How to Write an APA Format Bibliography

Tips for creating a bibliography for your psychology papers

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An APA format bibliography is an alphabetical listing of all sources that might be used to write a paper, essay, article or research paper. In some cases, your instructor may require you to hand in a bibliography with your final paper.

Even if it is not a required part of your assignment, writing a bibliography can help you keep track of your sources and make it much easier to create your final reference page in proper APA format.

A bibliography is similar in many ways to a reference section, but there are some important differences. While a reference section includes every source that was actually used in your paper, a bibliography may include sources that you considered using but may have dismissed because they were irrelevant or outdated.

Bibliographies can be a great way to keep track of information that you might want to use in your paper and as a way to organize and keep track of the information that you find in different sources. 

In order to write an APA format bibliography, you should:

1. Start Your Bibliography on a New Page

Your working bibliography should be kept separate from the rest of your paper. Start it on a new page, with the title “Bibliography” centered at the top.

2. Gather Your Sources

Compile all of the sources that you might possibly use in your paper. While you may end up not using all of these sources in your paper, having a complete list will make it easier later on when you prepare your reference section.

This can be particularly helpful as your outline and write your paper. By quickly glancing through your working bibliography, you will be able to get a better idea of which sources will be the most appropriate to support your thesis and main points.

3. Create an APA Reference for Each Source

Your references should be listed alphabetically by the author’s last name and should be double-spaced.

The first line of each reference should be flush left while each additional line of the reference should be a few spaces to the right of the left margin, which is known as a hanging indent.

4. Create an Annotation for Each Source

Normally a bibliography just contains references information, but in some cases, you might decide to create an annotated bibliography. An annotation is a summary or evaluation of the source.

As you read through each source, prepare a brief annotation of approximately 150 words describing the information it contains, your evaluation of its credibility, and how it pertains to your topic. Not only is this step helpful in determining which sources to ultimately use in your paper, you instructor may require it as part of the assignment so he or she can assess your thought process and understanding of your topic.

Why Should You Write An APA Format Bibliography?

One of the biggest reasons to create an APA format bibliography is simply to make the research and writing process easier.

If you do not have a comprehensive list of all your references, you might find yourself scrambling to figure out where you found certain bits of information that you included in your paper.

While writing an annotated bibliography might not be required for your assignment, it can be a very useful step. The process of writing an annotation helps you learn more about your topic, develop a deeper understanding of the subject, and become better at evaluating various sources of information.


Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2010.

The Writing Lab. (2010). Annotated bibliographies. The Owl At Purdue. Purdue University. Found online at

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