Importance Of Bibliography And Referencing In Research Work

Why Bibliography Is Important In Research?


If you are pursuing or planning to pursue research, bibliography is perhaps the most important element in a research exercise. Without a bibliography, the work is in essence useless. While this may sound extreme, it is true that research without fact checking is worthless. No professor or referee will accept a thesis or research paper without citation and citation is incomplete without a bibliography or reference page. So what exactly is a bibliography?

A bibliography is a list that goes at the end of a work of research writing. The list contains all the sources utilized in the thesis. Every bibliographic reference must have the following:

  • The author’s name: In every citation format, the author’s name is listed first in the bibliography. The bibliography is also ordered by author’s last name and in alphabetical order. The only exception to this is in footnotes, for Turabian format, the author’s first name is listed first. This style presents bibliographic information in footnotes or endnotes.
  • The title of the resource: The title identifies the specific resource used. The title is generally the creative element of the piece; the title of the book, article, news, advertisement gives a hint of its character and lets the reader know what to expect.
  • The publisher who published the source. The name and place of publication is important for verification of the type of source material. For example, if a book is published by McMillan Publishers, it is trusted to be a valid, verified resource and you can count on the facts being true. Each publishing houses have editors that fact check and no book would be published by a trustworthy publisher that contained non-verified information.
  • The date of publication: The date of publication is included in the work to let the reader know when the information was published. Remember in today’s world, each data has its life. The date is important in your thesis because the reference which you present should not be out of date. The data collected and presented by you also has its life. It’s therefore advisable to conclude your research in record time.

 The scholars are required to use a format depending on the number of sources used in the thesis, setting of the sources in the chapters and the source where the information was taken from. Each element is vital for proper bibliographic listing. Please remember all your bibliography helps other scholars to find resources they may not have known to have existed before. It also facilitates the referees or examiners of the thesis or research paper to trace the steps a student took in preparing his research work.

A citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source. More precisely, a citation is an abbreviated alphanumeric expression fixed in the body of an intellectual work that denotes an entry in the bibliographic references section of the work for the purpose of acknowledging the relevance of the works of others to the topic of discussion.

Citation helps referencing; it’s a way to give credit to the writers from whom scholars borrow words and ideas. By citing the work of a particular scholar, students can acknowledge and respect the intellectual property rights of that researcher. A student can draw on any of the millions of ideas, insights and arguments published by other writers, many of whom have spent years researching and writing. All that is needed is to acknowledge their contribution in building newer assignments.

Research scholars must take advantage of the works of others while researching their own topic. Going to the library and opening a relevant book or journal and going through the  author’s bibliography, students can find more resource material listed there, to hunt for in the stacks and, after having such material, add it to their bibliography, as well.

 An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

One of the reasons behind citing sources and compiling an extensive and logical bibliography is to prove that you have done some valid research to back up your logic and claims. Readers of the thesis can refer to the citation in the bibliography and then go look up the material themselves. I want to point out here, that a well reported bibliography influences positively the examiners of the thesis. The examiners can double check a claim or interpretation done by the research scholars.

The research work shapes up stably when the scholar reads up more and collects lot of references. More information and more reading make the researcher an expert on his chosen topic. He braces the ability to explain the content of the sources and assess their usefulness. He can use and share this information with others who may be less familiar with certain terms. A good researcher will gather sources, analyze them and discuss them with experts.

The bibliography is the key element of a thesis which is used to judge the quality of the work done by the researcher.  Therefore, use up-to-date resources and be sure you know how to cite the references. Please do not ignore the nuances of a bibliography. It exhibits your critical thinking, it proves you have read and understood your sources, it establishes your work as a valid source and you as a competent researcher, and it situates your study and topic in a continuing professional conversation. And lastly, your bibliography might stimulate other researchers to carry on further work on your chosen topic of research.


Vidya Hattangadi

Over the course of my life, I have done all possible jobs that one can think of – front desk assistant, telephone operator, clerical work, accounts assistant, inventory officer, sales woman, sales manager, tutor, lecturer, professor, director...etc. The range of job designations and experience of working in diverse roles has given me strength to think, help people, increase customer satisfaction, promote products, and off course build brands. When I look back at my career, in some jobs I excelled, in some I continued with odds. But the fact is that the diversity in my career has strengthened me as a person and definitely enhanced my skills. Every job taught me something or the other. I love meeting people, reading, travelling, listening to music, cooking, gardening, teaching, writing. Blogging has been a recent addition and am loving it. It has become my biggest hobby. Blogging has changed my life. My blog is wide-ranging manifestation of the way I think. I am a creative individual; I write because I have the urge to translate expressions of life. Over the years I studied and added some degrees as well. I have a PhD in Marketing Management from University of Pune, a post doctoral D.Litt (Doctor of letters) from Mumbai University in strategic management. I am a Professor of Management Studies with 16 years of teaching experience and have over 20 years industry experience. My core teaching areas are Marketing Strategy and General Management. As a teacher, I have always maintained the academic rigor in my classroom, I have always believed and practiced academic engagement while lecturing, I believe in experiential teaching-learning. I truly believe that education is interdisciplinary; therefore I have successfully guided 15 students for their PhD degree across various sectors in business management which includes a broad base of research coursework coupled with an area of specialization. I write on various management topics, research, news and higher education for students. And, the general section of articles on my blog relate to my interests in life. Happy reading to you all!

Why are citations important in research writing?

It’s not just about distributing credit where it’s due

The sociologist Robert Merton wrote perceptively about citations:

[T]he institutionalized practice of citations and references in the sphere of learning is not a trivial matter. [Readers] located outside the domain of science and scholarship may regard the lowly footnote or the remote endnote or the bibliographic parenthesis as a dispensable nuisance .. [But] these are in truth central to the [academic] incentive system and an underlying sense of distributive justice, that do much to energize the advancement of knowledge

Yet the significance of citations goes far beyond energizing and rewarding scientific and academic competition, and for PhDers and early career researchers it is worth briefly enumerating these rationales somewhat more.

All academic research and argument has seven essential characteristics. It is formally stated. Each work contributes to an advanced and specialist conversation. And academic work tackles difficult issues. It forms part of a cumulative and collegial endeavour. Research is evidence-based, and its provenance can always be checked. Research is also demanding and consistent in assessing empirical ‘facts’. All these features mean that referencing and citing are vital components of academic practice. The decisions that scientists and academics make about including or not including citations to support their arguments play a very important role in conditioning how their colleagues regard and evaluate their work. The Figure below unpacks a bit further the reasons why citations are so important, set against the seven criteria mentioned above.

Better appreciating the multiple roles of citations should help authors in discipline groups where chronic under-citation is a curiously seductive and hard-to-eradicate form of academic self-harm — the humanities (especially) and many social sciences. It is simply unacceptable scientific or academic behaviour now to ignore immediately relevant research or argument already in the public domain just because it does not help your case, or suit your style of work, or comes from a different discipline.

In the digital era the argument above also makes clear that open access sources should always be the primary reference sources, relegating paywalled sources to secondary status. Linking to OA texts whenever available is consistent with the scientific and academic mission, whereas referencing only paywalled sources is clearly restrictive. Perhaps, as the years pass by, even the authors of the badly out of date style guides still being issued by professional bodies like the APA and MLA will begin to take note.

To help keep up to date, please see my Twitter account @Write4Researchand the many commentators on the LSE’s Impact blog

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