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How to Write a Bibliography

A bibliography is written at the end of a book/reference paper and enlists all the referenced sources so that the referenced material gets its due credit.
Buzzle Staff

Very Important

There are three styles used to compile bibliographies - the Modern Language Association (MLA) for humanities papers, the American Psychological Association (APA) for scientific papers, and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) for journals and books.
Research is the first step to writing a book or a research paper or a project. While doing so, we come across innumerable sources from where we can obtain information - the internet, older research papers, books on the subject, written by famous authors, newspapers, etc.
Irrespective of whether we have copied the works exactly or merely used them as a guide to understand the concept, it is essential to mention them in the paper. Firstly, it is important that you give the sources (authors, publications, etc.) their due credit. After all, they have undertaken research at the grass-root level and penned them to help others.
Secondly, you need to avoid any charges of plagiarism, as it is a serious offence and may lead you to pay penalties. Here you will come across certain rules you need to follow while writing a bibliography.

How to Write a Bibliography?

  • A bibliography is written in different formats for books and papers. You have to use the right style as per your work.
  • To begin with, roughly list down all the sources you have referred; everything - books, journals, papers, internet, etc.
  • You will need to know the terms that will be required - title, date, place, and author of the publication.
  • You will also need to know the publisher and the copyright date.
  • A bibliography is always written in the alphabetical order.
  • For a printed source, you will need to know the publishing company and book volume (number of pages, that is).
  • For an online source, you will need to know the website URL and the last time you looked at the page.
  • If possible, you should also know the name of the editor/writer and the company that posted the piece.
  • The format of the bibliography will vary as per your work. The formats are different from each other.

The MLA Format

  • It is common to indent either 5 spaces or ½ inch from the left margin. The information would be on one line and the second line will be indented again.
  • There is a single space after every punctuation mark.
  • Use a period, hyphen, or a slash mark while dividing a long word into two lines.
  • Never begin a new line with a punctuation mark, and use double-spaced lines throughout.
  • So with this format, the information for a book would look like this:

    Author. Title: Subtitle. City or town: Publisher, Year of publication.
  • When listing a citation of more than one book for one author, list the author only in the first citation.
  • For magazines and items other than the book, use this format:

    Author. Title: Subtitle of article. Title of Magazine etc., Day Month Year of publication: Page number(s).

The APA Format

  • Your title should be 'References' and should be center-aligned.
  • Use the alphabetical order for listing authors, if you do not know the author's name, use alphabetical order for the title.
  • In the APA style, for dates, you may use the dd/mm/yyyy or the mm/dd/yyyy style. Add a comma after the year.
  • Publication names should be in italics.
  • The first line of any entry should be flush left, and the subsequent lines should have a ½ inch indentation.
  • Use the sentence-style capitalization, unless you are using titles that have to be completely capitalized.
  • Use an ampersand (&) for more than one author.
  • The volume number should be in italics too.

The CMS Format

  • Your title should be 'Notes and Bibliography' or 'References'.
  • Leave two blank lines after the heasding, and one blank line after every entry hereon.
  • List everything in alphabetical prder, and use 'and' for multi-author publications.
  • For more than 4 authors, write all names in the bibliography.
  • Use title as citation if author is unknown.
  • If publication dates are not available, use access dates.
  • If you cannot find the page number, use volume (vol.), section (sec.), equation (eq.), or note (n.).

Important Terms

List down authors in alphabetical order. And, always, the last name should be written first, followed by a comma, and then the first name, for books. The letter-by-letter system is also used, i.e., the last name is give,, followed by the initials of the first and middle names.
The title should always be in italics, and should end with a period. If it has a subtitle, use a punctuation. In case of unknown authors, titles are used in alphabetical order. Should the name of a newspaper not include the city in its title, then place the name of the city in square brackets after the title.
Capitalize the first word of both the title and subtitle and the rest of the important words in the titles, except for articles, prepositions, and conjunctions.
Date of Publication
You can use any format for the date. Be sure it is the correct date. In case of copyright date, use only the year. In the MLA format, you can abbreviate the names of all the months, except for May, June, and July.
Place of Publication
Don't use places of countries, nations, counties, or states. Only use city or town names. This is only necessary when citing books, and is not necessary for any other resources. Use the abbreviation n.p., when no place is provided.
When citing cities, it is only necessary to cite the state or province when it will cause confusion or when the place is not well-known. For a website, cite the company name.


▶ Doe, Jane. The History Of Circuit Boards. New York. Reference Publishers. 12/03/2001.

Doe, Jane and Smith, Jones. The History Of Circuit Boards. New York. Reference Publishers. 12/03/2001.
▶ Doe, Jane. "The History Of Circuit Boards". Electronic Knowledge Encyclopedia, 2001. Electronic Wonders. http://www.elecwonder.com. 12/03/2001.

▶ Doe, Jane. "The History Of Circuit Boards". Electronic Knowledge Encyclopedia, 2001. Elecmedia Publishers. 12/03/2001.
▶ Doe, Jane. "Tech Education". http://www.techedu.com. 12/03/2005.

"Tech Education". http://www.techedu.com. Technical Education Inc. 12/03/2005.
Many of us forget the significance of citing references and don't even follow the right method. But, remember that it is important to write the bibliography and format it in the right way. Remember to cite every source, even if you have referred to just a paragraph from the same. If you don't do so, it is quite likely that you will be penalized.