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How to Write a Bibliography for an Essay (10 Steps)

Updated on April 4, 2020
Tip: Keep track of the sources for your bibliography as you write.
Tip: Keep track of the sources for your bibliography as you write. | Source

Learning How to Write a Bibliography for an Essay and Academic Papers

Do you have to make a bibliography for your writing assignment?

This article outlines how to write a bibliography for an essay in 10 simple steps.

1. Complete Your Paper

If you write a bibliography first before actually working on your paper, it doesn’t make much sense unless you like working in reverse. It’s a lot easier to walk forward. Therefore, unless you enjoy making things difficult for yourself, make sure you have completed the first draft of your research paper before referencing your sources.

2. Gather Sources for the Bibliography

After writing your research paper, you need to credit all of your sources in your bibliography. Gather all of the books, magazines, internet URLs and any other publications you have used. You will need them all handy to reference them properly in your bibliography.

3. Use Proper Formatting

In Microsoft Word or whatever word processor you fancy, you’ll need to format your sources to write a bibliography properly. Make sure your margins are set to the common standard (1-inch on both sides) and double space the document. Center your title “Bibliography” at the top of the page.

4. List Sources Alphabetically

Align all of your sources to the left margin in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. If your source doesn’t mention an author then start the listing with the source’s title. Again, the title of the source should be in alphabetical order relating to the other sources and their authors.

List your sources alphabetically from A to Z.
List your sources alphabetically from A to Z.

5. Watch the Finer Details

If a title begins with “the” or “a/an” then include that, but go by the first letter of the next word in the title when placing it alphabetically. Also note, if the information carries over to the second line then make sure to indent that line (with your TAB key).

6. Format the Authors

Start each source entry with the author’s last name followed by a comma, then the author’s first name – and a period. If there are additional authors then they are listed after the period with their first name followed by their last name. Sometimes there are more than two authors so if that’s the case, make sure the last author’s name in the list is preceded by ‘and’.

7. Cite the Title

After referencing the author(s) of a source you need to cite the title of the book, magazine, internet source or whatever type of publication it is. The title should end with a period and be within double quotations.

8. Name the Publication

After the title, list the name of the book, magazine or internet source in italics. Remember all major works of literature are always italicized – not placed in quotations. Also, don’t forget to put a period after the name of your publication.

Remember to use proper punctuation for each reference.
Remember to use proper punctuation for each reference.

9. Finish the Citation

You’re almost there. After entering the name of your publication, there are a few different things you do depending on what type of publication it is.

For book sources, write the publishing information by typing the city followed by a colon, the publisher name, a comma, the year and a period.

For internet sources, include the date the date (by Month/Day/Year) the source was written followed by the URL between angle brackets.

For magazines, include the volume and issue number. You should then list the date of the magazine issue (by Year/Month/Day) followed by a comma and include the pages where the article appears.

Lastly, don’t forget to end all of your citations with a period.

10. Review and Finish

That’s it! Now you know how to write a bibliography for an essay.

Remember to double check your completed bibliography for any errors or formatting problems before adding it to the end of your research paper.

There are also a lot of helpful bibliography templates online that you could follow to make sure you’ve got everything right.

Bibliography Samples and Examples Online

Still need help?

For a list of bibliography samples, do a web search for various examples online. Remember to double-check the MLA style and formatting guide for the most recent guidelines for citing material for papers.

Not all examples online use the most up-to-date methods. has a number of different citation examples from books, encyclopedias, magazines, newspapers and other common sources used in bibliographies.

VIDEO: Watch How to Write a Bibliography for an Essay on YouTube

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