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Dissertation Writing Basics: What To Know About The Bibliography Format

The difference between a Bibliography and a Reference List

There is a common misconception about reference lists, works cited and bibliographies. The misconception being that they are all the same. The reason for this misconception is perhaps due to the fact that reference lists and bibliographies look almost the same. They both contain a listing of works like books, journal papers, websites or articles. In both, these entries are arranged in a sequence, for example, alphabetically by the author’s name.

The difference between the two is not how they appear but what they stand for.

What is a Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of works that have been cited in the paper’s text. It also contains all the works, including books, articles, websites, newspapers, journals or even film and plays, which the author may have used for research while writing the paper and which are not necessarily mentioned within the paper’s text. And herein lays the difference from a reference list, which contains only those works that have been cited in the paper. Of course, it is up to the author to decide what to include in the bibliography, so instead of including everything, he or she may include only those works that the author feels are of most relevance or useful for the reader.

An important type of Bibliography

There is a sub-category of bibliographies called the “annotated bibliography” in which the author includes a summary or explanation of each entry that they have used for research. This is helpful to the reader for their research and for understanding your work. It is also a very nice way of preparing for your own paper’s research as you read and write down a summary of what is important for your paper.

How to write a Bibliography

There is no set way to write a bibliography. In fact, if you follow the APA style of writing, there is no such thing as a bibliography in its manual. The format of a bibliography can, therefore, be varied. When in doubt, always ask your teacher or supervisor. Your teacher may ask you to follow either the APA or MLA conventions in writing up a bibliography. The information included will generally be the title, the author’s name, publisher and date.

If you are writing an annotated bibliography, the annotation will be written in paragraph form. The length of the paragraph will vary depending on your purpose. For yourself, you could write a couple of lines. For an audience, this may expand to paragraphs.