A bibliography is a listing of the books, magazines, and Internet sources that you use in designing, carrying out, and understanding your science fair project. But, you develop a bibliography only after first preparing a background research plan — a road map of the research questions you need to answer. Before you compose your bibliography, you will need to develop your background research plan.
With your background research plan in hand, you will find sources of information that will help you with your science fair project. As you find this information it will be important for you to write down where the sources are from. You can use the Bibliography Worksheet to help you, just print out a few copies and take them with you to the library. As you find a source, write in all of the necessary information. This way, when you are typing your bibliography you won't need to go back to the library and find any missing information. The more information you write down about your source, the easier it will be for you to find if you want to read it again.
When you are writing your report, you will use the sources in your bibliography to remind you of different facts and background information you used for your science fair project. Each time you use some information from a source, you will need to cite the source that it came from. To cite a source, simply put the author's name and the date of the publication in parentheses (Author, date) in your text. If the person reading your report wants to find the information and read more about it, they can look up the reference in your bibliography for more detail about the source. That is why each source you use must be listed in a detailed bibliography with enough information for someone to go and find it by themselves.
Your bibliography should include a minimum of three written sources of information about your topic from books, encyclopedias, and periodicals. You may have additional information from the Web if appropriate.
Examples of Bibliography Formats
There are standards for documenting sources of information in research papers. Even though different journals may use a slightly different format for the bibliography, they all contain the same basic information. The most basic information that each reference should have is the author's name, the title, the date, and the source.
Different types of sources have different formatting in the bibliography. In American schools, the two most commonly used guidelines for this formatting are published by the MLA (Modern Language Association) and the APA (American Psychological Association).
The MLA guidelines call for the bibliography to be called Works Cited. Science Buddies has summarized some of the most common MLA formats for your use: MLA Format Examples.
The APA guidelines call for the bibliography to be called the Reference List. Science Buddies has summarized some of the most common APA formats for your use: APA Format Examples.
Your teacher will probably tell you which set of guidelines to use.
On the Science Buddies website we use the following guidelines:
- APA format for online sources
- MLA format for all other sources
- APA (author, date, page) format for citations in our articles
Download and print the Science Buddies Bibliography Worksheet. Keep several copies with you and fill in the information as you do your research. When you are finished, type the information from the worksheet into a formatted bibliography using the examples listed above.
Sample BibliographiesSample Bibliography: MLA Works Cited Format
Sample Bibliography: APA Reference List Format
|What Makes a Good Bibliography?||For a Good Bibliography, You Should Answer "Yes" to Every Question|
|Have you included at least 3 sources of written information on your subject? (If you include Web pages, they should be in addition to the written sources.)||Yes / No|
|Have you included complete information to identify each of your sources (author's name, the title, the date, and where it was published)?||Yes / No|
|Have you used the proper format for each of your sources? Most teachers prefer the MLA or APA formats.||Yes / No|
|Is your Bibliography in alphabetical order, by author's last name?||Yes / No|
|Do you have sources of information to answer all of your research questions?||Yes / No|
You should compile a bibliography when writing an essay, article, or research paper that relies heavily on source material. A bibliography is an alphabetized list of sources that have been used to compile data, typically in an article, essay, or research paper. This list is found at the end of the work and allows the person reviewing the data to verify the veracity of the statements and/or figures presented in the data itself. It also allows a writer to give proper credit for quotes or key phrases that have been written and presented in a source that they may have referenced in their paper so as to avoid plagiarism.
Bibliography for Books
The basic information you should cite when referencing a book includes; the author (surname first, followed by their given name or initials), the book title (in italics), the publisher, as well as the place and date of publication. Each section should be followed by a full stop. Your citation should look like this:
Smith, John Jacob Jingleheimer. Wu Xia and the Art of Scooter
Maintenance. New York: Springer, 2003.
Note how the first line is not indented, but subsequent lines are. This is the format for all multiple line citations, regardless of the source of the information.
Should the source have more than one author, your citation should appear as follows:
Smith, John Jacob Jingleheimer, and Cindy Lu. Wu Xia and the Art of
Scooter Maintenance. New York: Springer, 2003.
If there are more than two authors for your source, note your citation as follows:
Smith, John Jacob Jingleheimer et. al. Wu Xia and the Art of
Scooter Maintenance. New York: Springer, 2003.
Occasionally, you will come across a source without a listed author; this is especially common when citing newspaper articles and articles from the internet. When this happens, you should simply move to the next step of your citation.
Bibliography for Newspaper & Magazine Articles
For newspapers and magazines you should include the author, the article title (in quotation marks), the title of the newspaper or publication (in italics), the year of publication and the page numbers from which the information was gathered.
Doe, John. “How Do You Measure a Year in the Life?” The Sun Times.
2 July 2010: 1-3.
Bibliography for Online Resources
When you are citing an online source, do your best to include the following: the author, the title of the article or page, the web address or URL (in italics), and the date of publication.
Johnson, Mary Anne. “How to Bake the Perfect Souffle.”
http://www.foodnetwork.com/article/perfect_souffle. 20 February 2013.
Types of Bibliographies
There are two main types of bibliography formats: MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).
- MLA format is typically used by those writing in the liberal arts or humanities community. It focuses on the author of the cited source material, in order to help the reader place him or her in the appropriate historical and philosophical context.
- APA format, on the other hand, is used more often in the social sciences and is useful for citing from journals and other such publications. Its focus is more on the research presented in the source and when it was released, rather than the individuals who conducted it.
Regardless of the format used, every bibliography citation has to have a minimum amount of identifying information. The source matters when it comes to formatting the entry — book titles are underlined, article titles are in quotation marks — and determines what information is needed (for example: a book's publisher vs. a web page's URL).
Write down the citation information for each source as you review it, whether or not you think you will actually use it; it will keep your notes more organized and help you find information quickly when you're doing your actual writing. Plus, it is good practice! The more you practice citation, the less of a chore it will be at the end of a hard paper.