How to Write a Bibliography for a Research Report

••• James Woodson/Digital Vision/Getty Images

When writing a research paper, you often use other peoples' research, data or ideas within your paper. You want to give these people credit for their work and avoid being accused of plagiarism or passing off someone else’s work as your own. By including a bibliography at the end of your research paper, you provide your professor with all of the necessary information to identify and retrieve your sources.

General Formats

Different types of research papers require different citation styles. The Modern Language Association and American Psychological Association styles tend to be the most commonly used when writing research papers in high school or college. Chicago style is the third-most common. Your teacher will tell you which format to use. Regardless of which source you use, format your bibliography so that entries are sorted alphabetically by the author’s last name. If there is no author, sort by title. With any reference that is more than a single line long, indent each subsequent line by 1/2 inch. This is called a hanging indent. With all formats, place a single space following all punctuation.

MLA Formatting

MLA style is typically used in humanities research papers, such as linguistics and music. According to the seventh edition of the MLA handbook, you create a works cited page at the end of your paper to serve as your bibliography. A major difference in MLA format from the other styles is that you indicate your medium of publication, such as print, Web or interview. To list a book, write the author’s last name, a comma, first name and a period. Type the title of the book in italics and title case, followed by a period. Write the place of publication, a colon, the publisher’s name, a comma, the year of publication and a period. At the end, list the medium and finish with a period. For example: Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. New York: Norton, 1999. Print.

APA Formatting

APA style is used in human and behavior sciences, including psychology. According to the sixth edition of the APA handbook, your research should feature a reference page that lists all your citations. This format has a distinctly differently structure and format than the other styles. To list a book in APA format, write the author’s last name, a comma, his first and middle initial and a period. Within parentheses, write the year that the book was published. Outside the final parenthesis, place a period. Write the title of the book in italics and sentence case and then insert a period. Type the city and state of publication, a colon, the name of the publisher and end with a period. For example: Casson, L. (2001). Libraries in the ancient world. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Chicago Formatting

The Chicago Manual of Style is the oldest and considered the most comprehensive style guide. It is often used for literature, history or art research papers. According to the 16th edition of the Chicago manual, your research paper should feature a bibliography page. To list a book in Chicago style, write the author’s last name, a comma, his first name and a period. Write the book’s title in italics and title case followed by a period. Write the city of publication, a colon, the publisher’s name, a comma and the year of publication. End with a period. For example: Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006.


About the Author

Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.

Photo Credits

  • James Woodson/Digital Vision/Getty Images