Guidelines on How to Write a Bibliography in MLA Style
- What Is a Bibliography?
- How does a bibliography differ from a works cited list?
- What Is an Annotated Bibliography?
- Why Must You Do a Bibliography?
- Why Must You Do a Bibliography?
- What Must Be Included in a Bibliography?
- Writing a Bibliography in MLA Style
WHAT IS A BIBLIOGRAPHY?
A bibliography, sometime incorrectly referred to as a Works Cited list, is a compilation of every source that was utilized (whether referenced in the paper or not) while researching material for a paper. Typically, a bibliography will include:
- The complete name of the author.
- The full title of any material researched.
- The name and location of the publisher.
- The date the material was published.
- The exact page numbers of the source material.
Generally speaking, a works cited list (or a reference page) references only the items that are actually cited in the text, not the items used in preparation for the creation of the paper. A bibliography, on the other hand, consists of everything cited in the paper and also all of the material used to prepare to create the paper.
WHAT IS AN ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY?
An annotated bibliography is, for all intents and purposes, identical to a standard bibliography with one distinct difference – the information noted is followed by a short description of the text, usefulness or quality of the source.
An annotated bibliography is an alphabetical list of books or articles for which you have added explanatory or critical notes. The annotation is usually written in a paragraph of about 150 words, in which you briefly describe the book or article cited, then add an evaluation and a critical comment of your own. An annotated bibliography differs from an abstract which is simply a summary of a piece of writing of about 150-250 words without critical evaluation.
WHY MUST YOU DO A BIBLIOGRAPHY?
The majority of scholars and professors will agree that a bibliography is one of the most important tools that can be included in research paper, text book, or the likes. The inclusion of a bibliography not only provides assurance that the material used in the creation of the paper is factual and relevant, but also offers credit to original sources and directs readers to the original source should more information be required.
Other reasons to include a bibliography in your work are:
1. To acknowledge and give credit to the sources of words, ideas, diagrams, illustrations, quotations borrowed, or any materials summarized or paraphrased.
2. To show that you are respectfully borrowing other people’s ideas, not stealing them, i.e. to prove that you are not plagiarizing.
3. To offer additional information to your readers who may wish to further pursue your topic.
4. To give readers an opportunity to check out your sources for accuracy. An honest bibliography inspires readers’ confidence in your writing.
5. Your teacher insists that you do a bibliography or you will get a lower grade.
For anyone pursuing, or planning to pursue an academic career, the practice of writing a bibliography is perhaps one of the most relevant components of the research phase. Void of a bibliography, the entire paper is seemingly useless. Granted, this may come across as being extreme, but it should be known that any research completed without verification of the accuracy of facts is useless. There is not a teacher at any scholastic institution that is willing to accept a research paper or thesis without proper citation at face value. This is why it is so imperative to include a properly formatted bibliography page. But, what is a bibliography and how do you write one?
As mentioned earlier, a bibliography is a comprehensive list of every source used not only in the text, but also when researching the material for the paper. Each and every bibliographic reference MUST include:
The name of the author. In all citation formats, the name of the author is listed first. The bibliography will be listed in order of the surname of the author, alphabetically. The only exception to this will be in the Footnotes or for Turabian format which necessitates that the first name of the author be listed.
The full title of the source used or researched. The title is used to credit the specific source used, whether this be the title of a particular book, a news article, an advertisement, etc.
The name of the publisher. The name of the publisher, as well as the location, is important for validation purposes. For example, books published by larger and more prominent publishing houses are often seen as more trustworthy sources than those published by independent and lesser known sources.
The initial publication date. This information is listed in order to provide the reader with an insight into when the text was originally published. Some data has a shelf life and including the publication date will allow readers to determine if the source is dated or relevant.
One of the primary reasons to cite sources and to include a comprehensive bibliography is to provide verification that proper research has been conducted and that all claims made can be supported by facts. Anyone reading a thesis or research paper can quickly reference the citation noted in the bibliography and then seek out the original material to gather additional information if needed. It should be said that a thoroughly formatted bibliography adds to the authenticity of a thesis and garners much more positive overall impressions.
