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4.12 The Research Essay -- Bibliography

A bibliography is nothing more than an alphabetical listing of all those sources you used to write your essay. The bibliography, furthermore, should appear on a separate page or pages at the end of the essay. As far as the style of the bibliography is concerned, you should again consult your style manual for correct formatting. Maintain consistency.

There are so many variations in bibliographic style that it would take me too long to enumerate them here. A single author is fairly straightforward. But what if you are citing a work edited by several authors, and this work is part of a multi-volume series? Or what if the source has no publisher or publishing date? What if the book was published in more than one city? Which one do you use? How does one deal with a journal article, or work of art, or newspaper article, or film or even a web page or email message? Well, you'll have to consult the style manual for answers to these questions.

If you have about twenty sources to be included in your bibliography, then simply list them in alphabetical order. However, if you decide to include an extensive bibliography then it makes sense to break it up into sections. For instance, the bibliography in my dissertation is broken up into archive, primary, and secondary sources. Further sub-sections include journals, newspapers, and theses. I might add that the bibliography is twenty-five pages long. On the other hand, the bibliography for my Master's thesis is only ten pages long and was not broken up into sections at all. Again, it all depends on the subject matter and your approach to it.

In general, your bibliography ought only include those sources which you actually consulted. If there are books or articles which you mentioned in a footnote, but which you did not consult, then their place is not in the bibliography.

You may also want to include, if you are daring, a bibliographic essay, rather than the standard bibliography. The bibliographic essay is different in that you are reviewing the literature on a specific subject. The essay is usually divided into sections correlating to the sections of the research essay itself. This is a good place to practice your historiographic skills although it does take decidedly more time, effort and work.

In the end, however you decide to format your bibliography, remember to be consistent with the style manual you have decided to use throughout the final typing of your research essay.

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