Formatting the Bibliography


Many academic works conclude with a detailed bibliography. Here’s how to format the page and alphabetize your entries, using the guidelines provided in the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.).

Basic Layout

Always start your bibliography on a separate page. It may be helpful to insert a page break in your document.

Next, write “Bibliography” at the top and centre this heading. Leave two line breaks before starting your first entry (left aligned):

Here are a few more things to note:

  • Apply hanging indentation to your entries.
  • Include your regular header (page number)
  • Single space your entries, but leave an extra space in between them.
  • Use the same font you have used throughout the essay

Note that like most instructors we follow the line spacing rules found in Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. By contrast, the Chicago Manual of Style (sections 2.8 and 2.24) does allow for double spacing.

Rules for Alphabetizing

All the entries in your bibliography should be sorted alphabetically. A good way to get started is to use Microsoft Word’s sort feature. However, you may still have to do some tweaking to get things perfect.

The Chicago Manual of Style prefers a letter by letter approach to alphabetizing. All that means is that when you’re comparing entries you ignore the breaks between words. Here’s an example:

Coleslaw, Bob.

Cole, Ted.

The point of divergence occurs when the s in Coleslaw comes before the T in Ted.

Most often you can alphabetize by name, but sometimes you may have to compare another detail. As you do so, ignore articles (the, a, an) and skip abbreviations such as ed. or trans.

The 3-Em Dash

Traditionally, additional entries by the same author(s) have been indicated by three dashes followed by a period or comma (in the case of a follow-up abbreviation such as ed.):

Wattle, Jeremy. A History of the Rooster’s Crow. Vancouver: Cage Press, 2011.

—. “The Rooster Always Crows Thrice: Another Look at Peter’s Denial.” New Day Hermeneutics 2, no. 3 (2018): 1-15.

—, ed. The Ultimate Guide to Cock Fighting. Peterborough: Broadviewer Press, 2017.

The implication is that Jeremy Wattle is the author of all three texts. Note that for the sake of alphabetizing we have ignored abbreviations (ed.) as well as the articles in the titles (a, the).

The latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style does not require the use of the 3-em dash. You should therefore check to see what your instructor prefers. If you’re not using the 3-em dash, simply write out the full name for each entry.

Multiple Authors

If you’re citing two sources that start with a common author, cite the single-author text before the multi-author text:

Paddington, Elmer. A Brief History of Corduroy Shorts. London: Tweed, 2004.

Paddington, Elmer, and Bryan Fawning. “Sartorial Bullying and the Status of Corduroy.” The Marxist Tailor 88, no. 1 (1993): 7-19.

When both works are multi-author texts (and start with the same author), alphabetize by the last names of the coauthors.

Stone, Brittany, and Lara Mason.

Stone, Brittany, and Ben Mortar.

If all authors are exactly identical, compare a subsequent detail such as a title.

More Information

For more information, see especially sections 14.65-14.71 of The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.).