by Jeff Hume-Pratuch
Did you know that there’s no such thing as a bibliography in APA Style? It’s a fact! APA Style uses text citations and a reference list, rather than footnotes and a bibliography, to document sources.
A reference list and a bibliography look a lot alike: They’re both composed of entries arranged alphabetically by author, for example, and they include the same basic information. The difference lies not so much in how they look as in what they contain.
A bibliography usually contains all the works cited in a paper, but it may also include other works that the author consulted, even if they are not mentioned in the text. Some bibliographies contain only the sources that the author feels are most significant or useful to readers.
In APA Style, however, each reference cited in text must appear in the reference list, and each entry in the reference list must be cited in text. If you cite only three sources in your paper, your reference list will be very short—even if you had to read 50 sources to find those three gems! (Hopefully, that hard work will pay off on your next assignment.)
The APA Style Experts are often asked to provide the “official APA-approved format” for annotated bibliographies (i.e., bibliographies that contain the author’s comments on each source). As you may have guessed, there isn’t one; APA Style doesn’t use bibliographies of any sort. In addition, though, the reference list in APA Style contains only the information that is necessary to help the reader uniquely identify and access each source. That’s why there is no format for an annotated bibliography in the Publication Manual.
Most everything written or published in the higher academy is cited. The citation of sources prevents plagiarism, helps a professor fact-check an essay or paper for accuracy, and can aid the student in finding information if they decide to return to a certain source in the future. Learning the importance of citing sources is something any and every student should learn wholeheartedly and always embrace because, at the college or university level, it is a fact of life.
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY EXAMPLES
However, with the overwhelming bombardment of information and terminology in higher education, it can be a challenge doing things the correct way – and can get very confusing. This certainly applies to a writing assignment requiring a student to cite the sources they have used, referred to or encountered in compiling information and writing an essay or research paper. A Works Cited page and Bibliography are perfect examples: the two are often used interchangeably, mean close to the same thing, yet have entirely different purposes, meanings, and implications.
Bibliographies, which are mostly found at the end of a book or published an academic article, are a list of the books or other articles referred to in a scholarly work – and are not merely a simple paper, essay or research paper written by an undergraduate. Usually printed as an appendix, bibliographies provide an overview of what has been published on a topic. Some bibliographies are annotated, meaning they include a brief summary of each work’s contents and explain how it was relevant in writing about the subject of the paper. A bibliography is an ideal starting point for the student looking to conduct research on a specific topic or range of topics. However, some professors may require their students to make a list of all the sources that informed the student writing the paper – those that may have lead the student to other, more recent sources. In this case, a bibliography may be best.
The Works Cited
The Works Cited, often referred to as the “Works Cited Page,” is a separate page at the end of a student’s essay or research paper; it lists the sources they used in the writing and completing their assignment – whether they used information in direct quotes, rephrased summaries, the incorporation of data and general information, like statistics. Whenever a student borrows legitimate information from any reputable source (anything that is not common knowledge: “the capital of Thailand is Bangkok”), that information needs to be cited in MLA style. This list should be alphabetized by authors’ last names – or by editors’ or translators’ names – and should have “Works Cited” as a centered heading. In many cases, one’s professor may read the student’s Works Cited page first to get a feel for the kind of effort put into the assignment.
FOOTNOTES VS. ENDNOTES
Student, keep in mind! In the event, a student is not sure which exactly their professor prefers – works cited, bibliography or an annotated bibliography – that student should talk with their professor; rather than risk getting a low grade, it is best they inquire early on in getting an assignment.