Anyone writing a thesis should invest time into carefully researching their topic and having facts to support the arguments made. These facts can then be supported in the bibliography.
WHAT MUST BE INCLUDED IN A BIBLIOGRAPHY?
- PLACE OF PUBLICATION
- DATE OF PUBLICATION
- PAGE NUMBER(S) (For articles from magazines, journals, periodicals, newspapers, encyclopedias, or in anthologies).
Ignore any titles, designations or degrees, etc. which appear before or after the name, e.g., The Honourable, Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Rev., S.J., Esq., Ph.D., M.D., Q.C., etc. Exceptions are Jr. and Sr. Do include Jr. and Sr. because John Smith, Jr. and John Smith, Sr. are two different individuals. Include also I, II, III, etc. for the same reason.
a) Last name, first name:
Berkel, Catharina van.
b) Last name, first and middle names:
Price, David Robert James.
c) Last name, first name and middle initial:
Schwab, Charles R.
d) Last name, initial and middle name:
Holmes, A. William.
e) Last name, initials:
f) Last name, first and middle names, Jr. or Sr. designation:
Davis, Benjamin Oliver, Jr.
g) Last name, first name, I, II, III, etc.:
Stilwell, William E., IV.
a) If the title on the front cover or spine of the book differs from the title on the title page, use the title on the title page for your citation.
b) UNDERLINE the title and subtitle of a book, magazine, journal, periodical, newspaper, or encyclopedia, e.g., Oops! What to Do When Things Go Wrong, Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Encyclopaedia Britannica.
c) If the title of a newspaper does not indicate the place of publication, add the name of the city or town after the title in square brackets, e.g. National Post [Toronto].
Sample, Ian. “Boy Mixes Saliva with Web Savvy to Locate Birth Father.” Globe and Mail [Toronto]
3 Nov. 2005: A1+.
Furuta, Aya. “Japan Races to Stay Ahead in Rice-Genome Research.” Nikkei Weekly [Tokyo]
5 June 2000: 1+.
d) DO NOT UNDERLINE the title and subtitle of an article in a magazine, journal, periodical, newspaper, or encyclopedia; put the title and subtitle between quotation marks:
Baker, Peter, and Susan B. Glasser. “No Deals with Terrorists: Putin.” Toronto Star
29 Oct. 2002: A1+.
Fields, Helen. “Virtual Healing.” U.S. News & World Report 18 Oct. 2004: 70.
Penny, Nicholas B. “Sculpture, The History of Western.” New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1998 ed.
e) CAPITALIZE the first word of the title, the first word of the subtitle, as well as all important words except for articles, prepositions, and conjunctions, e.g., Flash and XML: A Developer’s Guide, or The Red Count: The Life and Times of Harry Kessler.
f) Use LOWER CASE letters for conjunctions such as and, because, but, and however; for prepositions such as in, on, of, for, and to; as well as for articles: a, an, and the, unless they occur at the beginning of a title or subtitle, or are being used emphatically, e.g., “And Now for Something Completely Different: A Hedgehog Hospital,” “Court OKs Drug Tests for People on Welfare,” or “Why Winston Churchill Was The Man of The Hour.”
g) Separate the title from its subtitle with a COLON (:), e.g. “Belfast: A Warm Welcome Awaits.”
a) DO NOT use the name of a country, state, province, or county as a Place of Publication, e.g. do not list Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Great Britain, United States of America, California, Ontario or Orange County as a place of publication.
b) Use only the name of a city or a town.
c) Choose the first city or town listed if more than one Place of Publication is indicated in the book.
d) It is not necessary to indicate the Place of Publication when citing articles from major encyclopedias, magazines, journals, or newspapers.
e) If the city is well known, it is not necessary to add the State or Province after it, e.g.:
f) If the city or town is not well known, or if there is a chance that the name of the city or town may create confusion, add the abbreviated letters for State, Province, or Territory after it for clarification. See Chapter 13. USA and Canada – Abbreviations of States, Provinces, and Territories. Example:
Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Medicine Hat, AB:
g) Use “n.p.” to indicate that no place of publication is given.
