Getting your bibliography right when writing your thesis

A bibliography is a list of all the sources, which includes books, journals, websites, and reports, that have been consulted or researched by the author of an original piece of work. Although there are numerous variations in how to write a bibliography, certain features are common to them all. 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 provides more details about each source. The variations in how a bibliography is written involve such aspects as layout, line spacing, font (normal or italic), and punctuation. The most important point to note is that, whichever bibliography style is employed, consistency is paramount. 

Bibliographies 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, regardless of whether the source has been mentioned in the text. By contrast, a reference list comprises only the sources that have been referred to in the text. If all the sources consulted have been mentioned, then a reference list alone is sufficient. Each of the well-established reference styles has its own rules as to how a bibliography (and a reference list) should be written, and these should be strictly adhered to. It is also important to note that 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 to know which referencing style is to be used, and to consult the style guide of the appropriate educational institution. The websites of all the most frequently-used reference styles give details as to how a bibliography should be written, as do the style guides of universities. Bibliographies are also a guard against plagiarism, as are in-text references. 

Bibliographies in the Publishing Industry

Bibliographies are also required in the publication of non-academic books. In preparing their books, authors consult numerous sources, which should always be included in the bibliography. The same common features referred to in the previous section also apply to bibliographies in the publishing world. A published book is much less likely to contain a reference list than an academic work. In a non-academic book, frequent in-text references can disrupt continuity and annoy the reader. Therefore, a bibliography is the usual method for acknowledging the sources used in preparing such a book. However, there may be occasions where the author wishes to refer to the work of other authors. In such instances, care should be taken to ensure that these authors are not quoted verbatim (unless quotations are provided that are acknowledged as such). Authors who draw from other works should always strive to write in their own words. Failure to heed this advice could lead to copyright issues or accusations of plagiarism. Authors should always consult their publishers’ style guides as these explain how the bibliography should be set out. Although not part of the bibliography itself, it is usual for an author to acknowledge those people or entities who have assisted in any way with the writing of a book. This is a matter of courtesy. It is also important to point out that a bibliography almost always applies only to non-fiction books; fictional works rarely, if ever, need a bibliography.

Some authors may see a bibliography as a burden, and excessively time-consuming, but it is usually essential. A good way to prepare a bibliography is to make a note of each source consulted before writing the document to create a ‘draft’ bibliography, and then ‘polish’ this when the work is completed. Most importantly, whichever variation is used, consistency is essential.

Are you worried about getting your bibliography right in your thesis or dissertation? Then get in touch with us today. As part of our dissertation proofreading services, we correct any errors in your bibliography in accordance with your required referencing system.