When to Use a Bibliography

Last time, in our discussion about endnotes, I mentioned that a bibliography is helpful but not required. The reason it’s not required is that all the information about the books you cite can be contained in the notes. The bibliography simply presents that information in alphabetical order.

You might want to include a bibliography even if you’ve used in-text citations rather than notes, as a courtesy to your reader. Your bibliography can also include books that you consulted but did not directly quote. It’s a quick way for the reader to see what other books are available on the topic.

If you chose to use a bibliography, you can use shorter citation forms in your notes, since all the publication data for each book will be in the bibliography.

reference books
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The Author-Date System

Those who have written papers for schools that use the APA style guide will recognize Chicago’s Author-Date system, as the two are somewhat similar. A short citation in the text usually contains just the last name of the author and the date of the publication. The complete publication data then appears in a reference list at the end of the book or paper. The following examples are from CMOS 15.5.

In the text:

As legal observers point out, much dispute resolution transpires outside the courtroom but in the “shadow of the law” (Mnookin and Kornhauser 1979). . . . Here we empirically demonstrate that workers’ and regulatory agents’ understandings of discrimination and legality emerge not only in the shadow of the law but also, as Albiston (2005) suggests, in the “shadow of organizations.”

In the reference list:

Albiston, Catherine R. 2005. “Bargaining in the Shadow of Social Institutions: Competing Discourses and Social Change in the Workplace Mobilization of Civil Rights.” Law and Society Review 39 (1): 11–47.

Mnookin, Robert, and Lewis Kornhauser. 1979. “Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: The Case of Divorce.” Yale Law Journal 88 (5): 950–97.

The reference list in the author-date system is a type of bibliography. But where the note system bibliography is optional (because all data can be contained in the notes), in the author-date system the reference list is required, because it is the only place where the complete publication data appears. The reference list only contains works cited, so if you wish to point your readers to books that you consulted but did not directly quote, these should be listed separately in a “Further Reading” list. Such a list can also be used in conjunction with a bibliography.

You may remember from college that when you cite several books by a single author, you only list the full name with the first book, and after that you put a long dash for subsequent books by the same author. That is correct for a final print version, such as what you would hand in to a professor or upload to Create Space. But while you are writing and editing your manuscript, whether you’re using notes with a bibliography or author-date citations with a reference list, use the full name in every entry to make it easier to sort the list alphabetically. Only replace the repeated names with dashes when you are ready to submit your manuscript for publication.

The author-date system is mainly used in textbooks and scholarly publications such as scientific journals. For more information about this system, see The Chicago Manual of Style, Chapter 15. The Purdue Online Writing Lab also has a summary of Chicago style as well as APA and MLA styles.

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