You can find out more about how to use parenthetical references.
a) Be sure you write down the Publisher, NOT the Printer.
b) If a book has more than one publisher, not one publisher with multiple places of publication, list the publishers in the order given each with its corresponding year of publication, e.g.:
Conrad, Joseph. Lord Jim. 1920. New York: Doubleday; New York: Signet, 1981.
c) Shorten the Publisher’s name, e.g. use Macmillan, not Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. Omit articles A, An, and The, skip descriptions such as Press, Publishers, etc. See Section 7.5 in the 6th ed. of the MLA Handbook for more details and examples.
d) No need to indicate Publisher for encyclopedias, magazines, journals, and newspapers.
e) If you cannot find the name of the publisher anywhere in the book, use “n.p.” to indicate there is no publisher listed.
a) For a book, use the copyright year as the date of publication, e.g.: 2005, not ©2005 or Copyright 2005, i.e. do not draw the symbol © for copyright, or add the word Copyright in front of the year.
b) For a monthly or quarterly publication use month and year, or season and year. For the months May, June, and July, spell out the months. For all other months with five or more letters, use abbreviations: Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Note that there is no period after the month. For instance, the period after Jan. is for the abbreviation of January only. See Abbreviations of Months of the Year, Days of the Week, and Other Time Abbreviations. If no months are stated, use Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, etc. as given, e.g.:
Alternatives Journal Spring 2005.
Classroom Connect Dec. 2004/Jan. 2005.
Discover July 2004.
Scientific American May 2004.
c) For a weekly or daily publication use date, month, and year, e.g.:
Newsweek 29 Sept. 2004.
d) Use the most recent Copyright year if two or more years are listed, e.g., ©1988, 1990, 2005. Use 2005.
e) Do not confuse Date of Publication with Date of Printing, e.g., 7th Printing 2005, or Reprinted in 2005. These are not publication dates.
f) If you cannot find a publication date anywhere in the book, use “n.d.” to indicate there is “No Date” listed for this publication.
g) If there is no publication date, but you are able to find out from reliable sources the approximate date of publication, use [c. 2005] for circa 2005, or use [2005?]. Always use square brackets [ ] to indicate information that is not given but is supplied by you.
a) Page numbers are not needed for a book, unless the citation comes from an article or essay in an anthology, i.e. a collection of works by different authors.
Example of a work in an anthology (page numbers are for the entire essay or piece of work):
Fish, Barry, and Les Kotzer. “Legals for Life.” Death and Taxes: Beating One of the
Two Certainties in Life. Ed. Jerry White. Toronto: Warwick, 1998. 32-56.
b) If there is no page number given, use “n. pag.”
(Works Cited example)
Schulz, Charles M. The Meditations of Linus. N.p.: Hallmark, 1967.
(Footnote or Endnote example)
1 Charles M. Schulz, The Meditations of Linus (N.p.: Hallmark, 1967) n. pag.
c) To cite a source with no author, no editor, no place of publication or publisher, no year of publication stated, but when you know where the book was published, follow this example:
Full View of Temples of Taiwan – Tracks of Pilgrims. [Taipei]: n.p., n.d.
d) Frequently, page numbers are not printed on some pages in magazines and journals. Where page numbers may be counted or guessed accurately, count the pages and indicate the page number or numbers.
e) If page numbers are not consecutive, it is not necessary to list all the page numbers on which the article is found. For example, if the article starts on page 10, continues on pages 12-13, and finishes on page 36, you need only to state 10+ as page numbers, not 10-36, and not 10, 12-13, 36.
Cohen, Stephen S., and J. Bradford DeLong. “Shaken and Stirred.” Atlantic Monthly
Jan.-Feb. 2005: 112+.
