How To Write A Bibliography

Almost all academic and professional research papers are required to have an annotated bibliography.

However, there is a lot of general confusion as to exactly what a bibliography comprises, and how it should be formatted.

The term "bibliography" is often used as a generic term referring to some sort of list of "information sources" to be included at the end of a paper or article.

The two main standards that are used for preparing research papers and articles are:

  • MLA Style or Format (Modern Language Association of America);

  • APA Style or Format (American Psychological Association).

Interestingly, neither one of these writing standards actually refers to its "list of sources" as a "Bibliography".


The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (5th ed. [New York: MLA, 2001]) states, "Bibliographies are lists of related publications and materials." (7)

MLA refers to its "list of sources" at the end of a paper as a "list of works cited" or a "works cited list". The MLA Handbook... goes on to state that in a list of works cited "You must indicate to your readers not only what works you used in writing the paper but also exactly what you derived from each source and exactly where in the work you found the material." (204)

For more on MLA Style and the MLA "List of Works Cited" click here.


The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th. Ed [Washington, DC: APA, 2001]) states "... a bibliography cites works for background or for further reading and may include descriptive notes… APA journals require reference lists, not bibliographies." (215)

The APA Manual...states "The reference list at the end of a journal article documents the article and provides the information necessary to identify and retrieve each source. Authors … must include only the sources that were used in the research and preparation of the article." (215).

For more on APA Style and the APA "Reference List" click here.

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