Bibliography: Definition and Examples

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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A bibliography is a list of works (such as books and articles) written on a particular subject or by a particular author. Adjective: bibliographic.

Also known as a list of works cited, a bibliography may appear at the end of a book, report, online presentation, or research paper.

An annotated bibliography includes a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph (the annotation) for each item in the list.

  • Etymology: From the Greek, "writing about books"
  • Pronunciation: bib-lee-OG-rah-fee

Examples and Observations

"Basic bibliographic information includes title, author or editor, publisher, and the year the current edition was published or copyrighted. Home librarians often like to keep track of when and where they acquired a book, the price, and a personal annotation, which would include their opinions of the book or of the person who gave it to them"
(Patricia Jean Wagner, The Bloomsbury Review Booklover's Guide. Owaissa Communications, 1996)

Conventions for Documenting Sources

"It is standard practice in scholarly writing to include at the end of books or chapters and at the end of articles a list of the sources that the writer consulted or cited. Those lists, or bibliographies, often include sources that you will also want to consult. . . .

"Established conventions for documenting sources vary from one academic discipline to another.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) style of documentation is preferred in literature and languages. For papers in the social sciences the American Psychological Association (APA) style is preferred, whereas papers in history, philosophy, economics, political science, and business disciplines are formatted in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) system.

The Council of Biology Editors (CBE) recommends varying documentation styles for different natural sciences."
(Robert DiYanni and Pat C. Hoy II, The Scribner Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Allyn and Bacon, 2001)

APA vs MLA Styles

"In an entry for a book in an APA-style works-cited list, the date (in parentheses) immediately follows the name of the author (whose first name is written only as an initial), just the first word of the title is capitalized, and the publisher's full name is generally provided.

Anderson, I. (2007). This is our music: Free jazz, the sixties, and American culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

By contrast, in an MLA-style entry, the author's name appears as given in the work (normally in full), every important word of the title is capitalized, some words in the publisher's name are abbreviated, the publication date follows the publisher's name, and the medium of publication is recorded. . . . In both styles, the first line of the entry is flush with the left margin, and the second and subsequent lines are indented.

Anderson, Iain. This Is Our Music: Free Jazz, the Sixties, and American Culture. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2007. Print. The Arts and Intellectual Life in Mod. Amer.

(MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed. The Modern Language Association of America, 2009)

Finding Bibliographic Information for Online Sources

"For Web sources, some bibliographic information may not be available, but spend time looking for it before assuming that it doesn't exist. When information isn't available on the home page, you may have to drill into the site, following links to interior pages. Look especially for the author's name, the date of publication (or latest update), and the name of any sponsoring organization. Do not omit such information unless it is genuinely unavailable. . . .

"Online articles and books sometimes include a DOI (digital object identifier). APA uses the DOI, when available, in place of a URL in reference list entries." (Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers, A Writer's Reference With Strategies for Online Learners, 7th ed.

Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011)