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Bibliography - how your scientific source list succeeds

Creating a bibliography is always part of scientific work, whether it is a bachelor thesis, master thesis, or a simple term paper.

The bibliography is a collection of all sources you have cited within your work. It is located at the end of your text. It doesn't matter if the footnotes already contain all the information: the bibliography is mandatory. It offers the reader the possibility to find all used references at a glance and to look them up if necessary. By the way, texts that you have read but not cited in your paper do not belong in the bibliography.

We will show you the following points in this text:

Creating a bibliography - the right way

For the bibliography to serve its purpose and meet all specifications, you have to follow a few rules. In general you have to follow these rules:

  • All sources that you have cited must be included in the bibliography.
  • The order is alphabetical by the last name.
  • The formatting depends on the used citation style.
  • It comes after the conclusion but before the appendix and the affidavit.

Often the terms bibliography and bibliography are used synonymously. However, this is not correct. Unlike the bibliography, the bibliography lists every source consulted during the research. You get a much more comprehensive collection that does not consist exclusively of directly quoted or paraphrased statements from other sources.

Formatting the bibliography

The formatting of your bibliography depends on the chosen citation method and the specific requirements of your department. The following information is usually necessary for each source:

  • Author
  • Title of the source
  • Year of publication
  • Place of publication
  • Edition
  • Publisher
  • Editor
  • (URL and date of retrieval for internet sources)

The exact layout depends on the choice of the citation method. The source citation always starts with the author(s). For better readability, the first line of a source begins at the pre-formatted page margins, while the following lines are then indented. This type of presentation puts the visual focus on the author's name and visually separates the individual sources.

There are then specifications for structuring the individual source references in the different citation styles, as far as the order, use of punctuation marks and highlighting are concerned.

Use literature management programs

To not lose track of the many sources that arise in research, a literature management program can be helpful. Many universities provide you with a license for the program of your choice. For example, Citavi, Mendeley, or Zotero are very common.

You can save your references in the bibliography of your choice - often with a few clicks. Sometimes there are also browser extensions that can automatically extract and keep all vital information from a scientific source. Alternatively, manual input is always possible. All bibliographic data is stored centrally in this way and can be retrieved, exported, and modified by you at any time.

Specialized writing programs help with formatting

If you already use a bibliographic management program, it can help to switch from Microsoft Word to a text editor especially developed for science. For latex users, Overleaf is an excellent place to start, while Word users will quickly find their way around SciFlow.

Generate bibliography automatically

Sign up for SciFlow and have it format your chosen citation style for you.

In SciFlow, references can be imported from standard literature management programs and then dragged and dropped into the text's proper place. Formatting then happens on export according to the selected citation style. SciFlow creates the bibliography automatically, so you don't have to edit it all the time.  It adjusts continuously.

Bibliography examples - this is how it can look

The exact formatting of a bibliography depends on the choice of the citation style. To give you an impression of how the bibliography usually looks, we show you two common variants.

Bibliography in the German citation method

When using the German citation style, the source information in the bibliography looks very similar to the footnotes' information.

Borchert, Carsten / Eichler, Frederik: SciFlow makes citing fun, Berlin: Good publishing house, 2020

Last name, first name: Book title, Place of publication: Publisher name, Year of publication

Bibliography in the Harvard citation style

In the Harvard citation method, only brief references to the sources used are given in the body text. In the bibliography, the whole is then to be found in detail.

Borchert, Carsten / Eichler, Frederik (2020): In SciFlow macht Zitieren Spaß, 3rd ed., Berlin, Germany: Guter Verlag, doi: 21.2142/421

Last name, first name (year of publication): book title, edition, Place of publication: publisher name, DOI: DOI number

Conclusion - a good bibliography is a must

For an overview of all cited sources within a scientific paper, creating a bibliography is indispensable. When formatting, you should always follow the guidelines of the chosen citation style and consider your department's policies. The right tools, such as literature management programs and specialized writing programs, make the creation much more manageable.