Above article starts on page 112, continues on pages 113 and 114, advertisement appears on page 115, article continues on page 116, and ends on page 117.
f) Treat page numbers given in Roman numerals as they are given if quoting sources from Foreword, Preface, Introduction, etc., write v-xii as printed and not 5-12. Normally, do not use Roman numerals for page numbers from the main part of the book where Arabic numbers are used. Also, do not use Roman numerals for encyclopedia volume numbers if Arabic numbers are given.
g) To cite an article from a well-known encyclopedia, such as Americana, Britannica, or World Book, you need not indicate the editor, place of publication, publisher, or number of volumes in the set. If there is an author, cite the author. If no author is stated, begin the citation with the title of the article. Underline the title of the encyclopedia and provide the year of edition, e.g.:
Kibby, Michael W. “Dyslexia.” World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.
Do not confuse a subheading in a long article with the title of the article, i.e., do not use the subheading History or People as the title if the main title of the article is Germany.
Where the encyclopedia cited is not a well-known or familiar work, in addition to the author, title of article, and title of the encyclopedia, you must also indicate the editor, edition if available, number of volumes in the set, place of publication, publisher, and year of publication, e.g.:
Midge, T. “Powwows.” Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Ed. D.L. Birchfield.
11 vols. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1997.
WRITING A BIBLIOGRAPHY IN MLA STYLE
Begin typing your list of cited sources flush to the left margin. Indent 5 spaces (or half an inch) for the second and subsequent lines of citation.
Some citations are short and may fit all on one line. Nothing is wrong with that.
Do not type author on one line, title on a second line, and publication information on a third line. Type all citation information continuously until you reach the end of the line. Indent the second line and continue with the citation. If the citation is very long, indent the third and subsequent lines.
1. Standard Format for a Book:
Author. Title: Subtitle. City or Town: Publisher, Year of Publication.
If a book has no author or editor stated, begin with the title. If the city or town is not commonly known, add the abbreviation for the State or Province.
If you are citing two or more books by the same author or editor, list the name of the author or editor in the first entry only, and use three hyphens to indicate that the following entry or entries have the same name. Do not use the three hyphens if a book is by two or more authors or is edited by two or more individuals.
Business: The Ultimate Resource. Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2002.
King, Stephen. Black House. New York: Random, 2001.
—. Dreamcatcher. New York: Scribner, 2001.
—. From a Buick 8: A Novel. New York: Simon, 2002.
Osen, Diane, ed. The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews with National
Book Award Winners and Finalists. New York: Modern, 2002.
2. Standard Format for a Magazine, Periodical, Journal, or Newspaper Article:
Author. “Title: Subtitle of Article.” Title of Magazine, Journal, or
Newspaper Day, Month, Year of Publication: Page Number(s).
Hewitt, Ben. “Quick Fixes for Everyday Disasters.” Popular Mechanics Nov. 2004: 83-88.
Nordland, Rod, Sami Yousafzai, and Babak Dehghanpisheh. “How Al Qaeda Slipped
Away.” Newsweek 19 Aug. 2002: 34-41.
Suhr, Jim. “Death Penalty for Juveniles Is Considered: High Court to Hear Missouri Case.”
Buffalo News 10 Oct. 2004: A12.
For other citation examples, see How to Write a Bibliography.
Note: It is generally not necessary to indicate volume and issue numbers for newspapers and magazines as the publication dates and pages make the articles easy to find. For scholarly journals, such as those published quarterly, semi-annually, or annually, it is advisable to indicate both volume and issue numbers when available. For a detailed discussion on citing articles and other publications in periodicals, please see Chapter 5.7 in MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.
The bibliography is paramount when determining the overall quality and authenticity of a thesis. It also justifies the research conducted by the author. It is important to make use of current sources and to clearly understand how to cite each reference used. Never overlook the value of a bibliography, including one in your paper will prove that you have critical thinking skills and have read and understood the sources you’ve used to complete your assignment.