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How to Write a Bibliography for a Research Paper

Published on: Aug 28, 2017
Updated on: Aug 15, 2023
Table of Content
  • The purpose of a bibliography
  • Bibliography in MLA style
  • APA vs MLA comparsion
  • Popular types of bibliography
  • How to structure your bibliography
  • How to cite popular types of sources
  • Bibliography example

How to Write a Bibliography for a Research Paper

This helpful guide will show you how to write a bibliography for a research paper in MLA citation format. You shall learn what a bibliography is, why it is necessary, what aspects must be included, and how to structure it. We shall explore various types of MLA sources based on the most popular scenarios. In the final part of the guide, we provide a sample of a bibliography page for a research paper that is also done in MLA style.

The purpose of a bibliography in a research paper

A bibliography in academic writing represents a detailed collection of books, academic journals, scientific magazines, online sources, and various multimedia citations formed as a list. It represents all an author has used in research while composing an assignment. It must be noted that one should use every source used during the research process, not only those mentioned as direct citations. In other words, to write a bibliography correctly, you must include the following elements:

  • The name of the author(s) is a critical bibliography element;
  • Complete the title of the source material in question;
  • Name of the publisher;
  • Date when the work has been published;
  • Page number, ISBN, or DOI of the source material.

Note: Many students seem to confuse the purpose of a bibliography in a research paper since it’s easy to confuse a Bibliography page with the Works Cited page that one may require for an MLA paper. While these may look the same, they do not stand for the same thing!

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How to write a bibliography in MLA style?

The answer to that question is quite simple: to make a bibliography, you must compose an alphabetic list of all the sources used for a research paper. The best way to achieve that is to take notes while you are in progress of writing. Try to collect all the required information to make a Bibliography draft. Take notes of every book, website, magazine, and newspaper, depending on the sources used. Once you collect the notes, you can get them sorted much easier! Depending on the sources in print or those located online, you should include the following standard elements:

Bibliography Sources available in print: 

Name of the author(s)

Title of the publication or a magazine (if relevant)

Date of publication

Name of the publisher

Volume and page numbers for journals in print

Bibliography Sources found online for a bibliography page

Author’s name

Editor’s name

The name of the website


The date you accessed the online source (web pages, online databases, etc.).

As a rule, locating specific information for your bibliography can be challenging. You should always take time to locate as much information about the source as possible. When in doubt, look for the following ways to improve the credibility of bibliography sources:

  • The heading of the article, meaning where the publisher’s information might appear.
  • Frontpage or editorial page
  • Table of contents in a journal
  • Header or footer of the web source
  • Contacts page or DOI numbers for journal publications

Bibliography writing in different styles

The type of your bibliography will largely depend on the citation types you are planning to use or the writing style in question. In writing a bibliography, you must start with double-checking things regarding formatting. For this purpose, we shall explore MLA Works Cited vs. APA References page. This bibliography guide won’t delve into specifics; we shall only explain how things relate and differ between the two most popular styles.

MLA Citation Style Similarities APA Citation Style
It is most frequently encountered in Arts & Humanities disciplines and related subjects. Both types of research papers must be double-spaced. It also includes the Works Cited and References pages. Hanging indents must be used for every line after the first line of an entry. APA citation style is most common for Social Sciences, Environmental Sciences, and Political Studies.
The “Works Cited” page is usually met at the end of the paper and includes citations of all the sources used for a research paper. All information cited in the research paper must be included in the References of Works Cited pages. There is a “References” page at the end of the paper that includes citations of all the works that have been mentioned during the research process.
When the citation occurs, the author’s name is always used in the same sentence with the page number specified at the end. For example, “According to Jones, most researchers have been satisfied (34)”. To format a bibliography, parenthetical citations are necessary for the content’s body. When something is being cited, one should list the author’s last name with the year of publication included as well. For example, “Jones (2017) believes that social campaign project has allowed achieving success via social media platforms.”
When something is being listed in a bibliography, and the name of the original author is not mentioned, the author’s last name is mentioned at the end of the sentence in parentheses. Citations and sources must be listed alphabetically for MLA and APA bibliography types. It is relevant to both Works Cited and References pages. When the author is not mentioned in a sentence, the last name and the year of publication are mentioned in parentheses at the end of the sentences.

