How To Write a Bibliography (Plus Printable Guide With Examples)


Writing a research paper involves a lot of work. Students need to consult a variety of sources to gather reliable information and ensure their points are well supported. Research papers include a bibliography, which can be a little tricky for students. Learn how to write a bibliography in multiple styles and find basic examples below.

Plus grab our printable Bibliography Guide for Students with examples from all three major style guides: APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), or The Chicago Manual of Style. Just fill out the form on this page to get the free guide.

IMPORTANT: Each style guide has its own very specific rules, and they often conflict with one another. Additionally, each type of reference material has many possible formats, depending on a variety of factors. The overviews shown here are meant to guide students in writing basic bibliographies, but this information is by no means complete. Students should always refer directly to the preferred style guide to ensure they’re using the most up-to-date formats and styles.

What is a bibliography?

When you’re researching a paper, you’ll likely consult a wide variety of sources. You may quote some of these directly in your work, summarize some of the points they make, or simply use them to further the knowledge you need to write your paper. Since these ideas are not your own, it’s vital to give credit to the authors who originally wrote them. This list of sources, organized alphabetically, is called a bibliography.

A bibliography should include all the materials you consulted in your research, even if you don’t quote directly from them in your paper. These resources could include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Books and e-books
  • Periodicals like magazines or newspapers
  • Online articles or websites
  • Videos
  • Primary source documents like letters or official records

Bibliography vs. References

These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings. As noted above, a bibliography includes all the materials you used while researching your paper, whether or not you quote from them or refer to them directly in your writing.

A list of references only includes the materials you cite throughout your work. You might use direct quotes or summarize the information for the reader. Either way, you must ensure you give credit to the original author or document. This section can be titled “List of Works Cited” or simply “References.”

Your teacher may specify whether you should include a bibliography or a reference list. If they don’t, consider choosing a bibliography to show all the works you used in researching your paper. This can help the reader see that your points are well supported and allow them to do further reading on their own if they’re interested.

Bibliography vs. Citations

Citations refer to direct quotations from a text that are woven into your own writing. There are a variety of ways to write citations, including footnotes and endnotes. These are generally shorter than the entries in a reference list or bibliography. Learn more about writing citations here.

What does a bibliography entry include?

Depending on the reference material, bibliography entries include a variety of information intended to help a reader locate the material if they want to refer to it themselves. These entries are listed in alphabetical order and may include:

  • Title
  • Author/s or creator/s
  • Publication date
  • Volume and issue numbers
  • Publisher and publication city
  • Website URL

These entries don’t generally need to include specific page numbers or locations within the work (except for print magazine or journal articles). That type of information is usually only needed in a footnote or endnote citation.

What are the different bibliography styles?

In most cases, writers use one of three major style guides: APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), or The Chicago Manual of Style. There are many others as well, but these three are the most common choices for K–12 students.

Many teachers will state their preference for one style guide over another. If they don’t, you can choose your own preferred style. However, you should also use that guide for your entire paper, following their recommendations for punctuation, grammar, and more. This will ensure you are consistent throughout.

Below, you’ll learn how to write a simple bibliography using each of the three major style guides. We’ve included details for books and e-books, periodicals, and electronic sources like websites and videos. If the reference material type you need to include isn’t shown here, refer directly to the style guide you’re using.

APA Style Bibliography and Examples

Example of APA style bibliography entry.
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Technically, APA style calls for a list of references instead of a bibliography. If your teacher requires you to use the APA style guide, you can limit your reference list to only items you cite throughout your work.

How To Write a Bibliography (References) Using APA Style

Here are some general notes on writing an APA reference list:

  • Title your bibliography section “References” and center the title on the top line of the page.
  • Do not center your references; they should be left-aligned. For longer items, subsequent lines should use a hanging indent of 1/2 inch.
  • Include all types of resources in the same list.
  • Alphabetize your list by author or creator, last name first.
  • Do not spell out the author/creator’s first or middle name—only use their initials.
  • If there are multiple authors/creators, use an ampersand (&) before the final author/creator.
  • Place the date in parentheses.
  • Capitalize only the first word of the title and subtitle, unless the word would otherwise be capitalized (proper names, etc.).
  • Italicize the titles of books, periodicals, and videos.
  • For websites, include the full site information, including the http:// or https:// at the beginning.

