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What Is a Bibliography and When Should I Write One?

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  • 0:13 Why Do We Use Bibliographies?
  • 2:52 Types of Bibliographies
  • 3:47 How Do You Create a…
  • 5:25 When Do You Need a…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

In this video we are going to cover what a bibliography is, why they are used, various types of bibliographies, how to create a bibliography, and when to know if you should use a bibliography.

Why Do We Use Bibliographies?

Have you ever sat in a chair, looked out on a beautiful sunset and thought, 'what exactly is a bibliography?' Me either, but you may have to write one one day, so let's talk about what a bibliography is and why they are important.

Most often, when the word 'bibliography' is used in an academic setting it's referring to a list of sources used by the author to inform their work on a given topic. This means that you're going to include all the works that were read when researching the topic - whether or not they're used directly in your own writing.

There are several reasons why we use bibliographies. The first major reason for using a bibliography is to inform your reader on how widely you researched the topic on which you're writing. While you may cite only seven or eight sources within a paper, you may have read 25, 50, or even 100 different books, journal articles, or scholarly websites in finding those sources. Showing just how widely you researched your topic provides more credence and credibility to your work.

Another use for a bibliography is to allow your reader to know if you considered a work but chose not to include it within your piece, or if you didn't consult a particular author at all. For instance, I may be completing a research paper on the behavior of chimpanzees both in the wild and in captivity. If someone was reading through my piece and didn't see me cite Jane Goodall, one of the most famous chimpanzee experts of all time, they may be curious. A bibliography would let them know if I considered any of her famous works or if I failed to give her work any consideration at all. This would allow them to critique my own work on a much more informed basis.

One of the largest benefits for you personally in creating a bibliography is that it allows you to keep track of all the research you've consulted on a topic. For instance, when you are first writing a paper that you've researched, you may not initially utilize a source that you consulted. However, after you've done some rewriting and reworking of your paper, you may find that you really did need to include a source after all. Having a bibliography, it would be much easier for you to find the source information; you don't have to start all over again in the search process. Creating a bibliography allows you to build a small database of information on a number of given topics. While you're never going to write the same paper twice in an academic setting, you may write on a similar subject. Having a bibliography that you created as a place to start your research will put you much further ahead in the process.

Types of Bibliographies

What are the types on bibliographies? The first type you may find is an annotated bibliography, and that's going to give the citation of each source you consulted along with a brief description and evaluation of the source.

The second type is enumerative. An enumerative bibliography is a list of sources that were consulted, simply citing them in a proper format.

The third type of bibliography is a list of works published during a particular time in history - that's called a period bibliography. These are often used in anthropological, historical, or cultural research.

A subject bibliography is a list of sources on a particular subject, often considered a record of the most important works in any given field of study.

Now that you know the types of bibliography, let's talk about how you create one.

How Do You Create a Bibliography?

One of the first things you have to do in preparing to create a bibliography is to decide in advance what type of bibliography you are going to do - annotated, enumerative, period, or subject. In an academic setting, you are most likely going to do an annotated or enumerative bibliography. The second step is to decide on the citation formatting you're going to be using. The two most common types are APA and MLA, followed by Chicago formatting. The third step is to keep a record of the citations that you're going to be using, as well as keeping them in your chosen format.

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