Popular Types of Bibliography: Bibliography, Annotated Bibliography, and Works Cited

As mentioned, a bibliography must include every source the author has consulted or referenced while creating the research paper. It means that it does not matter if the source has been cited. It must be mentioned once it has been used as a reference for a certain idea! Things do not work this way with a typical Works Cited page. Unlike a classic bibliography, it must include only those sources that have been actually mentioned as in-text citations.

As a researcher, you might encounter a sub-type of a Bibliography for a research paper type called an Annotated Bibliography. The major difference here is that you must show the usage intent, define the purpose, and provide bibliographic information about the author. In addition to the usual entry with the author and the publisher looking like a Bibliography entry, you must compose a short source description by offering a brief background and the importance.

Mainrules on how to structure your bibliography

Before you proceed any further, you must check the presence of the “Works Cited” (in MLA), “References” (in APA style), or a Bibliography heading for your page, depending on the situation and the type of sources that you have cited and/or consulted. Here is the basic bibliography checklist to ensure all the critical information is included. Let’s sum it up to five basic research paper bibliography questions:

  1. Have you included three to five valid sources providing verified and trustworthy information about your research subject?
  2. Have you included information that will make it possible to identify each of your sources? It must be the author’s name, title, and publisher.
  3. Have you checked your grading rubric twice to guarantee that you use citations properly (MLA, Chicago, APA, Harvard, etc.) for a bibliography?
  4. Has your Bibliography page been sorted according to the ABC?
  5. Are your sources relevant to the research subject and the main thesis questions?

Now, let’s proceed with the basic bibliography in research rules:

  • All your Bibliography for research paper entries must be double-spaced.
  • Check whether you must use single-spaced entries, depending on the format other than MLA.
  • All your entries must be done according to the last name of the author and sorted alphabetically.
  • Personal communications, letters, and interviews are not included in the Works Cited or References page. It is also true for Bibliography pages.
  • The sources without an author must also be sorted alphabetically based on the title or organization’s name.
  • A single space must be used after any punctuation mark used for MLA citation style for most bibliography types.
  • If you plan to divide a long word or a lengthy URL into more than one line, use a hyphen or a slash.
  • Avoid adding hyphens to the URL if the original link has not used it.
  • Do not start the first line of the bibliographical information with any punctuation mark, except for the names of the quoted source.
  • All the lines after the first in a Bibliography entry must have a hanging indent from the left margin (1/2 inches or 1.25 cm).
  • The descriptive addition of the Annotated Bibliography must be presented with the hanging indent for all lines after the actual citation.

Note: when you are unsure about some source type and the validity, it’s necessary to consult your academic advisor or omit it entirely. It will help to make your bibliography sound confident!

How to cite popular types of sources with MLA examples?

We have collected all the types of sources that can be used for research paper writing based on the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. Look at the research paper bibliography example for each type and compare it to your existing bibliography sources.

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Book with one author or editor bibliography example:

Stipe, Michael. The History of Alternative Rock Music: From Arts to Photography.
Penguin Books Press, London, 2004.

Book with two authors or editors’ bibliography entry:

Cohen, Leonard, and J.B. King, eds. Canadian Arts and Culture: How the Cultural
Identity Has Been Born. Ontario: BC Press, 1994.

Book with three authors or editors Bibliography:

Calbridge, John, Carl Brunsey, and Tony Wilson. Northern African Studies: Why Should
We Preserve National African Heritage? New York: Syracuse University Press,

Book with more than three authors or editors bibliography rules:

Nilson, Mary N., Kristofer R. van der Hoef, Ronald Johnson, and Larry King. The
Personality of Women in Sweden. Stockholm: Sweden House Press, 2021.

Book with compilers or compilers and editors:

McFly, Martin N., and Wayne Sanders, comps. and eds. The British Choral Traditions: A
Compilation of Sacred Hymns and Cultural Works. London: Pengiun Books, 2012.

Book with no author or editor stated:

Seversen’s Guidebook to Marine Navigation: An Illustrated Guide to Denmark’s Marine
History. Copenhagen, Denmark, 2019.

Book with one author, translated by another Bibliography entry:

Strandberg, Jonas. Stockholm Revisited. Trans. Ronald King and Michael Mills. New
York: Metropolitan Press, 1996.

Work in an anthology, a collection by several authors, with one or more editors and/or compilers:

Fierce, Ben. “How to Overcome Stress in Business Studies.” Business Management
and Marketing. Ed. William Johnson. Los Angeles: California, 2004, 34-39.

An article in an encyclopedia with no author stated:

“Compassion.” New Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1996 ed.

