An academic guide on how to write a bibliography for a research paper

Writing a research paper is a common activity for almost every student. It is a writing assignment which many students repeat over and over again. And as with most essays, a research paper requires you to identify the sources you have used in creating your document. This is vitally important for two main reasons.

  • Citation of the references shows the depth of your reading.
  • Citation of the references removes any possibility of you using plagiarism.

This article is not about the quality and the ways and means of writing a research paper but concentrates specifically on the bibliography. This is where you list the details of the sources you have used in writing a research paper. There are three main style choices when it comes to citing references. They are as follows.

  • The MLA or Modern Language Association style.
  • The APA or American Psychological Association style.
  • The Chicago style.

Each of these styles is similar as far as the citation of references is concerned but there are subtle and important differences. As a student you need to be sure which style to use. The foolproof method is to ask your teacher or professor. Many academics have a preference and regardless of what you want to do, you must follow the instruction of your leader.

The differences between styles can involve such things as the use of capital letters or the order in which each reference appears. Remember that your examiner will know the style backwards and unless you follow the style’s requirements exactly, you may damage the overall grade you receive and annoy the reader all at the same time.

Arguably the best way to learn how to write your bibliography is to study relevant and successful examples. Obviously you need to be sure that the style you are examining is the one you are to copy. Again it's the instruction from your teacher which is the determining factor.

There are numerous web sites with carefully laid out and explained steps for creating a bibliography according to the style you are to use. Have a check list of the salient points and once you complete your bibliography, run down the check list to confirm you've got everything in place as per the regulations.