How to Create Bibliography Cards for Online Sources

Proper citation of your sources is necessary to respect the author’s intellectual property rights and to avoid plagiarism. Having a record of your citations makes it easier for you to create your bibliography, and it also provides a reference source for future work in which you might want to include similar information. Bibliography cards are a standard method for organizing your sources.

Know Your Format

Your bibliography cards need to be written in the citation format required by your school. The most common formats are APA (American Psychological Assn.) for psychology, education and nursing; MLA (Modern Language Assn.) for literature, arts and humanities; ACS (American Chemical Society) for natural and applied sciences; ASA (American Sociological Assn.) for sociology and other social sciences; and Chicago/Turabian for humanities. These differ in how you cite your sources and how you present and title your bibliography. Whether or not you number your bibliography cards is dependent upon your format.


Start your card in the upper left-hand corner and follow the requirements associated with your required format, making sure to include the following: author’s last name and first name, name of the article, date of the article (if provided), the website name and sponsoring organization. Lastly, include the URL, the words “retrieved on” and the date you retrieved the document off of the Internet.

Adding Annotations

Annotating the cards will make them more useful. The Purdue University Online Writing Lab points out that the content of the annotation should depend upon the purpose of your bibliography: “some annotations may summarize, some may assess or evaluate a source, and some may reflect on the source’s possible uses for the project at hand.” Annotations can be on the bottom of the card or on the reverse side, depending upon your preference.

Virtual Cards

Paper bibliography cards are a bit old-fashioned. Keeping your cards in an online bibliography management system ensures you don’t have to create, carry and keep track of physical boxes. There are several bibliography management systems, such as RefWorks, EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero. A virtual system allows for more sophisticated tools such as key word searches, automatic citation insertion and the instant creation of bibliographies. Many online libraries and repositories are already integrated with these bibliography systems. Once you have created the virtual card, it can be used an unlimited number of times.