A bibliography is a list of the works you refer to in a text -- whether it's a book, an article or a paper written for a class -- as well as the works you simply consulted in preparing to write your text. The bibliography gives credit to others who contributed to your work. Instructors routinely take off points for bibliographies that are styled incorrectly or are incomplete.

Step 1

Find out which documentation system you are supposed to use. Various academic areas use different documentation systems. English and foreign language and literature courses, along with other areas in the humanities, often use the Modern Language Association or MLA documentation system. Disciplines like psychology and other social sciences tend to use the American Psychological Association or APA system. Other documentation systems have been published for sciences such as physics and biology.

Step 2

Obtain the manual for the system you will be using. Libraries often have multiple copies of the latest editions of these manuals. For MLA, you'll need "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers." If you have been told to use APA, obtain "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association." These books provide specific formats, with examples, for bibliographic entries for every type of source -- from authored books, edited books and articles to films and electronic media sources.

Step 3

Record on a separate note card the bibliographic information for each source you use in preparing your paper. The basic bliographic information includes author, title and facts of publication; but often other information -- for example, the edition or the chapter within a book -- is also required. For each source, refer to the manual and format your bibliographic entry exactly as shown in the examples.

Step 4

Put the note cards in alphabetical order and type the entries in that order to create the bibliography itself.


  • There are different ways to cite a work or reference when writing a paper. The above example is in the MLA format.


  • When you are doing a bibliography, the manual is your best friend and may be worth purchasing if you plan to write more research papers. Things like italics, underlining, quotation marks and punctuation differ greatly from one system to the next, and the only way to ensure you style entries correctly is to follow the examples in the manual.