Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Bibliography Rules and Guidelines


Student formatting a bibliography for research paper

Your eyes are crossed. You haven’t showered in three days, but your paper is done. Pushing away from your computer, you breathe a much needed sigh of relief. That is until you realize that you haven’t created your bibliography. What’s your style again? How do you create it? Don’t worry. Your guide for all things bibliographical is ready to help.

Not All Bibliographies Are Equal

In the simplest terms, a bibliography is a list of references that is found at the end of your paper. It includes all the written sources that went into the creation of your paper. Now, here’s where it gets confusing. Not all citation pages are bibliographies. There are actually three different types of citation pages.

  • Bibliography: This is a citation page that will include all the sources that went into the inception of the piece. It is used by Chicago and Turabian.
  • Works Cited: This will include a list of all the written sources used or quoted in the piece. It is generally used by MLA.
  • Reference List: Much like a works cited, it’ll list all the sources used in the piece. It is used by APA.

Preparing Your Citation Page

It doesn’t matter which style you use, you’ll need a citation page. They won’t all be called a bibliography, but they’ll still be there. There are some rules you’ll follow across the board.

  • Start on a separate page (this will be after endnotes.)
  • Center the title at the top
  • Alphabetize author’s names
  • Left align the citations
  • Use a hanging indent for any citations that go over one line

This is where the similarities for creating your citation page will end.

American Psychological Association

If you are writing a social sciences based paper or your professor required you to, this is the type of style you will use. APA will use an author-date format for in-text citations. These citations will be at the end of the sentence of the text, in most cases. These citations will then be further explained on the references page. While an example of APA citation is most helpful, the general rules for your reference page include:

  • Title: References
  • Double spaced
  • Author’s names inverted (e.g. Smith, J. B.) Initial for first and middle names.
  • Capitalize only first word in title (e.g. The hunger games)
  • Journal titles capitalize all major words
  • Italicize titles
  • Use ampersand between multiple authors

Modern Language Association

MLA is a writing style that was designed for humanities or arts writers. It breaks down things a little bit differently. The in-text citations for MLA are author-page. Therefore, typically at the end of the sentence, you’ll list the author and the page the information can be found on. That author will then help you find the reference on your works cited page. Breaking down general works cited example rules looks like:

  • Title: Works Cited
  • Double spaced without extra line breaks between
  • Authors full name inverted (e.g. Smith, John Bert)
  • Capitalize all major words in the titles (e.g. The Hunger Games)
  • Italicize titles
  • End all citations with a period
  • Use and between multiple authors


Chicago Manual of Style is a professional writing style that uses endnotes and bibliographies or author-date and references. Which style you use is dictated by what you are writing your paper for (published or not published). Additionally, Turabian is a student version of the Chicago Manual of Style. It is used for non-professional student works that aren’t going to be published. General rules for creating your citation page include:

  • Title: References or Bibliography
  • Double space
  • Leave two blank lines between the title and first entry
  • Leave one blank line between entries
  • Author’s name inverted (e.g. Agamben, Giorgio)
  • Titles use headline style capitalization
  • Titles are in quotes or italics based on type
  • Use and between author’s names

Formatting Your Bibliography

The style that you use will dictate your references page. While most refer to this as a bibliography, there are several different types of citation page and each has a unique style.

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About the author

Jennifer Betts

Jennifer Betts is a diverse educational writer who has been published in multiple online forums. She also works part time as a substitute teacher with seven different school districts. Building on skills gained from a brother and son with learning disabilities, she has been a tutor and mentor for disadvantaged children for more than 20 years. Interested in learning more about Jennifer Betts, just ask.

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