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How to Do a Reference Page for a Research Paper

by Lily Medina, Demand Media

    The reference page is a crucial element of your research paper; it helps you prevent plagiarism, and it proves you did your research. By providing publication information about the sources that helped you write your paper, the reference page both grants proper credit to other researchers and demonstrates your own scholarly diligence, thereby inducting you into the world of academia. Of course, writing a thorough, properly formatted reference page also helps you earn a good grade.

    Step 1

    Write "References" at the top of the page, centered. If you are following a specific formatting style, such as APA or MLA, then write this title in normal text---use the same font, size and format as the rest of the paper. If your teacher hasn't required that you use a certain style, then you can bold the title or write it in slightly larger letters.

    Step 2

    Add an entry for each source used in your paper. This means any book, article, website, person, pamphlet, television broadcast, movie, picture or any other resource that you discussed or quoted or that provided information you included in your essay. Basically, if anything in your paper wasn't your original idea, information, creation, and/or words, then you should provide a citation for it. Additionally, as a general rule, only provide reference entries for sources that were specifically cited or mentioned in your paper.

    Step 3

    Provide thorough information about each source. Begin with the name of the reference's author. Also include---at minimum---the source's title, date of publication and publisher. If the source is published in a periodical, write the volume and issue numbers as well as the name of the magazine or journal. If the source is published online, you may want to provide the URL. If the source is a book, specify where the publisher is located.

    Step 4

    Left-align the entries, beginning flush left. If an entry takes up more than one line, standard procedure involves indenting the subsequent lines, usually about half an inch. If your reference list is double-spaced, then don't add an extra line between entries; if it is single-spaced, however, then you can add one line of blank space after each entry. Whatever type of format you choose, follow it consistently throughout your reference list.

    Step 5

    Alphabetize the list according to the author's names. For an author who is a person, the entry should begin with the last name (i.e., write "Zoe Brown" as "Brown, Zoe," and alphabetize it under "B," not "Z"). If there are multiple authors for one source, alphabetize the entry according to the first author's last name. For organizational authors, alphabetize according to the first letter of the organization's title. Most word processing programs have an automatic alphabetizing feature, which can save time and effort and help prevent mistakes.

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    About the Author

    As a professional copywriter since 2004, Lily Medina researches to expand her expertise in technology, parenting, education, health, fitness and writing. She has also taught high school and worked as a copy editor. Medina majored in political theory at Patrick Henry College.

    Photo Credits

    • Old books lay a column on a white background image by Aliaksandr Zabudzko from Fotolia.com

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