Writing a Bibliography Help (page 3)
Writing a Bibliography
Writing a bibliography is more straightforward than deciding when and where to use footnotes or citations. In fact, the bibliography format is very similar to the format for footnotes, with only slight variations. This lesson will explain why bibliographies are important, how to write one, and will provide you with several examples.
A bibliography should be a complete list of every single item that you have consulted while you were researching and writing your paper. This list includes all printed matter and any other sources from which you derived your information. A standard bibliography documents all printed matter you have read or consulted and includes all reference books, books by a particular author, articles, pamphlets, or leaflets. Even if you only read several pages or paragraphs from a large encyclopedia or textbook, it is important to include that book in your bibliography. The reason that you provide a bibliography for your reader is not only to confirm your own legitimacy as a researcher and writer (in other words, that you gathered material and did not "create" it all in your head), but more importantly, to provide a source for other people interested in your topic. In a way, you can think of a bibliography as a form of sharing knowledge.
A bibliography should function as a mini library of sorts. Any reader should be able to consult your bibliography (even if he or she has not read your paper) and begin to gather important titles on a similar topic based on works that you mention. Because bibliographies become official documents of knowledge in themselves, it is important that they list sources correctly and are written in proper format. There is nothing worse than referring a reader to a book that does not exist or neglecting to mention a particular printing or edition of a book that you have consulted. Listing the book correctly ensures that the reader doesn't have to sort through the previous ten editions hoping to find similar information.
Standard Bibliographic Format
A bibliography should come at the very end of your paper. All books and printed material should be listed by author's last name in alphabetical order. The author's name should be written with the last name first, followed by the first name. A period comes after the author's name. The title is then listed and either underlined or set off in italics (in the case of articles, the title is always set off by quotation marks). The title of the book is followed by a period. The next information is the city where the book is published, followed by a colon. Then the publishing company is listed, followed by a comma, and finally the year of publication, followed by a period. A simple bibliographic citation might look like this:
Miller, Sue. The Last Days of President Kennedy's Presidency: A Critical Examination of his Final Economic Policies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Unlike a footnote citation, you do not have to number your sources, there are no parentheses, and the author's last name is listed first. Also, the second and succeeding lines of each entry are always indented five spaces. Remember to list your sources alphabetically by the author's last name.
Bibliographies for Electronic Sources
Again, this same format holds true for electronic sources. When listing an author or editor of an online article simply alphabetize his or her name (last name first, etc. ). Use the same procedure for multiple authors or editors. After you have done this, list the title of the article you consulted (in quotation marks), the journal in which it was published (underline the title), and instead of the publishing company, list the website and the year the site was posted. In other words, your bibliographic citation should look like this:
Miller, Sue. "Kennedy's Top Advisors. " Government Issues. www. government issues. com. March 20, 2000.
While this format may seem relatively easy, you might have some questions. For instance, what if several authors have written a book together—whose name do you list first? What if you have read more than one book by the same author—which title do you list first and how do you arrange them? Do you write the author's name over and over again? What if there is no specific author you can cite, or a corporate author, or a particular government agency has produced a work? Again, you can find answers to all these questions in a handbook that specifically discusses bibliographic format and multiple variations. See Appendix B for a list of reference books you can use. However, as a basic rule, alphabetizing always takes precedence. In other words, if you have read several books by the same author, consulted several different websites or have viewed multiple CD-ROMs, you do not have to write the author's name over and over again. As demonstrated in this list of print sources, simply list the additional books an author has written in alphabetical order and write the author's name only once, so that two listings by Sue Miller would look like this:
Miller, Sue. President Kennedy's White House Staff. London: Oxford University Press, 1989.
_____. The Last Days of President Kennedy's Presidency: A Critical Examination of His Final Economic Policies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
In other words, instead of listing Sue Miller's name twice, you simply underscore the line and follow it with a period. This stylistic procedure lets the reader know that both books were written by the same author.
Complex Questions and Listing Additional Sources
For more complex questions, it is best to refer to a handbook that will provide you with exact formatting when citing a work or works in different mediums. You might have specific questions that apply to a whole range of varied sources. For instance, what happens when you have:
- written by more than one author
- edited or complied by multiple editors
- an anonymous or untitled work
- an edition of a multiple volume series
- an academic dissertation that is not published
Sources Other than Printed Matter
- films and videos
- musical or theatrical performances
- works of art
Reasons for Consulting a Handbook
While it may seem like additional work to consult another book for the answer to these questions and proper bibliographic format, it is important to do so because style preferences and the way in which material is cited varies over time. Certain professions and academic disciplines often prefer one type of formatting to another. In addition, with the availability of the Internet and the proliferation of a whole world of new sources, citation styles and policies are constantly changing as handbook publishers try to keep up with all the changes in technology. As you will see, some style manuals follow a more classic procedure—one that has been in use for many years—while others are continuously being updated. If your paper involves printed source materials only (books and printed articles) then your bibliography is usually straightforward. However, if you have consulted many different types of sources, you want to be sure to document them correctly. This is especially true if you are writing your research pa per for a particular class, teacher, or project. It is always a good idea to check beforehand to see if there is a specific stylebook or manual that your instructor favors. This will save you a lot of time and also insure that you won't make any mistakes in format by following a style that is outdated. Remember —even though this is the last part of your paper and the last several pages that a reader will be likely to consult, you want your work to be as polished and as thorough as possible.
A bibliography is an essential part of your paper. Without it, your paper is incomplete and cannot be a legitimate work that others can consult. Even if you have only read a few paragraphs from a particular work or did not mention it in depth, it is important to list it in your bibliography. A good bibliography is the most instructive and helpful part of your paper for other people who are interested in the same topic. A complete bibliography speaks volumes about the hard work you have done, your skills as a researcher, and the thoroughness of your search. In addition, a well written bibliography can function as a "mini library" providing others with a starting point and a handy list of titles for their own projects and assignments.
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