What is a bibliography?
A bibliography is an alphabetical list of every source used to research and write the essay. Sources that are not cited in the body of the essay, but were important in informing the approach taken, should be cited in the introduction or in an acknowledgement. The bibliography should only list those sources cited.
There are a number of different documentation styles available for use when writing research papers; most are appropriate in some academic disciplines but not others. The supervisor should help the student decide on a style for the particular subject of the essay. It is important to remember that, whatever style is chosen, it must be applied consistently. When choosing the documentation style, the student needs to have a clear understanding of how it is to be used before embarking on the research task. The documentation style should be applied in both the final draft of the essay and in the initial research stages of taking notes. This is good practice, not only for producing a high-quality final product, but also for reducing the opportunities and temptation to plagiarize.
Major documentation styles
The following are examples of acceptable documentation styles.
- American Political Science Association (APSA)
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- Council of Biological Editors (CBE)
- Harvard citation and referencing guide
- Modern Language Association (MLA)
- Numbered references
Finding information about such systems is not difficult. Entering a string such as "academic referencing" into an internet search engine will bring up lots of useful material. Reputable university sites often allow comparison of several different systems (and do not usually disappear overnight). One such example (accessed 13 March 2006) is http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/Documentaton.html. There are numerous other online guides to creating bibliographies, as well as printed writers' handbooks.
What is a reference?
A reference is a way of indicating to the reader, in an orderly form, where information has been obtained. A reference provides all the information needed to find the source material. References must be cited because they acknowledge the sources used, and enable the reader to consult the work and verify the data that has been presented.
References must be given whenever someone else’s work is quoted or summarized. References can come from many different sources, including books, magazines, journals, emails, internet sites and interviews.
Internet references should include the title of the extract used as well as the website address, the date it was accessed and, if possible, the author. Caution should be exercised with information on websites that do not give references or that cannot be cross-checked against other sources. The more important a particular point is to the essay, the more the quality of its source needs to be evaluated.
Any references to interviews should state the name of the interviewer, the name of the interviewee, the date and the place of the interview.
What is a citation?
A citation is a shorthand method of making a reference in the body of an essay, which is then linked to the full reference at the end of the essay. A citation provides the reader with accurate references so that he or she can locate the source easily. How sources are cited varies with the particular documentation style that has been chosen.
Page numbers should normally be given when referencing printed material: in some styles this will be in the citation, in others in the full reference. Once again, it is important to emphasize that there must be consistency of method when citing sources.