for a book will follow this rule:

Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Publisher City: Publisher Name, Year Published. Medium.

  • Example: Smith, Christopher. The Magical Book. Chicago: Barnes & Heff, 1999. Print.

Notice that the book title must have each word capitalized.

The MLA citation for a website will follow this rule:

Last Name, First Name. “Page Title.” Website Title. Sponsoring Institution/Publisher. Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.

  • Example: Hopkins, Carl. “Extraordinary Life”. CNN.com. Cable News Network, 8 March 2001. Web. 5 June 2016.

Different from APA, the bibliography page must be titled “Works Cited”. Sources must also be listed with hanging indentation.

There you have a basic introduction to bibliographies. Keep this article close whenever you need a quick revision for your next academic paper.

How to Write a Bibliography: Basic Rules - MLA Style Bibliography

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How to Write a Bibliography: Basic Rules