Writing@CSU Guide

Developing a Working Bibliography

A working bibliography is a tool that can aid in keeping an ongoing and detailed list of sources for a specific project. These sources can include any source that may potentially be useful or relevant to the project. The sources may also narrow to a specific idea as the focus for the piece narrows. A working bibliography has two main purposes:

  1. To keep a record of the sources a writer has already examined or plans to examine.
  2. To record the publishing details of each source a writer utilizes or cites so that the sources can be properly referenced in a Works Cited or References List at the end of the document.

Creating a Working Bibliography

Having a working bibliography can help keep the sources more organized while examining and collecting sources. A working bibliography can also allow the writer to organize and reorganize the sources in different ways throughout the writing of the piece. There are multiple ways a writer could organize a working bibliography. A few examples of this are by the author, the source type, or by the usability of the source for the writer’s purpose. The organization should be aligned with what would best serve the writer for that specific project.

Having a working bibliography can also save time later in a project. This is due to the writer already having the information they may need available. When creating a working bibliography, using the citation format required by the instructor or head researcher is another good way to be able to save time. When in doubt about which citation format is being used, it is best to ask the instructor or the head researcher. Generally, writing the source information as a citation can be useful. Otherwise, arranging the necessary information in a list for each source can also work.

Information in a Working Bibliography

Collecting the following information on each source, no matter what kind of source it is, will help with creating a citation for a Works Cited or References List.  This information can also help the writer find and access the source. Some types of sources, like books or periodical journals, have specific information that is recommended for them in a citation. For any type of source, some information about the source that can be useful are:

  • The author's full name
  • The editor's full name (if available)
  • Title of the source
  • Name of the publication and publication information on the source
  • The date the source was created (or last updated)
  • The date you viewed/ accessed this source

Examples of a Working Bibliography

Below are two examples for a working bibliography. One example is in a citation format. The citation style used is MLA. The other example is in a list format for the information about the sources. Both are organized by authors last names (a-z).


Working Bibliography for Modern and Contemporary Poetry Essay (Citation format)


Kindley, Evan. “To Err Is Poetic.” The New York Review of Books.  Feb. 2021 issue. February 11, 2021.  https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2021/02/11/to-err-is-poetic/.

Sellers, Bridget. “Millennial Poetics: A Study of Contemporary Poetry and Its Developing Trends.” Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee. pp. 189-97. https://trace.tennessee.edu/pursuit/vol7/iss1/21.

Vuong, Ocean. “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” Poetry Foundation. 2014. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/57586/on-earth-were-briefly-gorgeous .


Working Bibliography for Modern and Contemporary Poetry Essay (List Format)

Source #1: “To Err Is Poetic”

  • Author: Evan Kindley
  • Publication: (website) The New York Review of Books
  • Publication date: Feb. 11, 2021
  • Issue: Feb. 2021
  • Link: https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2021/02/11/to-err-is-poetic/

Source #2: “Millennial Poetics: A Study of Contemporary Poetry and Its Developing Trends”

  • Author: Bridget Sellers
  • Publication: (found on Ebsco) Pursuit: The Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tennessee
  • Page numbers: pp. 189-97
  • Link: https://trace.tennessee.edu/pursuit/vol7/iss1/21

Source #3: “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” (poem)

  • Author: Ocean Vuong
  • Publication: (found on) Poetry Foundation, (original publisher) Poetry Magazine
  • Original Publication date: 2014
  • Link: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/57586/on-earth-were-briefly-gorgeous¬†
Citation: Please adapt for your documentation style.

Norway, Despina, Mike Palmquist, & Peter Connor. (2022). Developing a Working Bibliography. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University. https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=26