English: Bibliographic Essay
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Bibliographic Essay Explanation
What is a Bibliographic Essay?
A bibliographic essay is a critical essay in which the writer identifies and evaluates the core works of research within a discipline or sub-discipline.
What is the purpose of a Bibliographic Essay?
A bibliographic essay is written to summarize and compare a number of sources on a single topic. The goal of this essay is not to prove anything about a subject, but rather to provide a general overview of the field. By looking through multiple books and articles, you can provide your reader with context for the subject you are studying, and recommend a few reputable sources on the topic.
Example of a Bibliographic Essay
Steps to Creating a Bibliographic Essay
- Start by searching our databases. Think about your topic and brainstorm search terms before beginning.
- Skim and review articles to determine whether they fit your topic.
- Evaluate your sources.
- Statement summarizing the focus of your bibliographic essay.
- Give the title of each source following citation guidelines.
- Name the author of each source.
- Give important background information about authors, texts to be summarized, and the general topic from which the texts are drawn.
- Information from more than one source
- Use citations to indicate which material comes from which source. (Be careful not to plagiarize!)
- Show similarities and differences between the different sources.
- Represent texts fairly.
- Write a conclusion reminding the reader of the most significant themes you found and the ways they connect to the overall topic.
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Historiography: Examples and Methods
- Historiographic Essays Part of the "Writing On History" instructional website developed and sponsored by Queens College, City University of New York. "This site is designed to answer your questions about various aspects of researching, writing, and editing papers on history."
- Historiographic Essay Manual A very useful online guide to writing an effective historiographic essay by Dr. L. M. Stallbaumer-Beishline, professor at Bloomsburg University (Pennsylvania).
Bibliographic Essay Defined
A bibliographic essay is a narrative discussion, i.e., a review, of the literature on a topic. It is the equivalent of a conversation in which someone not only advises you about "what's out there" but shapes that raw material into a coherent survey of the materials available. Like all bibliographies, the bibliographic essay enumerates sources and, like an annotated bibliography, it describes and analyzes them. It goes beyond performing these functions, however, to comparing, contrasting, and evaluating the relationships among works. A bibliographic essay thus draws a picture of the literature of a topic, and in so doing, unlike a list and like an essay, it tends to take a position and establish an interpretive point of view.
To compile a bibliographic essay, begin by asking two related questions:
1. Who is writing? That is, who is writing what and publishing or purveying it where and to whom? Elaborate this question by asking further questions:
- who are these writers (professional academics, professional writers or "persons of letters," amateurs, men or women, etc.)
- what might their background have to do with their writing and the body of material they…
- what kinds of information or documentation are the authors using or creating
- what scholarly, commercial, or private organizations are publishing or purveying materials, and who is their audience
2. What are they writing about and how are they writing about it? Elaborate this question by asking further questions:
- what are the theories, conclusions, images, or points of view in these materials
- what assumptions do they make or question
- what do they leave out
- what are the problems, issues, and points of contention or debate
- how do works go about presenting their argument, and what kinds of evidence, expectations, traditions, and images do they call upon or evoke
In addition to these questions about individual sources, your essay will also want to account for similarities and differences among works. You will want to investigate changes over time, geography, and demography as to whose work and what ideas, points of view, images, and representational strategies are influential, as to how the available material has developed in terms of themes, emphases, subjects treated, historical methods, modes of representation, groups of authors or schools of thought, etc. All of these questions lead to building the "compare and contrast" superstructure that characterizes the bibliographic essay.
With such questions in mind, how, at a practical level, do you go about gathering sources to read?
1. Survey a number of works . Your survey will identify and locate candidates for reading. In addition to hints from class reading and discussion and advice from your professor, you can survey the possibilities in two ways, namely, 1) by using relevant reference works (e.g., encyclopedias and dictionaries of late antiquity), and 2) by using a variety of databases available through the Smather’s Library webpage. For most topics, spending some time with the reference and secondary literature not only will be a vital part of your research but should be the first step you take.
2. Legwork and scanning . To decide which books you will treat in your essay, look at tables of contents and indexes, read introductions, skim sections of each book. Those books on which you choose not to concentrate in your essay will become material for your footnotes or bibliography and for mentioning in passing. Remember that the purpose of a bibliographic essay is to advise people on what to read and that to do so you will have to demonstrate your command of the topic by being able to tell them about the books they do not need to read as well. In other words, the books you concentrate on will be the tip of an iceberg, the submerged body of which you will also want to sketch.
