Before beginning to write a research paper bibliography, it is important to find out what style the bibliography should follow. There are a number of research paper styles, but the most common are those that have been set forth by the the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA). These requirements should be made clear by the professor who has assigned the paper or the editors of the publication for which the paper is being written. In some cases, other style formats will be required. Other such styles may include those that have been set forth in The Chicago Manual of Style or The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, which is the text that is used to define what is commonly referred to as "Harvard style."
Once the proper style for a research paper bibliography has been identified, the next step is to gather all of the sources that have been used to inform the content of the paper. This may include quite a range of sources including printed matter such as books and journals, audio and video recordings, news pieces from papers or online sources, website content, interviews, photographs, and correspondence items. It is important to use the most up-to-date edition of the required style guide, especially if some of the sources that informed the research paper were obtained from a new type of media. An outdated style guide might not have information about how to cite a video clip that has been posted online.
A research paper bibliography is usually written after the paper has been completed. If the paper goes through a round of revisions, the research paper bibliography should also be revised. During this revision, any new sources should be added. Also, if there are sources that are no longer applicable to the paper, these should be removed.
In most cases, a research paper bibliography is simply a list of all of the sources that informed the content of the paper. In other cases, professors may ask for an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is a kind of research paper bibliography in which the writer summarizes her research as it connects to each source and, specifically, how each source contributes to her thesis. This type of research paper bibliography is sometimes written before the paper is composed as an exercise that helps the student to organize her thoughts and prepare for the actual writing process.