How to Write a Bibliography in APA Format

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What Is an APA Format Bibliography?

An APA format bibliography is an alphabetical listing of all sources that might be used to write an academic paper, essay, article, or research paper—particularly work that is covering psychology or psychology-related topics. APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA). This format is used by many psychology professors, students, and researchers.

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.

Creating an APA Bibliography

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a bibliography may include sources that you considered using but may have dismissed because they were irrelevant or outdated.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 you might want to use in your paper and to organize the information that you find in different sources. The following are four steps you can follow to create your APA format bibliography.

Start 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 and in bold text. Some people use the title "References" instead, so it's best to check with your professor or instructor which they prefer you use.

Gather Your Sources

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

Gathering your sources can be particularly helpful when outlining and writing 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.

Reference Each Source

Your references should be listed alphabetically by the author’s last name, and they should be double-spaced. The first line of each reference should be flush left, while each additional line of a single reference should be a few spaces to the right of the left margin, which is known as a hanging indent.

The format of each source is as follows for academic journals:

  • Last name of first author (followed by their first initial)
  • The year the source was published in parentheses
  • The title of the source
  • The journal that published the source (in italics)
  • The volume number, if applicable (in italics)
  • The issue number, if applicable
  • Page numbers (in parentheses)
  • The URL or "doi" in lowercase letters followed by a colon and the doi number, if applicable

The following examples are scholarly articles in academic journals, cited in APA format:

  • Kulacaoglu, F., & Kose, S. (2018). Borderline personality disorder (BPD): In the midst of vulnerability, chaos, and awe. Brain sciences8(11), 201. doi:10.3390/brainsci8110201
  • Cattane, N., Rossi, R., & Lanfredi, M. (2017). Borderline personality disorder and childhood trauma: exploring the affected biological systems and mechanisms. BMC Psychiatry, 18(221). doi:10.1186/s12888-017-1383-2

Visit the American Psychological Association's website for more information on citing other types of sources including online media, audiovisual media, and more.

Create an Annotation for Each Source

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

An annotation is a brief description of approximately 150 words describing the information in the source, your evaluation of its credibility, and how it pertains to your topic. Writing one of these for each piece of research will make your writing process faster and easier.

This step helpful in determining which sources to ultimately use in your paper. Your instructor may also require it as part of the assignment so they can assess your thought process and understanding of your topic.

Reasons to Write a 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 of your references, you might find yourself scrambling to figure out where you found certain bits of information that you included in your paper.

A bibliography is also an important tool that your readers can use to access your sources.

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.

Sample Bibliography

The following is an example of an APA format bibliography by the website EasyBib:

Example of APA format

EasyBib

More Tips

There are many online resources that demonstrate different formats of bibliographies, including the American Psychological Association website. Purdue University's Online Writing Lab also has examples of formatting an APA format bibliography. Check out this video on their YouTube channel which provides detailed instructions on formatting an APA style bibliography in Microsoft Word.

You can check out the Purdue site for more information on writing an annotated APA bibliography as well.

A Word From Verywell

If you are taking a psychology class, you may be asked at some point to create a bibliography as part of the research paper writing process. Even if your instructor does not expressly require a bibliography, creating one can be a useful way to help structure your research and make the writing process easier.

For psychology majors, it can be helpful to save any bibliographies you have written over the course of your studies so that you can refer back to them later when studying for exams or writing papers for other psychology courses.

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2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Masic I. The importance of proper citation of references in biomedical articles. Acta Inform Med. 2013;21(3):148–155. doi:10.5455/aim.2013.21.148-155

  2. Cornell University Library. How to prepare an annotated bibliography: The annotated bibliography.

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