Enumerative Bibliography: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Ryan Bing
A bibliography is a listing of sources of information on a topic. There are a few different types of bibliographies, but the enumerative bibliography is one of the most commonly used. Let's take a closer look.


Let's break the words 'enumerative bibliography' down into parts in order to better understand. 'To enumerate' means 'to list.' The prefix 'biblio-' means 'having to do with books.' The suffix '-graphy' means either 'writing' or a 'field of study.'

So, we can define an enumerative bibliography as 'a list of books having to do with a particular writing or a field of study.' Another way to say this is: an enumerative bibliography is a list of sources an author puts at the end of a piece of writing in order to explain where she got her information from.

Keep in mind the term 'bibliography' was coined during a time when most information came from books. Now, a bibliography might include films, YouTube clips, web sites, and a variety of other media. However, the term 'bibliography' is still used.

If you have worked with bibliographies before, don't be confused by the word 'enumerative.' Enumerative bibliographies are the most common type of bibliographies in research writing, so you may have already encountered enumerative bibliographies and just heard them referred to as 'bibliographies.'


Let's imagine I'm writing an article about the film Apocalypse Now. In my article, I want to point out similarities between the film and Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness. So, I reread Heart of Darkness and discuss it in my article.

Some of my readers might be interested enough in this connection to want to go read Heart of Darkness themselves and see if what I'm saying about this connection checks out. I want to include enough information in my bibliography so they can do this. I would put an entry in my bibliography like this:

Enumerative Bibliography

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Konemann, 1999.

Note that Heart of Darkness was first published in the late 19th Century, but I have cited the 1999 version I read. This ensures everyone involved knows to which version of the book I am referring. This helps keep everyone (literally and figuratively) on the same page.

Now, let's imagine that as I continue my article I discuss Hearts of Darkness: A Fimmaker's Apocalypse, which is a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now. I would add a citation to my enumerative bibliography for the film. My bibliography would now look like this:

Enumerative Bibliography

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Konemann, 1999.

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. (American Zoetrope/Cineplex Odeon Films) (1991) Directed by Eleanor Coppola, George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr.

Each new source of information I include in my article would get its own new entry in my bibliography.

It's important to note there are slightly different formats for a bibliography, depending on which set of writing guidelines you are using. Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) are two of the most common sets of guidelines used. Ask the person who will review your work which set of guidelines she wishes you to use.

In all cases, a bibliography must be used in conjunction with in-line citations or footnotes to be sure the reader is clear about what information comes from which sources, and what ideas are the author's original ideas.

It's also important to note that bibliographies are an important part of properly citing sources, establishing an author's intellectual integrity, and avoiding plagiarism. Bibliographies give credit to other authors whose work one has used. They also allow readers to go back and independently verify the information an author has included in her work.

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