Bibliography in a Research Paper: Answering the Popular Questions

After concluding your research paper, you may feel joyous that the tedious part is over. After all, you have structured an outstanding argument and communicated your ideas with the necessary evidence.

While your joy is well deserved, do not slack off before completing your references section. Although little research is needed for this chapter, the references section bears much weight on your paper. If poorly done, you may face plagiarism claims, exposing you to harsh penalties. 

Read on for tips on writing a bibliography in a research paper and examples to familiarize you with various referencing methods. 

What is a bibliography in a research paper?

A bibliography is a list that accounts for all the sources you used in arguing various claims. This list guides a user to easily trace materials if they intend to pursue various ideas further or to confirm your evidence.

Any sources that are not cited within the bibliography count as plagiarized work since they fail to credit the sources used in their work. The bibliography usually comes after your conclusion and varies depending on the format recommended by your tutor. 

Types of bibliography in research papers

At times your tutor may recommend a certain type of bibliography to use in your work. What is the difference between annotated and analytical bibliographies? 

Analytical bibliographies explain the physical nature of a source including the number of pages, paper, and binding, and any issues that cropped up in material from manuscript to publishing. Conversely, an annotated bibliography includes details as to why you chose a specific source for your research paper. 

Enumerative bibliographies are common in academic writing and list your sources in a particular order, i.e., alphabetically. 

Format of bibliography in a research paper

Regardless of style, some general rules apply to bibliographies for research papers. When formatting your bibliography:

  • Include a page header. Depending on the style recommended for your paper, the header might comprise the running head/ your last name and a page number. 
  • Add a title. The title may range from ‘references’ to ‘Works Cited’ or ‘bibliographies’ depending on your formatting style.
  • Sort the list according to the first word of the citation. This allows a reader to easily trace a bibliography for an in-text citation.
  • Use a hanging indent with the first line of each entry flush left and the subsequent lines indented at 0.5”. 
  • Begin your bibliographies on a new page of your paper.

How to make a bibliography in a research paper

As recommended earlier, you should record the details for each source used in your work as you develop your paper. Doing so allows you a smooth writing experience and also reduces the likelihood of omitting any bibliography. 

When writing bibliographies, start by collecting all the necessary information for your bibliographies. Next, format your references in the right style by consulting the guidelines for your referencing style. 

Here, will tackle an example of a bibliography in a research paper for various referencing styles.

Bibliographies in MLA

For books: Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.

For websites: Authors name, the title of the page (in quotations), website name in italics, publication date, URL without the HTTPS://

Bibliographies in APA

For books: Last name, Initials. (Year). Book title (Editor.) (Edition). Publisher.

For websites: Last name, Initials. (Year, Month, Day). Title of article. Publication Name. URL with the HTTPS://

How to cite a research paper in a bibliography

Research papers make for great evidence for your claims. These papers usually lend legitimacy to your claims as they are supported by practical evidence as opposed to claims in journals. 

When writing a bibliography for a published research paper: Last, First name. Thesis/Dissertation title. Year of Publication. Name of University, type of degree.

If it’s pending publishing: Author Surname, Initial. (Year of Production). Manuscript title [Unpublished manuscript]. Department, University Name.


Author Surname, Initial. (Year of Production). Manuscript title [Manuscript submitted for publication]. Department, University Name.

How to include annotated bibliography in a research paper

An annotated bibliography often works students up as they struggle with determining what to include in the bibliography. These bibliographies should contain the key arguments in the source and show the validity of the arguments and selected methods. 

When writing the annotated bibliography, check the abstract of a paper and establish the key details to tackle in your bibliography. Ideally, you should highlight the key argument and the research approach that the author opted to take. 

Like other entries, the annotated bibliography should be double-spaced and feature a hanging indent. The first line of the entry should be left aligned with all subsequent lines featuring a half-inch indent. Also, the 50-200 word summary should be written in a single paragraph. 

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