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Guidelines on How to Write a Bibliography in MLA Style

Here is an outline of the topics covered in this document:

  • Definition of a Bibliography
  • Comparison of Bibliography and Works Cited List
  • Introduction to Annotated Bibliographies
  • Reasons for Creating a Bibliography
  • Essential Components of a Bibliography
    • Author
    • Title
    • Place of Publication
    • Publisher
    • Date of Publication
    • Page Numbers
  • Guidelines for Writing a Bibliography in MLA Style.


A bibliography is a comprehensive list of all sources that have been utilized during research for a paper, including those that were not directly referenced in the paper. It is often confused with a Works Cited list. Typically, a bibliography should include:

  • The author’s full name
  • The full title of the material researched
  • The name and location of the publisher
  • The date of publication
  • The specific page numbers of the source material.

How does a bibliography differ from works cited list?

In most cases, the works cited list or reference page includes only the sources that are explicitly cited within the text, not the sources that were consulted during the research phase. In contrast, a bibliography encompasses all the sources cited in the paper as well as those utilized during the preparation of the paper.


An annotated bibliography is much like a regular bibliography, but it includes a brief description of the text’s usefulness or quality alongside the listed information. It is an alphabetically arranged list of books or articles, to which you have added explanatory or critical notes. Typically, the annotation consists of a paragraph of around 150 words, in which you provide a brief description of the cited book or article, followed by your assessment and critical comment. Unlike an abstract, which is a summary of about 150-250 words without critical analysis, an annotated bibliography provides more detailed information.


Most students and professors consider a bibliography to be an indispensable component of a research paper, textbook, or similar work. Including a bibliography serves to verify the accuracy and relevance of the material used in the creation of the paper, while also giving credit to original sources and guiding readers to the source for further information if needed.

Including a bibliography in your work serves several purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging and giving credit to the sources of information used, including words, ideas, diagrams, illustrations, quotations, summaries, or paraphrased materials.
  • Demonstrating that you have respectfully borrowed ideas from others, rather than plagiarizing them.
  • Providing additional information for readers who may wish to further explore your topic.
  • Giving readers the opportunity to check your sources for accuracy, which in turn inspires confidence in your writing.
  • Meeting the requirements set forth by your instructor for the assignment.

Why is Bibliography Important?

Writing a bibliography is a crucial aspect of academic research, and it is especially important for those pursuing or planning to pursue an academic career. Without a bibliography, the entire paper loses its credibility since it is impossible to verify the accuracy of the information used. No instructor at any academic institution is likely to accept a research paper or thesis without proper citation. Therefore, it is essential to include a well-formatted bibliography page.

A bibliography is a comprehensive list of all the sources used, not only in the text but also while researching the material for the paper. Each bibliographic reference should include the name of the author, listed first in all citation formats. The bibliography should be organized in alphabetical order according to the author’s surname. The only exception to this rule would be for the Footnotes or Turabian format, which requires listing the first name of the author. The complete title of the source used or researched should also be included to credit the specific source used, such as the title of a book, news article, or advertisement.

Including the name of the publisher and the location is crucial in validating sources. Typically, books published by larger and more prominent publishing houses are seen as more reliable than those published by smaller and independent sources.

The original publication date is also important as it provides insight into when the text was first published. Including the publication date allows readers to determine if the source is relevant or outdated.

Citing sources and providing a comprehensive bibliography serves to verify that proper research has been conducted and that all claims made can be supported by evidence. Readers of a thesis or research paper can quickly reference the citations listed in the bibliography and seek out the original material for additional information. A well-formatted bibliography adds to the credibility of a thesis and leaves a positive overall impression.

Anyone writing a thesis should invest time in thoroughly researching their topic and gathering evidence to support their arguments. This evidence can then be supported in the bibliography.


  1. Author’s name
  2. Title of the source
  3. Place of publication
  4. Publisher’s name
  5. Date of publication
  6. Page numbers (for articles from magazines, journals, newspapers, encyclopedias, or in anthologies).

1. Author’s name

Do not include any titles or designations, such as Dr., Mr., Mrs., or Ph.D., before or after the name. The only exceptions are Jr. and Sr. as they differentiate between two individuals with the same name. Also, include I, II, III, etc. for the same reason.

2. Title of the source

Here are some guidelines to follow when citing sources:

  • A) Use the title on the title page for your citation if it differs from the title on the front cover or spine of the book.
  • B) Underline the name and subtitle of a book, magazine, journal, periodical, newspaper, or encyclopedia. For example: Oops! What to Do When Things Go Wrong, Sports Illustrated, NY Times, Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • C) If the name of a newspaper does not indicate its location, add the name of the city or town in square brackets after the name. For example: National Post [Toronto].
  • D) Use quotation marks around the title and subtitle of an article in a magazine, journal, periodical, newspaper, or encyclopedia. For example: “No Deals with Terrorists: Putin,” Toronto Star; “Sculpture, The History of Western,” New Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • E) Capitalize the first word of the title, the first word of the subtitle, and all important words except for articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. For example: Flash and XML: A Developer’s Guide or The Red Count: The Life and Times of Harry Kessler.
  • F) Use lowercase letters for conjunctions (and, because, but, however), prepositions (in, on, of, for, to), and articles (a, an, the), unless they appear at the beginning of a title or subtitle, or are being used emphatically. For example: “And Now for Something Completely Different: A Hedgehog Hospital,” “Court OKs Drug Tests for People on Welfare,” or “Why Winston Churchill Was the Man of the Hour.”
  • G) Separate the title from its subtitle with a colon (:). For example: “Belfast: A Warm Welcome Awaits.”