Books and E-Books APA Bibliography Examples

For books, APA reference list entries use this format (only include the publisher’s website for e-books):

Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial. (Publication date). Title with only first word capitalized (unless there’s a proper name/noun). Publisher. Publisher’s website

  • Wynn, S. (2020). City of London at war 1939–45. Pen & Sword Military. https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/City-of-London-at-War-193945-Paperback/p/17299

Periodical APA Bibliography Examples

For journal or magazine articles, use the following format. If you viewed the article online, include the URL at the end of the citation.

Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial. (Publication date). Title of article. Magazine or Journal Title (Volume number)Issue number, page numbers. URL

  • Bell, A. (2009). Landscapes of fear: Wartime London, 1939–1945. Journal of British Studies (48)1, 153–175. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25482966

Here’s the format for newspapers. For print editions, include the page number/s. For online articles, include the full URL:

Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial. (Year, Month Date) Title of article. Newspaper title. Page number/s. URL

  • Blakemore, E. (2022, November 12) Researchers track down two copies of fossil destroyed by the Nazis. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2022/11/12/ichthyosaur-fossil-images-discovered/

Electronic APA Bibliography Examples

For articles with a specific author on a website, use this format:

Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial. (Year, Month Date). Title. Site name. URL

  • Wukovits, J. (2023, January 30). A World War II survivor recalls the London Blitz. British Heritage. https://britishheritage.com/history/world-war-ii-survivor-london-blitz

When an online article doesn’t include a specific author or date, list it like this:

Title. (Year, Month Date). Site name. Retrieved Month Date, Year, from URL

  • Growing up in the Second World War. (n.d.). Imperial War Museums. Retrieved May 12, 2023, from https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/growing-up-in-the-second-world-war

When you need to list a YouTube video, use the name of the account that uploaded the video, and format it like this:

Name of Account. (Upload year, month day). Title [Video]. YouTube. URL

  • War Stories. (2023, January 15). How did London survive the Blitz during WW2? Cities at war: London [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/uwY6JlCvbxc

For more information on writing APA bibliographies, see the APA Style Guide website.

APA Bibliography (Reference List) Example Pages

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MLA Style Bibliography Examples

Example of MLA style words cited entry.
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MLA style calls for a Works Cited section, which includes all materials quoted or referred to in your paper. You may also include a Works Consulted section, including other reference sources you reviewed but didn’t directly cite. Together, these constitute a bibliography. If your teacher requests an MLA Style Guide bibliography, ask if you should include Works Consulted as well as Works Cited.

How To Write a Bibliography (Works Cited and Works Consulted) in MLA Style

For both MLA Works Cited and Works Consulted sections, use these general guidelines:

  • Start your Works Cited list on a new page. If you include a Works Consulted list, start that on its own new page after the Works Cited section.
  • Center the title (Works Cited or Works Consulted) in the middle of the line at the top of the page.
  • Align the start of each source to the left margin, and use a hanging indent (1/2 inch) for the following lines of each source.
  • Alphabetize your sources using the first word of the citation, usually the author’s last name.
  • Include the author’s full name as listed, last name first.
  • Capitalize titles using the standard MLA format.
  • Leave off the http:// or https:// at the beginning of a URL.

Books and E-Books MLA Bibliography Examples

For books, MLA reference list entries use the following format. Add the URL at the end for e-books.

Last Name, First Name Middle Name. Title. Publisher, Date. URL

  • Wynn, Stephen. City of London at War 1939–45. Pen & Sword Military, 2020. www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/City-of-London-at-War-193945-Paperback/p/17299

Periodical MLA Bibliography Examples

Here’s the MLA-style format for magazines, journals, and newspapers. For online articles, add the URL at the end of the listing:

For magazines and journals:

Last Name, First Name. “Title: Subtitle.” Name of Journal, volume number, issue number, Date of Publication, First Page Number–Last Page Number.

  • Bell, Amy. “Landscapes of Fear: Wartime London, 1939–1945.” Journal of British Studies, vol. 48, no. 1, January 2009, pp. 153–175. www.jstor.org/stable/25482966

When citing newspapers, include the page number/s for print editions or the URL for online articles:

Last Name, First Name. “Title of article.” Newspaper title. Page number/s. Year, month day. Page number or URL

  • Blakemore, Erin. “Researchers Track Down Two Copies of Fossil Destroyed by the Nazis.” The Washington Post. 2022, Nov. 12. www.washingtonpost.com/science/2022/11/12/ichthyosaur-fossil-images-discovered/

Electronic MLA Bibliography Examples

For articles with a specific author on a website, use this format:

Last Name, First Name. Year. “Title.” Month Day, Year published. URL

  • Wukovits, John. 2023. “A World War II Survivor Recalls the London Blitz.” January 30, 2023. https://britishheritage.com/history/world-war-ii-survivor-london-blitz

When an online article doesn’t include a specific author or date, list it like this:

Website. n.d. “Title.” Accessed Day Month Year. URL.

