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Creating a Bibliography or Reference List

OK, so I am supposed to be editing my thesis but I wish I had known this at the start. Well, I probably did but not what was needed. This is just the "lite" version so if you are starting out on higher studies, you don't have to feel overwhelmed with reading!

Creating a Bibliography or a Reference List


If you are writing an academic paper you need to write a list of all the books and articles you read and quoted or summarised. It creates credibility for your paper (I know what's going on in my field and who is working in it and I know the arguments) and it means you are less likely (though not totally guaranteed) to be accused of plagiarism.

What's the Difference?

A bibliography is a list of all the books and articles, etc that you have read. A reference list is a list of
the articles you have cited in your paper. Some disciplines need references, some need a bibliography. Check
with your supervisor.

1. Start Straightaway

As soon as you start creating a piece of writing, or begin your studies, take careful note of all the books
and articles you read. Keep the references in the system you are going to use (see point 2) but even if you
don't yet know keep a record of at least the article title, the author(s) names, the publisher and the date
of publication and the editor if it is a book with a collection of articles.

2. Check out which referencing system you are going to have to use

Many academic institutions use the Harvard referencing system. Different journals may use different systems.
Check them out.

3. Keep Your list and update it

As you read something, IMMEDIATELY note the details. If you find a useful passage, note it and keep a note of
the page or paragraph you found it. If you found it online, keep a note of the URL and the date you accessed

4. Make a Table

I am using a spreadsheet to keep the details but some people prefer to use a table created in their word
processing document. Whichever you use, keep the list in alphabetical order. It's easier to start out that
way than to try and reorder it. But re-ordering is easier in a spreadsheet. My spreadsheet has the following
headings: Citation (this is what I will use in the text, e.g. (Jones, 2014)), article title (exactly as
published), Author(s), Publisher, date of publication, Location (For online resources)

Image Credit » by stevepb

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melody23 wrote on June 17, 2015, 7:54 AM

One of the best tools i have ever come across is Refworks. It does most of the work for you, it can even take the reference straight from the article in a lot of cases, if not it gives you boxes to fill in with the relevant info. If your institution is subscribed to them you can log in through them and it will automatically offer you the correct referencing style for your university, and you can keep everything in folders, so if you are writing three essays, you can keep the three sets of references separate. I dont know how you access it if your institution doesnt subscribe to them - there may be a fee so i will also mention a website called 'neils toolbox' which doesnt store references for you, but will format them correctly.

I honestly dont thinik I would have gotten through uni without Refworks, the idea of trying to create and store reference lists myself is terrifying! What makes it even better is that your references are stored in their folders indefinitely, so if i suddenly think 'hey i wrote about that in first year' I can find the folder for the essay I wrote and the references will be there, allowing me to go over the articles again to see if they can be of use in the current essay.

MegL wrote on June 17, 2015, 8:27 AM

I have refworks and a lot of references stored in it. It is useful but I have found that for myself, creating my own reference list for my thesis is my best option. My university ran courses on using refworks and it is good for downloading citations in the correct format when you are browsing through a lot of possible references.

msiduri wrote on June 17, 2015, 9:34 AM

Interesting. Makes me feel ancient. Back in the days when I was writing papers, we used things called 3x5 index cards. emoticon :smile:

MegL wrote on June 17, 2015, 10:10 AM

I still have those! Before I ever went back to university (after retiring) I used to read books on the train, travelling into work and kept my references. I have boxes of those but haven't been through them for ages!

msiduri wrote on June 17, 2015, 10:18 AM

I'm pretty sure mine have been sacrificed during my moves. But, boy, did they take work! Always checking to make sure I didn't leave some information out or screw a reference up.

Kasman wrote on June 17, 2015, 10:31 AM

Although it isn't quite the same thing it's good practice to cite reference sources when writing any factual information online - as in a blog post on ouija boards for example! emoticon :smile:

melody23 wrote on June 17, 2015, 11:23 AM

It really is a great tool, I couldn't handle doing my own reference list I don't think. Although its certainly not perfect (I got an essay back last year telling me my referencing style was rubbish) its handy, as long as you proof read to make sure the list matches your guidelines. If I remember correctly it was something silly with mine, like the uni guidelines wanted the name of the journal in italics but refworks put the title of the article in italics instead - something daft like that which would have taken me two minutes to fix myself had I actually bothered to double check things.

valmnz wrote on June 17, 2015, 4:40 PM

Like you, I wish I'd been more aware of this when starting the research for my book. Most of my references are newspaper and local Council record books, but at the beginning I forgot to write meeting dates, page numbers and such. A good reminder here for those needing it.

MegL wrote on June 17, 2015, 4:42 PM

If they are recent meetings, the councils themselves should have those dates or may even have them online.

valmnz wrote on June 17, 2015, 6:24 PM

Lol, early 1900s, easy to locate again at local archives emoticon :smile:

MegL wrote on June 18, 2015, 1:14 AM

Thank goodness I am expected to challenge accepted authorities and find new ways of doing things!

scheng1 wrote on June 20, 2015, 11:06 PM

Actually it is easy to get a lot of references in your thesis. Just quote a sentence from each book, and you will soon have a list of 20 to 30 reference books.

AliCanary wrote on June 27, 2015, 8:26 PM

I honestly think citations are even harder than writing the whole paper! Thanks for these tips.

Ruby3881 wrote on July 6, 2015, 5:04 PM

It sounds like you are extremely well organized! I haven't done that sort of writing in a couple of decades, but I basically did what you are recommending. It was a lot easier to write up my bibliography and reference list when the time came.