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Bibliographies help you

  • identify important and relevant sources on a topic
  • find what research has already been done on a topic
  • find articles and books written by or about a particular person
  • find out where to look for relevant information

Bibliographies are works that can be

  • a complete or selective list of readings on a particular subject
  • a list of publications, documents, or other items by or about a particular person
  • a list of the source materials used or consulted during research on a topic
  • the list of the contents of a library, a group of libraries, or a personal collection
  • the list of works published by one or more publishers
  • part of something else or stand on their own

Types of Bibliographies

Universal bibliographies

  • attempt to list all the books that have ever been published.

National bibliographies

  • attempt to list every book published in a particular country
    • for example the Library of Congress' National Union Catalog and the British National Bibliography list all or most of the books, periodicals, and other materials published in the United States and the United Kingdom respectively.

Subject or special bibliographies

  • list sources on a particular subject
  • may be on a broad subject, such as Nutrition
  • may be a very narrow subject, such as the toxicology of Aspartame
  • may be published separately as books in their own right
  • may be published as a list of references at the end of a book or journal article


National bibliographies:

  • attempt to list all of the published, and sometimes the unpublished, works of a person
  • may attempt to list everything written about that person
    • For example: A Bibliography of the Works of Ernest Hemingway

Book trade bibliographies

  • are compiled by the publishing industry to tell potential purchasers what has been or will be published.
  • are published by used and rare book dealers to let potential buyers know what is available.
    • For example: Book Prices Current

Library catalogs

Because library catalogs are huge lists of published materials, they can be considered as a special kind of bibliography.

  • list the contents of a library
  • indicate the location of the material
  • indicate the availability of material
  • most are now online
    • older forms of library catalogs were cards and books

Union catalogs

  • list the holdings of more than one library, for example look at WorldCat

More about bibliographies


Bibliographies can be organized in a variety of different ways:

  • short bibliographies-tend to be alphabetical or chronological
  • long bibliographies-tend to be organized by topic or theme - in the case of book-length bibliographies, the introduction and table of contents generally describe its organization.
  • personal bibliographies-are frequently divided into
    • sections listing the works written by that person
    • sections listing works about that person and his or her work.

To find bibliographies on your topic

  • look at the end of a relevant encyclopedia article.
  • look at the end of relevant books or journal articles. Books and articles on your topic will have relevant references in their bibliographies.
  • do a SUBJECT search in the library catalog on a person, topic, book, etc. followed by the subdivision "bibliography" - for example, "Nutrition-Bibliography".
    • If you are searching for a person, you may need to know the dates that person lived. For example, bibliographies on Ernest Hemingway will be listed under the subject heading "Hemingway, Ernest 1899-1961-Bibliography".
  • do a KEYWORD search in the online catalog on your person, topic, or book plus the subdivision "bibliography" - for example, "early childhood development and bibliography."

If you can't find a bibliography on your topic or are not sure how to interpret a bibliography that you have found ASK A LIBRARIAN.