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.).

Formatting the Reference List


The final bibliography in an APA paper is called a reference list. The reference list includes only those sources that have been cited in the text and that support the argument. Background studies and works of general interest are not included.

In addition, sources cited in the reference list should be recoverable. The reader should be able to locate and access them. For that reason, personal documents (e.g., emails, letters) that are not publicly accessible should be cited only in the body of your essay, and not in the reference list.

On this page we cover basic formatting rules, how to alphabetize entries, and some common abbreviations you can use when citing your sources.

Basic Formatting

Start your reference list on a separate page.

Write “References” (centered and bold) and then list your sources in alphabetical order. Double space all text and use hanging indentation to organize entries:

An image showing a sample APA reference list with two entries

Alphabetizing Entries

Entries are generally organized alphabetically, by surname:

Allworth, A.

Basketcase, B.

Clause, S.

However, here are some special cases to watch out for …

Nothing Precedes Something

The APA manual explains that in alphabetizing, “nothing precedes something” (303). Take the following names:

Crutch, X. A.

Crutchfield, B. P.

Crutchy, C. N.

In this example, all three surnames start with “Crutch,” but after that the first surname has “nothing” (ignoring the initials) and so it comes first.

Same Author

1. If you’re citing multiple works by the same author, organize them by year of publication:

Duncecap, C. V. (n.d.)

Duncecap, C. V. (2015).

Duncecap, C. V. (2017).

The same rule applies for citing multiple authors:

Billups, C., & Barkley, C. (2014).

Billups, C., & Barkley, C. (2016).

2. If the author and the year are both the same, alphabetize by title and add a letter behind each date:

Whitecraft, B. (2017a). A brief history of briefs.

Whitecraft, B. (2017b). The sociology of underwear.

Articles (a, an, the) are ignored for the purpose of alphabetizing.

3. If the same author has published individually and with others, always place the individual publication first:

Bittern, S. (2012).

Bittern, S., & Scotch, T. (2002).

This assumes, of course, that both entries start with the same surname.

No Author

Use the name “Anonymous” only if that’s how the work is signed. Otherwise, if the author’s name is missing, alphabetize by title (ignoring The, An, A).

Group Names

Spell out group names, and alphabetize accordingly:

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mafia Research Division. (2015).

Sicilian Mob Studies Association. (2014).

Society for the Study of Godfathers. (2011).

Notice that a subdivision (e.g., Mafia Research Division) is mentioned after its parent body. However, you can often leave out the parent body (here the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and cite it later in the entry as the publisher.

If the title page of your source lists both individual authors and a group name, then provide the individual names for the author and save the group name for later in the entry.


Finally, here are some abbreviations you can use in your reference list:

ed. (edition)

Rev. ed. (revised edition)

2nd ed. (second edition, etc.)

Ed. (Editor)

Eds. (Editors)

p. (page)

pp. (pages)

Vol. (Volume)

Vols. (Volumes)

No. (Number)

n.d. (no date)

Pt. (Part)

Suppl. (Supplement)

Trans. (Translator or Translators)

For more information about how to format and organize your reference list, please see chapter 9 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).