How to write a bibliography
(Last updated: 12 May 2021)
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Whether you are tackling formal essay writing or writing an undergraduate or master's dissertation, many students find it daunting the first time they are required to write a bibliography at the end of a piece of work. Fear not – not only is it much less complicated and scary than you might think, but we have compiled a list of the most important basic pointers on how to write a bibliography. Read on to get on your way to the best dissertation bibliography…
What is a bibliography?
A bibliography is more simple than it sounds. It is a list, usually at the end of an undergraduate or master's dissertation, of all the sources you have used to help you write the essay. This includes both the sources you may have referred to or quoted already in the essay and also any further works you read whilst preparing or researching the essay, even if you didn’t specifically cite them.
How to write a bibliography
Using a separate line for each new text listed, simply write out the details of each of your texts in the following order: Author (surname, initials), year of publication, title of book (in italics or underlined), edition (if there have been more than one), publisher, place of publication. For example:
Jones, AK, 2004, The Artists of Antiquity, 2nd edition, Virago, London
Writing a bibliography: primary and secondary sources
If you are writing a dissertation on a particular author or poet, you may want (or be required) to divide your bibliography into primary and secondary sources. In this case, works by the author himself that have formed the basis of the texts you have studied are primary sources, whilst critical reference books or other material are secondary sources. For example, in a dissertation on Austen, Pride and Prejudice would be a primary source, whilst Austen’s narrative voice: A companion would be a secondary source.
Bibliography styles: Harvard and others
There are several different accepted styles of bibliography, which have slight variations on the information included and the order in which it is presented. The method described above is a standard, widely accepted format, but when you are writing a bibliography make sure you check exactly what stylistic requirements are stipulated by the University or course provider. Remember, one of the most important tips on how to write a bibliography is to remain consistent – whatever method you choose, stick to it throughout and keep the style the same for every reference.