A bibliography is a list of all the works, which includes books, journals, websites and reports, that have been consulted or researched by the writer of an original work. Although there are many variations in how to write a bibliography, some features are common to all of them. These include the name of the author, the date, the name and location of the publisher, and also where relevant, page numbers. Some works of writing contain what is known as an annotated bibliography that gives more details of the source. The variations in how a bibliography is written involve such aspects as layout, line spacing, font (normal or italic) and punctuation. However, consistency is paramount within whichever bibliography style is used.
Bibliography in Academic Work
Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between a bibliography and a reference list. A bibliography is a list of every source that has been consulted in the preparation of an essay, dissertation, thesis or other academic document. This is irrespective of whether or not the source has been mentioned in the text. However, a reference list comprises only the sources that have been referred to in the text. If all the sources consulted have been mentioned in the text, then a reference list is sufficient without a bibliography. Each of the well-established reference styles has its own rules for how a bibliography (and a reference list) should be written, which should be followed consistently. It is also worth noting that the Chicago style, which uses in-text reference numbers and footnotes does not require a reference list, but does require a bibliography. It is therefore necessary for students who are writing an academic document that will be assessed by an examiner to be aware of which referencing style is to be used, and also to consult the style guide of the appropriate educational institution. The websites of all the most frequently-used reference styles give details of how a bibliography should be written, as do the style guides of the universities. Bibliographies are also a guard against plagiarism, as are in-text references.
Bibliography in the Publishing Industry
It is not only in the academic world where bibliographies are needed, but also in the publication of non-academic books. In preparing their books, authors consult many sources, which should always be included in a bibliography. The same common features referred to above also apply to bibliography in the publishing world. A published book is much less likely to contain a reference list than is an academic work. In a non-academic book, frequent in-text references can break the continuity and annoy the reader. Therefore, a bibliography is the usual method of acknowledging the sources used in the preparation of such a book. As previously mentioned, in-text references are rare in a non-academic book, but there may be occasions where the author wishes to refer to another author. Care should be taken here that books by other authors are not quoted verbatim; therefore, writers who draw from other works should write in their own words. Disregard of this advice could lead to issues of copyright or plagiarism. Authors of books should consult their publishers’ style guides which explain how the bibliography should be set out. Although not part of the bibliography itself, it is usual for an author to acknowledge people or entities who have assisted in any way with the writing of a book. This is, at least, a matter of courtesy. It also needs to be mentioned that bibliography almost always applies only to non-fiction books, as fictional works rarely, if ever, need a bibliography.
Some writers may see a bibliography as a bind, and too time-consuming, but it is important, indeed usually essential. A good way to prepare a bibliography is to make a note of each source consulted before writing the document to set up a ‘draft’ bibliography, and then when the work is completed it to ‘polish’ it. Most importantly, whichever variation is used, consistency in essential.
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