Writing Tips

How to Write a Bibliography

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At the end of your research paper or presentation is the oft-neglected bibliography. With so much to consider in conducting your research, crafting a way to share your research, and editing/perfecting it to share, creating a list of sources may seem like a low priority. However, the bibliography is the spine of your research–it allows your audience to follow up on your logic, or educate themselves on your topic. While many programs now exist to format your bibliography correctly, collecting the proper content to input into the program is a vital step in your research journey.

Writing a bibliography can seem dry or boring, but without a bibliography, your research is only as good as an uninformed opinion. Show the receipts and let your audience know where and how you got your primary sources or background data. Here we’ll show you how to make the task easier. 

Even if you use a program to format each source cited, keeping a running record of every single source as you collect it will be the biggest favor you can do yourself. You will save yourself 2 - 4 times the effort if you compile your bibliography as you go, rather than saving the task until the very end of your research, when you’re writing everything up. Use our checklists to make sure you have all the necessary information, and before you turn your bibliography in to your mentor or teacher, don’t forget to use our quality checklist at the end of this document.

Before you begin: a note on formatting

There are as many ways to format a bibliography as there are publishing platforms. Because there is no “one right way” to construct a bibliography, and because different types of sources require different information to be included (e.g. you wouldn’t need a performance date for a website, but you would need an access date), we’ve created this guide to help you collect the right information so you can apply the format that your chosen publisher requires. If you are not sure which format to use, you can do a search online, or ask your mentor or your Program Coachfor guidance.

In order to introduce you to some of the formats most commonly used by journalists, scientists, and historians, we’ve included an example of a format with each type of source outlined below.

Remember: there are many many different formats beyond the examples included in this guide. You should always check which format you will need to adhere to so you can write your bibliography properly. For specifics on a given format (such as APA), you can search online for examples, or you can use software that will do it for you once you input the information you’ve collected using our checklists.

Collecting information on written sources

  • Author name
  • Title of publication
  • Title of article (for magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, etc.)   
  • Date of publication
  • Place of publication   
  • Publishing company
  • Volume number (for magazines, newspapers, print encyclopedias, etc.)   
  • Page number(s)

As an example, we’ve arranged some sample information using MLA (Modern Language Association) format:

Collecting information on web-based sources

  • Author and editor names
  • Title of page
  • Company or organization who posted the webpage (often at the footer of the page, or in the About Us section)
  • URL for the page
  • The most recent date you looked at the page

As an example, we’ve arranged some sample information using IEEE (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) format:

Collecting information on podcasts

  • Author (labeled as ‘Host’)   
  • Date
  • Episode title
  • Episode number
  • Description “[Audio podcast episode],”   
  • Name of the podcast
  • Production company   
  • URL, if available

 

As an example, we’ve arranged some sample information using APA (American Psychological Association) format:

Collecting information on video/television/live performances

  • Episode title (not needed for live performances)   
  • Name of show
  • Names/roles of main writers/contributors   
  • Season
  • Episode number
  • Main production/distribution company
  • Year of production (and date for live performances)

As an example, we’ve arranged some sample information using the Chicago Manual of Style:

 

Quality-checking your bibliography

After you’ve entered the information you’ve collected above into the format required by your mentor or publishing outlet (e.g. peer reviewed journal), you should review your work to make sure you haven’t forgotten any sources you’ve referenced in your work. If you are using bibliographic software, the program will do this for you.

Before you turn in or share your bibliography, you should have checked off each of the following requirements:

  • Bibliography includes at least 3 written sources
  • Each source listed includes identifying information (following the checklists above)
  • Sources are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name, or in the order you refer to them in your content (whichever is required by your mentor or publisher)
  • All definitive statements in your research are supported by a source listed in the bibliography, and/or by new data you collected

Keep in mind

If your mentor has asked for you to keep an “annotated bibliography,” they are referring to detailed reading notes in addition to the citation format outlined here. You will need to start by creating the bibliography as outlined above, but then you will need to add your thoughts, comments and reflections as a means of tracking the information you’ve collected from the source. For directions on how to write an annotated bibliography, please refer to our “Writing an Annotated Bibliography” guide.

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