28.04.20 Citing sources overview Time to read: 6min

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Definition: Bibliography

Bibliography is a term used to describe the study of books and cultural objects with the intent of achieving an academic purpose. It is also described as a discipline that entails the listing of books in an organized manner, also known as enumerative bibliography, or the systematic manner of describing books similar to objects, a descriptive bibliography that forms the literature of a subject under study.


A bibliography (not to be confused with the works cited) generally entails the listing of books, articles, journals, cultural objects and other study materials used to compose a piece of academic writing or literary work. It is essentially a list of sources used (both referenced in-text and otherwise) in writing a research paper.

The two may seem similar since they share characteristics, such as the basic structure and the alphabetical arrangement of entries. All of the cited works of authors and all other works consulted by the author, despite not being directly mentioned in the text, are required in a bibliography. On the other hand, only the sources that you referred to have to be included in the works cited. This means that if the author did some selective reading, then all of the source information needs to be included in the bibliography, but not the works cited.

Good bibliographies should include the following:
• The authors’ names
• Title of the books, works or objects referred to in the research paper or thesis.
• Date of publication
• Names of publishers and their locations
• If there were multiple volumes in a given source volume, then page number(s) must be included

The exact method and formatting required, will depend on the referencing style that your institution uses.

There are three main types of bibliographies. Check with your institution which method you’re required to use. This may depend on the referencing and citation style you’re using, as well as your field of research.

Analytical:  Includes any information and new insights that come to light as the book or research paper progresses.

Annotated:  Provides an outline of the research that was conducted and comments on individual sources.

Enumerative: A list of sources in a specific order.

Areas of Application for Bibliographies

Bibliographies are commonly used in a sentence. They are also used in projects and for answering the research question. While citing this bibliography, the writer needs to give all the references.

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Different Kinds of Bibliographies

Bibliographies are classified according to the style or the way of listing the sources. There are three common types of bibliography:

  • Analytical bibliography
  • Enumerative bibliography
  • Annotated bibliography

Analytical bibliography:

Analytical bibliographies include information concerning the booksellers and printers, paper and binding descriptions, and any insights that unfold as a book evolved from a manuscript to a published book. This can be further subdivided into a descriptive bibliography concerned with the physical appearance and nature of a book, a textual bibliography which compares the already published work to the author’s original manuscript, and lastly, a historical bibliography that shows the context of the production of the book.

Annotated bibliography:

Annotated bibliographies show the source of writer’s creation, in alphabetical order. This type of bibliography lists a series of tasks that were done by the author of the paper. They provide an outline of what kind of research was done on a given chapter, the addition of notes about the source, comments on and a summary of the source, an assessment of the source whereby the usefulness of the source is evaluated, and reflections on the source which provide a perspective on the usefulness of the text with respect to the research question.

Enumerative bibliography:

Students writing research papers commonly use enumerative bibliography. Here, the writer lists all the references considering some specific arrangements. For example, an author starts with the subject then lastly dates items listed. They share common characteristics such as language, topic or period of time. Information concerning the source is then given by the writer so as to provide directions to the readers towards the source. An example of this bibliography is a card catalogue.

GOOD TO KNOW: Read our article about  referencing & citation styles to find out how to write a perfect bibliography!


Monographs are books that address a particular topic. An example of a bibliography citing such books is as follows:

Danny Irvings, E.U. (2016). Diet and body control. Amsterdam: Mindset publishers.

When writing bibliographies of edited books, the writer should note that when highlighting a chapter, the word ‘in’ must be placed before the editor’s name. For example: In Heisten D.Y. & Thompson G.E. (Eds.), (2014). Human biology of physical existence. Hurlingham, GN: University Of California Press.

When tackling bibliography citations of internet sources and scientific journals, the writer has to consider the steps highlighted earlier when listing the contents of a bibliography: John Saynard, Psychology for The Need, retrieved from sources/news and livelihood/psychology/words/2007/.

APA Bibliography Format

In writing bibliographies using APA format (APA Citation), the following steps need to be observed:

  • It should be done at the end of the paper on a new page, entitled ‘References’ with center-alignment
  • The author’s name must be listed; if there is more than one author, the names are separated with an ampersand.
  • Show the publication date, the title of the source, the publisher’s location, and their name. For example: Peterson, D. (1992). The creators: A history of the heroes of imagination. New York: Random House.
  • For online sources, start with the author’s name, followed by the publication date, the title of the article or journal, volume number, month, day, year of retrieval, and lastly the full URL. For example: Raids, g. (2007, July 3). Lightning injures at music festivals. The why? Files. Retrieved February 23, 2007, 2006 from

MLA Bibliography Format

  • When writing monographs using MLA, the bibliography appears in this format: Litfin, Karen. “Introduction to Political Economy.” Political Science 203. The University of Washington. Seattle, 16 October 2000.
  • The following is an example of citing edited books, especially those with more than one author: Druin, Allison, and Solomon, Cynthia. Designing Multimedia Environments for Children. J. Wiley & Sons, 1996.
  • Online sources or scientific articles using the MLA bibliography citation format are cited as follows: National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
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In a Nutshell

  • A bibliography is a series of activities involving the listing of books, sources, journals, or articles, with the primary objective of providing a concise literature review.
  • The main areas in which a bibliography is used include academic works such as research papers, proposals, reflection or even sentences.
  • Bibliographies may be divided into two categories: the APA citation and MLA citations, which in turn contain the different bibliography types. These include analytical bibliographies, enumerative bibliographies, and lastly, annotated bibliographies.

It is therefore advisable for both college and university students to be clear on what bibliographies entail and be able to apply the skills gained from this discipline so as to help avoid plagiarism.


James B McMillan, Michael B Montgomery. Annotated Bibliography of Southern American English
University of Alabama Press, 2018
Marjorie Powell, Joseph W Beard. An annotated bibliography and guide to research
Routledge, 2018