Writing@CSU Guide

Developing a Working Bibliography

Developing a working bibliography-a detailed list of books, articles and other sources relevant to your project-will keep you organized while gathering and sorting through potentially useful sources. Most importantly, a working bibliography is a tool; one that will change and grow as the focus of your research shifts and narrows. It has two purposes:

  1. To keep a record of the sources you've already examined and those that you are going to examine.
  2. To record the publishing details of each source you use or cite so that they can be properly referenced in a Works Cited or References List at the end of your document.

Many writers record individual sources on 3" X 5" or 4" X 6" inch note cards. Then, as the stack grows, they can be arranged, rearranged and compiled in any order of importance that suits the researcher's purpose. Other writers use notebooks small enough to fit in a pocket. Still others use a word processing program or a computer database such as the Writing@CSU Sources and Source Notes Tool.

Regardless of your method, the more care you take at the beginning of your project, the more time you'll save later when it's time to document your sources. Having the titles, authors, dates, page numbers and URLs at your fingertips will save you frantic, trips back to the library or the Internet.

Note: You may record your working bibliography notes in any format you like; however, you'll save a lot of time using the format your instructor requires. When in doubt, ask what citation format you are expected to use.

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