3. Place of publication

  • A) Avoid using a country, state, province, or county as the place of publication, such as Australia, Canada, UK, United States, California, Ontario, or Orange County.
  • B) Only mention the name of the city or town.
  • C) If there are multiple locations of publication indicated in the book, choose the first one listed.
  • D) When citing articles from major encyclopedias, magazines, journals, or newspapers, it is not necessary to indicate the place of publication.
  • E) If the city is well-known, there is no need to include the state or province after it.
  • F) If the city or town is not well-known or could cause confusion, add the abbreviated letters for state, province, or territory for clarity.
  • G) Use “n.p.” to indicate that no place of publication is given.

4. Publisher’s name

  • A) Ensure that you note down the author, not the printer.
  • B) If a book has multiple authors, not one author with multiple locations of publication, list the publishers in the order provided, each with its corresponding year of publication.
  • C) Abbreviate the author’s name, e.g., use Macmillan instead of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. Omit articles such as A, An, and The, and skip descriptors such as Press, Publishers, etc. Refer to section 7.5 in the 6th edition of the MLA Manual for more information and examples.
  • D) Encyclopedias, magazines, journals, and newspapers do not require indication of the publisher.
  • E) If the name of the publisher cannot be found anywhere in the book, use “n.p.” to indicate that there is no publisher listed.

5. Date of publication

  • A) Use the year of publication as the date for books. Write the year only, such as 2005, without adding the copyright symbol or the word “Copyright.”
  • B) For monthly or quarterly publications, use the month and year or season and year. Spell out May, June, and July, but abbreviate other months as Jan., Feb., Mar., etc. Do not add a period after the abbreviation. If the publication does not state the month, use Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, etc.
  • C) For weekly or daily publications, use the date, month, and year.
  • D) If a book lists multiple years, use the most recent copyright year, such as 2005 in the example ©1988, 1990, 2005.
  • E) Do not mistake the printing date for the publication date. The printing date, such as “Seventh Printing 2005” or “Reprinted in 2005,” is not the publication date.
  • F) If you cannot find a publication date in the book, use “n.d.” to indicate that there is no date listed.
  • G) If there is no publication date but you can estimate it from reliable sources, use [c. 2005] for circa 2005 or [2005?] with square brackets to indicate the information is estimated.

6. Page Number 

  • A) Page numbers are not necessary for books, except when citing from an article or essay in an anthology. Example: Fish, Barry, and Les Kotzer. “Legals for Life.” Death and Taxes: Beating one of the Two Certainties in Life, edited by Jerry White, Warwick, 1998, pp. 32-56.
  • B) If no page number is provided, use “n. pag.” Example: Schulz, Charles M. The Meditations of Linus. Hallmark, 1967.
  • C) For sources without an author, editor, place of publication, publisher, or year of publication, but with known place of publication, follow this format:

    [Title of Book]. [City of publication]: [Publisher], [Year of publication].

Complete View of Temples of Taiwan – Tracks of Pilgrims. [Taipei]: n.P., n.D.

  • D) In magazines and journals, page numbers may not be present on some pages. If page numbers can be determined or estimated, indicate the relevant pages.

    E) If page numbers are not consecutive, it is not necessary to list all the pages where the information appears. For example, if an article spans pages 10, 12-13, and 36, you only need to state “10+” as the page numbers, not “10-36” or “10, 12-13, 36”.

Cohen, Stephen S., and J. Bradford DeLong. “Shaken and Stirred.” Atlantic monthly

Sure, I can rephrase those points for you:

  • D) Sometimes magazines and journals do not have page numbers on certain pages. In such cases, you can estimate the page number or indicate the pages on which the article appears.
  • E) When page numbers are not consecutive, you can mention only the first and last page numbers where the article appears, without listing all the pages in between.
  • F) Page numbers given in Roman numerals for forewords, prefaces, introductions, etc. should be written as they are, e.g. v-xii instead of 5-12. Roman numerals should generally not be used for the main part of the book where Arabic numerals are used. Similarly, if Arabic numerals are given for encyclopedia volume numbers, do not use Roman numerals.
  • G) When citing an article from a well-known encyclopedia like Americana, Britannica, or World Book, it is not necessary to indicate the editor, place of publication, publisher, or number of volumes in the set. If there is an author, cite their name. If no author is mentioned, start the citation with the article title. Underline the name of the encyclopedia and provide the year of edition.

Kibby, Michael W. “Dyslexia.” world e-book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.

It is important to note that a subheading in a long article should not be used as the title of the article. Additionally, if citing an unfamiliar encyclopedia, the author, article title, encyclopedia title, editor, edition (if available), number of volumes, place of publication, publisher, and year of publication should all be included in the citation. An example of this type of citation would be: Midge, T. “Powwows.” Encyclopedia of North American Indians. Ed. D.L. Birchfield. 11 vols. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1997.

The bibliography is a crucial component of a thesis as it provides evidence of the research conducted by the author and the sources used. It is important to use up-to-date sources and to know how to properly cite each reference. Including a bibliography in your paper demonstrates your critical thinking skills and your ability to comprehend and utilize the sources used in your research.