Meaning Of Bibliography In Research Methodology

What is a Bibliography?

A bibliography can be defined as,

“A  list of  reference materials (involving any kind of content ; text, music, paintings, video etc.) elucidating the type, nature and other detailed information on the basis of name, date, place and genre of the materials.”


“A complete categorical compilation  of any type of content based on it’s creator(s), editors and time (of production, distribution).”

Bibliography, also known as works cited, reference list is basically an orderly study and referencing of books and source materials used in academic research. It might or might not include any information on the literary analysis or criticism of the materials cited.

Etymology and Origin

The etymology of the term bibliography can be semantically traced back to the New Latin bibliographia. It is a  Greek word meaning  “copying of books.”

bibli (books) and graphia -graphy (writing)

The concept was in practice by Greek writers in the first three centuries AD and was referred to as the copying of books by hand.  By the turn of 12th Century, the concept took a literal form and was referred to as the intellectual practice of compiling books and materials. The modern day notion of bibliography, however, only took off in the 17th Century.

Importance and Use of Bibliographies

A mandatory requirement of copyright laws and academic conventions is that whenever a research paper is written, there should be a section at the end of it where you acknowledge the sources used.

So, bibliography means listing all the sources which you have consulted while writing your essay or research article. The sources may be in the form of printed and online books, websites, web documents, web blogs, newspaper articles, journals, pod casts, wikis, unpublished material, maps etc.

Citation ensures that the information contained in the research paper is based on logic, truth and facts. Absence of references or bibliography indicates that the paper may be a piece of plagiarism.

Standard Citation Styles Used in Bibliographies

There are various formats used in the creation of a bibliography such as the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association of America (MLA) and Chicago Manual of Style and Council of Biology Editors (CBE).

The APA style of referencing is common in the papers written on topics of social sciences; MLA style is used in field of humanities; and CBE is a popular citation style in the natural sciences.

Format of a Standard Bibliography

Bibliography Format for a Book

A standard bibliography for a book typically consists of the following information:

  • Author(s)
  • Title
  • Publisher
  • Date of Publication
Bibliography Format for a Periodical & Journal Article

A bibliography entry for a journal or periodical article contains the following information:

  • Author(s)
  • Article Title
  • Journal Title
  • Volume Number
  • Pages
  • Date of Publication

Types of Bibliographies

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography provides a brief description or annotation of the cited sources. The annotation comprises of a  brief summary of content along with a short analysis or evaluation.

Current Bibliography

A current bibliography provides a list of published material and sources which are recently published or currently recorded material. The purpose of a current bibliography is to report recent literature as soon as it is published.

Retrospective Bibliography

A retrospective bibliography provides a lists of documents or parts of documents (articles) published in previous years, as distinct from a current bibliography.

Serial Bibliography

A serial bibliography  is published over a period of  known and pre-defined time slots. Time intervals for serial bibliographies normally range from weekly to annual basis and informs on the updates of book and research article titles.

National Bibliography

A national bibliography provides a list of documents and sources published in a particular country and are produced in the national or local language of a country.

International Bibliography

An international bibliography provides a list of works, sources, publications, manuals, books, notes, articles and websites collected from world wide sources.

Subject Bibliography

A subject bibliography provides a list of works and sources relates to a specific subject.

Period Bibliography

A period bibliography provides a list of works and publications produced within a specific period range.

Analytical Bibliography

Analytical bibliographies refer to the collection of sources and material for the purpose of critical study and evaluation and refers to the following categories:

Descriptive (Physical) Bibliography

A descriptive bibliography provides a list of detailed facts for a book analysis by listing its size, format, binding, and publication details.

Historical Bibliography

A historical bibliography provides a list of contextual factors related to the production of a book i.e. printing details, publishing, bookselling and binding etc.

Textual Bibliography

A textual bibliography provides a list of literary materials, concerned with identification and editing of transcription errors from manuals, manuscripts, transcripts, scribes and inscriptions.

Enumerative (Systematic) Bibliography

An enumerative bibliography provides a list of the list of books according to some system, common theme or reference plan and includes information on by author, by subject, or by date.

Contrary to a descriptive bibliography, an  enumerative bibliography only provides minute details on books and sources.

Bibliographies for Non-book Sources


A discography is the systematic process which involves listing, categorization and branding of musical materials or phonographs on the basis of artists, composers, conductors, genres and era.


A filmography provides a list of films, documentaries and movies collected and grouped w.r.t a certain topic or theme.

Webography (Webliography) or Internet Bibliography

A webography, webliography or internet bibliography provides a list of websites related to a certain topic or subject. A website bibliography is limited to the listing and citation of online sources.


An arachinography provides a reference list of URLs collected on a specific subject or topic. The term has been coined by NASA research historian Andrew J. Butrica.

Referencing is one of the most important aspects of any academic research and poor or lack of referencing will not only diminish your marks, but such practices may also be perceived as plagiarism by your university and disciplinary actions may follow that may even result in expulsion from the course.


Difference between References and Bibliography

It is very important to be able to distinguish between References and Bibliography. Under References you list resources that you referred to within the body of the work that also include quotations.  For example,

It has been noted that “time and the management of time is an important issue, and the supply of time management products – books, articles, CDs, workshops, etc. – reflects the huge demand for these products” (Walsh, 2007, p.3).

Interchangeability of identical parts and a high level of straightforwardness of attaching these parts through the assembly line can be considered as revolutionary components of Fordism for the first part of the 20th century (Nolan, 2008).

Under Bibliography, on the other hand, you need to list resources that you have read during the research process in order to widen your knowledge about the research area, but specific piece of information from these resources have not been used in your research in the direct manner. You do not need to refer to Bibliography within the body of the text.

There are various methods of referencing such as Harvard, APA and Vancouver referencing systems. You should check with your dissertation handbook for the exact type of referencing required and follow this requirement thoroughly.


My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step assistance offers practical assistance to complete a dissertation with minimum or no stress. The e-book covers all stages of writing a dissertation starting from the selection to the research area to submitting the completed version of the work within the deadline.

John Dudovskiy

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