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How to Write a Better Bibliography by Brian Konradt

Have you come to terms with the fact that, at one semester or another, you'll have to learn to write a bibliography?  If you're pursuing higher academic studies and you're aiming for a master's degree, much of your future lies in writing panel-approved research papers and theses.

But even before your final paper gets critiqued by the experts, you'll first have to go through the aches and pains of intensive researching.  Actually, the writing part can be fuss-free and painless if you learn to examine your own work with surgical precision.  This means not just editing your grammar and spelling to perfection but also checking on your citation of sources.

Incidentally, why are professors and panelists so critical about how you cite your sources?  How come they give such importance to the bibliography?  Since we're talking about research, it's mostly because they'd like to see the extent to which you've integrated classroom instruction with research in and out of your sphere.  They'd also like to see how much of your paper can be attributed to or accounted for by original thought!

Mostly though, it's all about plagiarism.  No academe of good repute would like to be associated with plagiarized works or publications with plagiarized content.

There's no arguing therefore, that a bibliography can be pretty important to your future.  And if you get the following guidelines right, then your future looks good!

Step 1: Collate all your sources.

By definition, a bibliography covers all possible sources such as books, journals, news articles, scientific reports, and other publications.  It also includes interviews, audio recordings, videos, websites, and links.

Step 2: Determine the style to be used.

Take note that not all research-style papers are formatted in the same way.  The formatting guidelines vary if you're using the American Psychological Association (APA) style or the Modern Language Association (MLA) style.

If you're not sure which formatting style to use, it's always best to clarify this point with your instructor or adviser.

Whatever the chosen style is, the following rule would apply:  You'd have to arrange your authors' last names alphabetically.  For every author, you must get the complete title of their work and the date of publication.

Now as to when to place a comma, period, or colon, that will all depend on the formatting style which has been specified.

If no specific instruction was given, here are sample formats which generally apply:
  • To cite an author:  Type the author's last name, punctuate with a comma, type the first name, and end with a period.
  • To cite the book:  Type the book's title in italics and end with a period.  Also, you may format with an underline.
  • To cite an article:  In quotation marks, type the article's title, punctuate with a comma, followed by the name and volume of its journal or magazine source.
Step 3:  Annotate your bibliography.

You can even go to the extent of annotating your bibliography.  This means giving a more detailed citation of your sources.

This is accomplished by adding a short paragraph describing your sources as to their purpose and scope.  You may also write about the author's credentials since they add to the quality, content, and accuracy of your source.

Going one step further, you can also compare a specific source with all other sources you've cited.  Moe than the average bibliography required of you, this one implies that you've meticulously examined your work from all points of view.