How to write a bibiliography
A bibliography is not just “works cited.” It is all the relevant material you drew upon to write the paper the reader holds.
Do I need a bibliography?
If you read any articles or books in preparing your paper, you need a bibliography or footnotes.
- If you cite the arguments of “critics” and “supporters,” even if you don’t name them or quote them directly, you are likely referring to information you read in books or articles as opposed to information you’ve gathered firsthand, like a news reporter, and so you need a bibliography.
- If you quote sources and put some of the reference information in the text, you still need a bibliography, so that readers can track down the source material for themselves.
- If you use footnotes to identify the source of your material or the authors of every quote, you DO NOT need a bibliography, UNLESS there are materials to which you do not refer directly (or if you refer to additional sections of the materials you already referenced) that also helped you reach your conclusions. In any event, your footnotes need to follow the formatting guidelines below.
How to write a bibliography
These guidelines follow those of the American Psychological Association and may be slightly different than what you’re used to, but we will stick with them for the sake of consistency.
Notice the use of punctuation. Publication titles may be either italicized or underlined, but not both.
Books are the bibliography format with which you’re probably most familiar. Books follow this pattern:
Author Last Name, Author First Name. (Publication Year) Title. Publisher’s City: Publisher. Page numbers.
Alexander, Carol. (2001) Market Models: A Guide to Financial Data Analysis. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 200-220.
Periodicals remove the publisher city and name and add the title of the article and the volume or issue number of the periodical. Notice article titles are put in quotation marks and only the publication title is italicized or underlined.
Author Last Name, Author First Name. (Publication Date—could be more than a year) “Article Title.”Publication Title, Vol. #. (Issue #), Page numbers.
Salman, William A. (July-August 1997) “How to Write a Great Business Plan.” Harvard Business Review 74. pp. 98-108.
Web versions of printed material
Because web sources are time-sensitive, meaning that web content can change day by day, it is important to include the day of retrieval and the URL from which you quoted the material. You include this in a retrieval statement.
The format for online versions of print publications should basically follow the same format as above, meaning if you’re referencing an online book, you should follow the book format with the addition of the retrieval statement. If you’re referencing an online periodical, you should follow the periodical format with the addition of the retrieval statement.
Note that you should not break the Internet address of the link, even if it requires its own line. Very long URLs, such as those that occur when using an online database, can be shortened by removing the retrieval code. (The retrieval code usually consists of a long string of unintelligible letters and numbers following the end point “htm” or “html.” Remove everything that occurs after that point to shorten.)
Author. (Date of Internet Publication—could be more than a year) “Document Title.” Title of Publication. Retrieved on: Date from Full Web Address, starting with http://
Grant, Linda. (January 13, 1997) “Can Fisher Focus Kodak?” Fortune. Retrieved on August 22, 2020 from (insert full web address here)
The above is just one example of citing online sources. There are more extensive bibliographic guidelines at www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/cite6.html.
How to cite sources in the text
In-text citations alert readers to cited material and tell them exactly where to go and look. These citations work in conjunction with a bibliography.
- Usually, an in-text citation is a combination of a name (usually the author’s) and a number (either a year, a page number, or both).
- For Internet sources, use the original publication date, not your retrieval date.
- Internet sources also do not have page numbers, so use your discretion in the format that will direct the reader closest to the relevant section. You can number the paragraphs (abbreviate “par.”) or chapters (abbreviate “chap.”) or sections (abbreviate “sec.”).
- If there is no author listed, the document’s title should be used in place of the author’s name. Use the entire title but not the subtitle. Subtitles are anything appearing after a colon (:).
Use a signal phrase
A signal phrase alerts the reader to the fact that you are citing another source for the information he or she is about to read.
Myers (1997) reported that “structured decision aids, as a factor in a more structured audit approach, are designed to focus the auditor on relevant information to improve effectiveness, and to improve audit efficiency, by eliminating the time needed to develop or organize individual approaches to the audit problems.” (sec. 1, “Introduction”)
Note that the date goes with the author, directions within the document go with the quote.
Later on, same source, different section:
According to one study (Myers, 1997), inexperienced auditors from a structured firm will demonstrate higher audit effectiveness in the typical audit situation than inexperienced auditors from an unstructured firm. (sec. 2, “Structure and Audit Effectiveness”)
Full parenthetical citation after the material cited
Another method is to end the quote with the full citation:
The primary controversies surrounding the issue of accounting for stock-based compensation include whether these instruments represent an expense that should be recognized in the income statement and, if so, when they should be recognized and how they should be measured. (Martin and Duchac, 1997, Sec. 3, “Theoretical Justification for Expense Recognition”)
For long quotes, use a previewing sentence and a parenthetical citation
Long quotes are 40 words or longer and should be single-spaced even in double-spaced papers. The previewing sentence tells the reader what to look for in the quotes (and helps the reader change gears from you to another author).
Martin and Duchac (1997) reiterate the problems with stock-based compensation and accounting issues:
While it is true these estimates generate uncertainties about value and the costs to be recognized, cost recognition should be the fundamental objective and information based on estimates can be useful just as it is with defined benefit pension plans.
Given the similarities between stock based compensation and defined benefit pension costs, an expense should be recognized for employee stock options just as pension costs are recognized for defined benefit pension plans. The FASB agreed with this assessment in their exposure draft on stock based compensation, noting that nonrecognition of employee stock option costs produces financial statements that are neither credible nor representationally faithful. (sec. 2.1, “Recognition of Compensation Cost”)
Note the consistent indentation and the paragraph break inside the quote. Also note that the parenthetical citation falls outside the closing period.
Sometimes, summarizing arguments from your sources can leave the reader in doubt as to whose opinion he or she is seeing. If the language is too close to the original source’s, you can leave yourself open to charges of low-level plagiarism or “word borrowing.” Using a source-reflective statement can clarify this problem, allowing you the freedom to assert your voice and opinion without causing confusion. For example:
Myers (1997) reported that “structured decision aids, as a factor in a more structured audit approach, are designed to focus the auditor on relevant information to improve effectiveness, and to improve audit efficiency, by eliminating the time needed to develop or organize individual approaches to the audit problems.” (sec. 1, “Introduction”) Thus, audit pricing by firms with a structured audit approach is lower, on average, than firms with an intermediate or unstructured audit approach.
Is the observation in the last sentence Myers’s or the author’s? We aren’t sure. So insert a source-reflective statement to avoid confusion.
Myers (1997) reported that “structured decision aids, as a factor in a more structured audit approach, are designed to focus the auditor on relevant information to improve effectiveness, and to improve audit efficiency, by eliminating the time needed to develop or organize individual approaches to the audit problems.” (sec. 1, “Introduction”) Myers’s observation suggests that audit pricing by firms with a structured audit approach is lower, on average, than firms with an intermediate or unstructured audit approach.
When and how to use footnotes
You may decide to substitute footnotes for in-text citations and a bibliography. Footnotes are thorough, like entries in the bibliography, and yet specific, like in-text citations. However, depending on the thoroughness of your use of footnotes, you may also need a bibliography.
If you decide to use footnotes, you should follow the format outlined above for the information to include in your entries and should number each footnote separately (1, 2, 3, etc.). You should NOT use the same number twice, even when referencing the same document. Check out guidelines such as those in the Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Handbook for more information about how to number your footnote entries.