  • Imperial War Museum. n.d. “Growing Up in the Second World War.” Accessed May 9, 2023. www.iwm.org.uk/history/growing-up-in-the-second-world-war.

Here’s how to list YouTube and other online videos:

Creator, if available. “Title of Video.” Website. Uploaded by Username, Day Month Year. URL.

  • “How did London survive the Blitz during WW2?” Cities at war: London | War stories.” YouTube. Uploaded by War Stories, 15 Jan. 2023. youtu.be/uwY6JlCvbxc.

For more information on writing MLA-style bibliographies, see the MLA Style website.

MLA Bibliography (Works Cited) Example Pages

MLA works cited example page.
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Chicago Manual of Style Bibliography Examples

The Chicago Manual of Style (sometimes called “Turabian”) actually has two options for citing reference material: Notes and Bibliography and Author-Date. Regardless of which you use, you’ll need a complete detailed list of reference items at the end of your paper. The examples below demonstrate how to write that list.

How To Write a Bibliography Using The Chicago Manual of Style

Example of Chicago style bibliography entry.
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Here are some general notes on writing a Chicago-style bibliography:

  • You may title it “Bibliography” or “References.” Center this title at the top of the page and add two blank lines before the first entry.
  • Left-align each entry, with a hanging half-inch indent for subsequent lines of each entry.
  • Single-space each entry, with a blank line between entries.
  • Include the “http://” or “https://” at the beginning of URLs.

Books and E-Books Chicago Manual of Style Bibliography Examples

For books, Chicago-style reference list entries use the following format. (For print books, leave off the information about how the book was accessed.)

Last Name, First Name Middle Name. Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Date. How e-book was accessed.

  • Wynn, Stephen. City of London at War 1939–45. Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military, 2020. Kindle edition.

Periodical Chicago Manual of Style Bibliography Examples

Here’s the style format for magazines, journals, and newspapers. For online articles, add the URL at the end of the listing.

For journal and magazine articles, use this format:

Last Name, First Name. Year of Publication. “Title: Subtitle.” Name of Journal, Volume Number, issue number, First Page Number–Last Page Number. URL.

  • Bell, Amy. 2009. “Landscapes of Fear: Wartime London, 1939–1945.” Journal of British Studies, 48 no. 1, 153–175. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25482966.

When citing newspapers, include the URL for online articles:

Last Name, First Name. Year of Publication. “Title: Subtitle.” Name of Newspaper, Month day, year. URL.

  • Blakemore, Erin. 2022. “Researchers Track Down Two Copies of Fossil Destroyed by the Nazis.” The Washington Post, November 12, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2022/11/12/ichthyosaur-fossil-images-discovered/.

Electronic Chicago Manual of Style Bibliography Examples

For articles with a specific author on a website, use this format:

Last Name, First Name Middle Name. “Title.” Site Name. Year, Month Day. URL.

  • Wukovits, John. “A World War II Survivor Recalls the London Blitz.” British Heritage. 2023, Jan. 30. britishheritage.com/history/world-war-ii-survivor-london-blitz.

When an online article doesn’t include a specific author or date, list it like this:

“Title.” Site Name. URL. Accessed Month Day, Year.

  • “Growing Up in the Second World War.” Imperial War Museums. www.iwm.org.uk/history/growing-up-in-the-second-world-war. Accessed May 9, 2023.

Here’s how to list YouTube and other online videos:

Creator or Username. “Title of Video.” Website video, length. Month Day, Year. URL.

  • War Stories. “How Did London Survive the Blitz During WW2? | Cities at War: London | War Stories.” YouTube video, 51:25. January 15, 2023. https://youtu.be/uwY6JlCvbxc.

For more information on writing Chicago-style bibliographies, see the Chicago Manual of Style website.

Chicago Manual of Style Bibliography Example Pages

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Get Your Free Printable Bibliography Style Guide

Cover of printable bibliography writing guide.
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Just fill out the form on this page to grab our printable Bibliography Guide for Students with examples from all three major style guides: APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), or The Chicago Manual of Style.

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