When writing a dissertation, thesis or any other research-based assignment, the bibliography is important and will impact the final grade. It references the list of sources used during your documentary research. The bibliography generally appears at the end of the work, before the appendices.
It can have different names: index, collection of references, works cited, or even webography or sitography when the sources come only from the Internet.
1. Understand the purpose of the bibliography
> Allow readers to deepen their knowledge
Readers can use the list of references to explore a subject further and enrich their understanding. Indeed, readers can easily and quickly find the references for the works they would like to explore.
> Attest to the quality of your written work
The teacher or grader of a report, thesis, or other writing assignment will judge the quality of the writing based on the reliability of the sources used. The bibliography showcases your research and adds credibility to your writing. Copyright is respected, and plagiarism is avoided.
> Demonstrate respect for copyright
Has your work already been thought of and explored by others? You should give credit to the authors who originally developed these insights. Academic integrity is still valued. The grader appreciates when the writer cites their sources rather than pretending that they came up with the ideas on their own. Plus, truthfulness carries no risk compared to plagiarism.
More generally > article “Why is plagiarism prohibited? What are my incentives to respect copyright?”
2. Format your bibliography
There are multiple ways to lay out your bibliography. Before arranging your ideas, you should ask yourself what you want to highlight: the wealth of authors, subjects, types of content… When there are more than a dozen sources, it is a good idea to include titles and subtitles in order to structure your bibliography.
> Arranged alphabetically
You can first put the name of the author or the website. This way of sorting is easy to implement but is not very useful to the reader because the ideas will be mixed.
> Arranged chronologically
To emphasise the recency or antiquatedness of the sources, the bibliography can be arranged by publication date.
Or, to showcase the chronology of detailed ideas, you can arrange your references in the same order.
> Arranged by content type
The sources can be grouped by the format of the information: images, scientific articles, videos, graphics, books, websites…
They can also be organised by theme: statistics, definitions, scientific research, law articles…
> Arranged in order of appearance in the work
This method of arranging the sources used is easy to implement because you simply need to verify that each footnote has its equivalent citation in the bibliography.
3. Choose the appropriate citation standard for your bibliography
Which citation standard to use is often decided by the writer. Sometimes the educational institution imposes a standard to follow (refer to the regulatory framework, a research librarian…). Regardless, only one standard should be used for the entire document, and all sources should be cited.
The 4 most used citation standards are Harvard Reference System, APA, Chicago Style and ABNT:
Pay attention and refer to each standard to notice the subtleties.
When information is missing, you should check the veracity of the source. In addition, when the author does not wish to be cited, you can put “anonymous” instead of the name.
4. Master bibliographic writing tools
> Studium: to guarantee a complete bibliography and avoid plagiarism
Studium is the student version of the software used by 95% of universities to detect plagiarism. It can be accessed at rates starting at €4.95, and it helps students avoid plagiarism by verifying that they’ve cited all sources used. Studium is used at the end of the writing process to compare your bibliography with the detected sources and then adjust your bibliography and footnotes if necessary.
Teachers appreciate if you add a short note at the end of your paper to indicate that the document has been verified by this software. This demonstrates the writer’s integrity.
> Zotero : to save your sources and organise your research
Zotero is free software that allows you to easily cite sources. Just save the references found on the web and insert them as a footnote and in the bibliography with this tool. The chosen citation standard is easily applied.
> Word: to cite your sources and build your bibliography
Word is the most widely used word-processing software for students to write research assignments. One lesser-known fact is that this tool also allows you to manage your references for sources in footnotes and create a bibliography, in the “References” tab.
To begin, you must choose which Citation Standard to apply for the whole document. Then, in the “Manage Sources” tab, you enter the type of document (article, book …) and all information pertaining to the citations. We recommend that you refer to the list of sources found with the Studium software to be sure you haven’t forgotten anything. You can also manage these references as you write them by clicking on “Insert Citation”.
As your research work is written, the “Bibliography” tab will aggregate all the references. Here is a quick video demonstration :
The bibliography showcases the work you’ve carried out as part of your documentary research, or for a dissertation or thesis. It is just as important as the development of your topic. As such, the bibliography should prompt the reader to dive deeper into the topic.
For further information:
“Quotation rules to avoid plagiarism“, Compilatio.net, 2019