Article in an encyclopedia with an author:

If the encyclopedia is famous and has all the entries based alphabetically, you should not provide volume and page numbers as you write bibliographies. If not, you must provide complete publication data with the author’s name, the title of the entry, the name of the encyclopedia, the editor, the edition, and the publisher with the publication year.

Carl van der Saar. “Autism.” Large Dutch Encyclopedia, 2004, English edition.

An article in a magazine, journal, periodical, newsletter, or newspaper with no author stated Bibliography scenario:

“How to Teach Kids the Art of Bushcraft.” Boys Scouting for Boys. Sept. 2016: 13-19.

“The Dangers of Video Games for Teenagers.” Los Angeles Daily News. 26 Sep. 2004: 34.

Article in a magazine, journal, periodical, newsletter, or newspaper with one or more authors:

Farrell, Joseph P. “And the Boys Took It up for Themselves: Scouting, Learning, and Dialogue across Cultures.” Education and Global Cultural Dialogue, 2012, pp. 49–67, https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137045591_4.

Article from SIRS (Social Issues Resources Series):

Blake, John, and Inna Smith. “The Union of Workers Worldwide.” Labour Union Journal Nov.-Dec. 1991: 34-36. Labour Studies. Ed. Ellen Philips. Vol. 7. Oxford: Oxford Press, SIRS, 1996. Art. 14.

Advertisement in a Bibliography:

Make sure to include in a bibliography any vital information that has not been found in the original source that has been cited.

How to Build an IKEA Desk. Advertisement. 4 Jan. 2019.

Booklet, pamphlet, or brochure with no author stated:

Cancer Care: How to Monitor Your Health. San Diego, CA: Medical Sciences USA, 1996.

Booklet, pamphlet, or brochure with an author:

Zimmer, Hans R. Producing Music in 2022: Pandemic Challenges and Arts. Los Angeles, CA: Berkeley Music Press, 2023.

Book, movie, or film review:

For this type of bibliography, it is necessary to include short forms like “Rev.” for a review, “Ed.” for the edition or something being edited, and “dir.” for the director.

Kruger, Chad. “Learning to Survive in Canadian Rock Scene.” Rev. of Rock Music in Canada: How The Scene Has Been Born, by Brendon Call. Canadian Music Society. Jan.-Mar. 2011: 62-69.


That Eye The Sky. Dir. Michael Andrews. 1994. VHS. Australian Cinema Pictures, 1996.

Computer service, e.g., BRS, DIALOG, MEAD, etc.:

King, Michael. “Can U.S. Economy Receive a Boost?” Los Angeles Times. Late Ed. – Final Ed., 2. 4 Jun. 1993. DIALOG File 224, item 0207432

Definition from a dictionary:

“Turntable.” Def 3. The Musical Lexicon of Webster’s Online Dictionary. Canadian ed. 2007.

Film, movie:

The use of shortened forms in this bibliography citation type is necessary again for this type of bibliography writing, depending on what you want to include. A minimal film bibliography should include the movie’s title, the director, distribution data, and the year it was released.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Dir. Tim Burton. Filmed after the famous book by Roald Dahl. Perf. Johnny Depp. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005.

Government publication:

Suppose you wish to cite a publication issued by the government for your bibliography. In that case, you must provide the government’s name itself, the agency behind it, the underlined title of your publication, the place of publication, the publisher, and the date.

Canadian Government. First Nations People and Cultural Adjustment. Gathering Strength: Building Canada’s Future. Ottawa: Ministry of Culture and Arts, 2004.

Internet citations or citing electronic bibliography sources:

“Boy Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan and the Outdoor Code.” Boy Scout Oath, Law and Motto, www.usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bsoathlaw.asp. Accessed 19 June 2023.


Blair, Tony. Interview. UK Prime Minister’s Main Office. 28 May 2002.


Mention the speaker’s name, the lecture title in quotation marks, the conference, sponsors, location, and the date.

Bradley, Andrew. “Domestic Abuse.” Arizona State University Hall, U of Arizona. 12 May. 2001.

Letter, editorial:

An editorial: 

Jones, Anthony. “Hey, Are You Safe?” Editorial. Johnson’s Publishing. 21 May. 2004: 3.


Rubin, Rick. “How Recording Analogue Has Made Me a Better Person.” Letter. Los Angeles Evening News. 5 Jan. 2005: 34.

Map, chart:

It must be treated the same way as you would treat a book citation in MLA with no author mentioned. Ensure you indicate whether it’s for a map or a chart citation.

