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|
Create a works cited page. Reserve a page at the end of your paper for the bibliography, referred to as "works cited" in MLA style. Write "Works Cited" at the top of the next page after the last page of your paper. This page should have the same header with your last name as the rest of your paper, and your page numbers should continue onto this page, too.
Capitalize all words in titles except articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. You should capitalize every word in the title of your sources, except for words like “an,” “the,” and “of.” If you’re unsure how to capitalize your title, you can use online capitalization generators, like Title Capitalization, to check your titles.
Double space your citations page. All of the pages of your MLA bibliography should be double spaced. You don’t need to put extra spaces between each source, as long as everything is double-spaced.
Indent each successive line for the same source. If your source takes up more than one line, indent the each successive line 0.5 inches (1.25 cm). Once you begin a new source, go back to the original margin.
- You shouldn’t use an author’s title or degrees when listing their names in your bibliography. This is true even if they are listed that way on the source.
- For example, a book citation might look like this: Butler, Olivia. Parable of the Flower. Sacramento: Seed Press, 1996.
- For example, an article published in a scholarly journal might look like this: Green, Marsha. "Life in Costa Rica." Science Magazine vol. 1, no. 4, Mar 2013: 1-2.
- If you’re citing an article in a newspaper, you only need the name of the newspaper, followed by the date it was published, and the page number. A citation for that might look like this: Smith, Jennifer. “Tiny Tim Wins Award.” New York Times, 24 Dec 2017, p. A7.
- For example, a website citation might look like this: Jong, June. "How to Write an Essay." Writing Portal. 2 Aug. 2012. University of California. 23 Feb. 2013. <http://writingportal.com>
- Some websites, particularly academic ones, will have what’s called a DOI (digital object identifier). Write “doi:” in front of this number in place of the website’s url if a DOI is available.
Use reliable sources to look for the citations rules for other types of sources. There are a lot of different types of sources you can use in a research paper. Use a reliable source to look up those citation rules. You can actually purchase a copy of the MLA style guide, or you can use a website like Purdue’s OWL (online writing lab) to look up your sources.