What is a Bibliography? Why is it Useful?

bibliographyAs a part of the book’s back matter, the bibliography is a crucial section that cites sources used throughout the book. These sources may be used to bolster the author’s credibility, strengthen their argument or cause, or negate certain claims made in other books. Whatever the reason, if an author uses an additional source when writing their book, they absolutely must include a bibliography or works cited page, in some form or another (whether this is realized in an actual page in the back matter or footnotes).  

As stated above, the bibliography (sometimes known as a works cited page or a reference page) is a section that lists out all of the sources that the author consulted, quoted, or referenced directly or indirectly during the writing of their book. Just as you must cite sources when writing a paper in school, so too must you list which works you used when writing your book.

This is a way to ensure that you’re providing credit and not violating copyright laws or plagiarizing other creative or intellectual works.

Why is the Bibliography Included in the Back Matter?

The back matter is the perfect place for the bibliography, because that’s where a lot of the technical information of the book falls. It makes logical sense that the pages listing resources used in the book would fall after the book. This provides an easy way for readers to confirm claims, find specific books used, and add further reading to their list.

The different back matter sections are all supplementary, and most of them provide additional information and materials that the reader can explore, if so desired. The bibliography, therefore, is a list of books that explore similar topics.

What Kind of Books use a Bibliography?

The most common type of books that use bibliography are academic in nature. You’re very likely to find bibliographies in the back pages of textbooks, historical nonfiction books, biographies, cultural critiques, essay collections, and research-based nonfiction books.

How to Write your Bibliography

When creating your bibliography, follow the same rule of thumb set in place for the appendix, glossary, and index. These pages should be clean, concise, and easy to follow. Ordering your bibliography in alphabetical order is the best way to go, but organizing it based on order of appearance is also acceptable.

Some people may even go so far as to organize the bibliography based on the chapters, sections, and specific parts of the book. This works too. No matter how you choose to format it, the pages should be orderly and neat, and there should be a clear and discernable rule of organization.

For each book, article, or excerpt used, be sure to list the title(s), subtitle, author, publisher or website, the year, and page number(s). There are different formats, such as MLA, APA, and Chicago style. For more on how to create citations, read this helpful page.

Not every book will require a bibliography, so be sure to use your best judgement in deciding if your book needs one or not. If you’re pulling directly from other sources, it’s best to name those sources as references. Note that fiction books rarely use bibliographies, since it’s assumed the story came from the author’s imagination.