The USA. Map. Arizona. National Geographic Archive, 2004

Canada’s Natural Reserves. Chart. Burnuby, Victoria, NCA, 2012.

Musical composition:

You must provide the composer’s name, the title of the musical piece (underlined), the number and key (if available), and any additional form information.

Beethoven, Ludwig van. Little Suite, op.4., no 2.

If you are citing a published score, it must include the name of the composer, underlined title, data when the composition has been written, place of publication, and date of publication.

Stenger, Michael. Sweet Memories. London: Salisbury Hill, 1996.

Painting, photography, sculpture, architecture, or other art form:

It must include the name of the artist (if available), the title of the artwork that is underlined, the date when it was created, the museum or a gallery, city where it is located.

Friedrich, Andy. Sad Painter. 1924. Amsterdam Arts Gallery Collection, NL.


Patents must include the inventor’s name, patent’s title, issuing country with the patent’s number, and the date it was issued.

Kiske, Michael. “Laser Improvement Methods Through Cardio Stimulation.” German Patent Office. 29234809. June 1993.

Performance (ballet, concert, musical, opera, play, theatrical performance):

Disney’s Alladin. By Ronny Dio and Sally King. Dir. Julia Gaynor. Music and lyrics by Shania Twain and Eric Vinaldo. National New York Theater. NYC, 8 June 2012.

Radio, Television:

Anything cited from radio and television must include the title of the episode underlined or in quotation marks, the underlined title of the program, the title of the series, the network name, the radio station or TV channel, the city location, and the broadcast date.

The LXDS Morning Show. By Terry Hall. LXDS Radio Station, Louisianna, 4 Sept. 2004.

Recording & Music CD, LP, magnetic tape:

A bibliography in a research paper may refer to multimedia sources like audio archives. An audio recording would require the name of the author, singer, editor, or composer, depending on the source. It should also include the song’s title in quotation marks, the title of the recording underlined, publication medium, edition or version, and place of publication. Here is an example of such type for a research paper bibliography in MLA:

The Orions. “Sadness”. Black Album. CD. Exclusive Management by the Megaforce Records, Los Angeles, CA. Mastered by Rick Rubin, Sony Sound Productions, NYC. MFR, 2004.

Software on floppy disk:

Commander Keen Game, 230, Diskette, vers. 2.0. IBM PC, 1994.

Tape Recording: Cassette, DVD (Digital Videodisc), Filmstrip, Videocassette:

Johnson, Michael. Living Through Stress and Anxiety. Cassette tape recording read by the author. New York: Little & Jones Publishing, Audio Div., 1997.

Unpublished dissertations, theses:

You must state the author’s name, the unpublished dissertation’s title, or a thesis in quotation marks for a bibliography. Add the “Diss.” or “MA thesis” label, the university’s name, and the year of publication as you use it for your research.

Eisenberg, Robert. “The Military Conflicts in the Middle East.” BA Thesis. Syracuse University, New York, 2022.

MLA Bibliography page sample

As a rule, the most important is to see how a typical Bibliography page would look in MLA style format. Here is the sample bibliography page with five different sources that relate to a research paper related to Healthcare and Nursing discipline. Remember to start your Bibliography page on the next page after your conclusion part of the final paragraph.

Johnson, Kendall. Trauma in the Lives of Children: Crisis and Stress Management
        Techniques for Counselors, Teachers, and Other Professionals. Hunter House
Publishers, 1998.

Levell, Jade. “Childhood Domestic Violence and Abuse.” Boys, Childhood Domestic
        Abuse, and Gang Involvement, 2022, pp. 47–63,

Martin, Harold P. “Child Abuse and Child Development.” Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 3,
no. 2, 1979, pp. 415–421, https://doi.org/10.1016/0145-2134(79)90062-0.

Naegle, Madeline A., and Carolyn Erickson D’Avanzo. Addictions & Substance Abuse:
      Strategies for Advanced Practice Nursing. Prentice Hall Health, 2001.

“Recognize the Signs of Domestic Violence against Women.” Mayo Clinic, 14 Apr. 2022,

As you can see, one has two books, two different academic journals, and a web page related to a famous medical clinic representing a trustworthy research source. It is only a reference bibliography sample. As you are looking for a source for your research paper, always think twice about whether it can help support your argument or provide a piece of important evidence. Once the answer is “yes,” think about introducing your source and adding your author’s voice to the research!

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