How to Write a Bibliography

MLA style is the most widely accepted “format” for a bibliography. Though there are other styles, knowing how to write a bibliography in MLA style will keep you in touch with what most schools and other institutions are looking for in a bibliography.

A bibliography is necessary for many reasons. Use a bibliography to acknowledge or give credit to sources you’ve used — these can be words, drawings, ideas, illustrations, quotes, or any other materials that you summarized or paraphrased when writing a document. Basically, a bibliography gives credit to those thoughts and thinkers that inspired you.

Writing Bibliographies

Any bibliography worth writing will include the author of the text, the title, the location of first publication, the publisher, date of first publication, and page numbers. Page numbers are really only important if you’re using a source like an article from a magazine, a journal, any periodical, a newspaper, encyclopedia, or an anthology. The following instruction will guide you through the process of writing bibliographies.

Author

How to Write a Bibliography

How to Write a Bibliography

When citing the author’s name, don’t write any “titles”, like Dr., Mr., Mrs., the Honorable, or whatever the title may be. It isn’t necessary for a bibliography. One exception to this rule in MLA style is the use of titles like “Jr.”, “Sr.”, “III”, etc. This is to differentiate between people with the same name. You have some wiggle room in MLA style bibliographies when listing an author’s name — you can write the last name first, followed by the first name and middle name, or you can leave out the middle name. You can also use a middle initial, or a full last name with initials for the first and middle name. Whatever style you like, as long as the last name is first.

Title

Simply list the title, unless the title on the front cover of the book is different from the title on the title page. In that case, always use the title on the title page for your bibliography.

You must underline the title and subtitle of a book, magazine, journal, periodical, newspaper, or encyclopedia. This helps to set off the title visually.

When citing a newspaper’s title, remember to include the location of the newspaper if it isn’t in the name. Add the name of the city or town after the title in square brackets — the most common example would be “National Post [Toronto].”

Place of Publication

Don’t simply use the name of a country, state, or county as your place of publication — make the place of publication specific to a city. When there are more than one cities listed, choose the very first city from the list in the book. You don’t have to cite the place of publication for sources from encyclopedias, magazines, journals, or newspapers — only books. If the city of publication is well known, don’t add the State or Province afterwards. We all know that New York is in New York, and Chicago is in Illinois.

If you learn MLA style for bibliographies you’ll be doing yourself a favor. It is the most widely accepted bibliography style, and when you don’t know what style of bibliography you need, MLA will always work in a pinch.

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