As appropriate for your topic, you should establish a historical and interdisciplinary context for the theme of the essay; discuss prominent scholarship in fields related to the topic; survey important schools of thought or scholarly trends, focusing on distinctive methodologies and provocative departures from disciplinary trends in your field; and discuss and contrast the more important monographs. Abbreviations, acronyms, and the key terms that recur throughout the essay or that might suffer from some implicit ambiguity should be defined. Essays should be both descriptive and evaluative in surveying the relevant titles , although value judgments that run the risk of obsolescence should be avoided (e.g., "the most important study") The use of explicit verbs (e.g., "contends," "asserts," "demonstrates," "presupposes") is encouraged. Works that are seminal should be identified as such. Do not list titles without commentary.
The bibliographic essay should discuss all the historiographical work (monographs and articles) done on a particular subject in the last 10-20 years, with reference to any classic works written before 1990 which are crucial to our understanding of that topic. The bibliographic essay should say a lot about the historiography of a topic, but not too much about the specific works it surveys. It should be more focused on recent work and should say more (but not too much more) on those works. The length of your essay for this assignment should be somewhere between 4 and 6 pages in length and should refer to or discuss at least 6 secondary sources. Anything longer than that probably says too much or the topic is too generally defined. Anything shorter probably doesn’t say enough or the topic is too narrowly defined. Your bibliographical essay should say very little about what happened, instead focusing almost entirely on what historians have had to say about what happened.
You can produce a bibliographical essay on virtually any topic.. One hint that may help you with your selection of a topic include making sure there are more than a dozen or so works (monographs/articles) written on the topic. If not, your topic is probably too narrow. A second hint is that there should be some sort of on-going discussion among historians about the topic, meaning that something comes out almost every year. Some great historical controversies die for lack of additional archival discoveries or methodological controversies. Try not to pick one that has stopped breathing or that is on its last legs. No matter what, you will have to think carefully and critically about your topic. Otherwise, you will end up spending too much time in the library stacks and not enough time in front of your word processor. Finally, a bibliographical essay that takes into account only those works published in English might very well be considered less than complete.
(Text and content written by Dr. Andrea Sterk , Associate Professor of History, University or Florida)
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Every issue of Choice features a bibliographic essay, also available online for free on the LibGuides platform . These comprehensive guides cover the essential titles on a given topic. Each is written by a qualified expert in the field.
Our bibliographic essays are the perfect place to begin, or renew, your research.
Modern Understandings of Propaganda 1920–2020
This essay first appeared in the November 2023 issue of Choice (volume 61 | issue 3).
Posted on 11/13/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Genocide and the Holocaust (October 2023)
This essay first appeared in the October 2023 issue of Choice (volume 61 | issue 2).
Posted on 10/16/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Bibliography of Classical Mythology
This essay first appeared in the September 2023 issue of Choice (volume 61 | issue 1).
Posted on 09/13/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Ceramic Studies in Archaeology: An Updated Exploration of Materials Science Methods in Anthropology
This essay first appeared in the August 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 12).
Posted on 08/16/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Identifying the Genomic Basis of Biological Variation
This essay first appeared in the July 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 11).
Posted on 07/18/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
The Growth and Development of Online Commerce
This essay first appeared in the June 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 10).
Posted on 06/13/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Glimpses of Yosemite: From Geologic Marvel to Cultural Icon (May 2023)
This essay first appeared in the May 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60| issue 9).
Posted on 05/10/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
The Neurological Turn: Top-Down or Bottom-Up? (April 2023)
This essay first appeared in the April 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 8).
Posted on 04/12/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Autism in the Workplace (March 2023)
This essay first appeared in the March 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 7).
Posted on 03/10/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
The Evolution of Commercial Space Flight (February 2023)
This essay first appeared in the February 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 6).
Posted on 02/13/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Environmental Education: An Appealing Pathway to Project-Based Guided Investigations (January 2023)
This essay first appeared in the January 2023 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 4).
Posted on 01/13/2023 in Bibliographic Essays
Tracing the History of Chicana/o Labor and Migration (November 2022)
This essay first appeared in the November 2022 issue of Choice (volume 60 | issue 3).
Posted on 12/08/2022 in Bibliographic Essays
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How to write a bibliographic essay: Best Guide
How do you feel when you get a bibliographic essay as an assignment? If you feel challenged on how to write a bibliographic essay , it is understandable. You have written other essays, and this is another one of them, but writing a bibliographic essay ! What is it?
What is a bibliographic essay? Do you know the word bibliography? If you do, you can guess the content of a bibliographic essay. A bibliographic essay is a review of the literature on a given topic. A bibliographic essay offers an introduction to several key sources of a topic.
A bibliographic essay is different from a literature review where the author only addresses the merits of a recently published single source. A bibliographic essay enumerates several sources like an annotated bibliography. It further describes and analyses them.
A bibliographic essay also compares, contrasts, and evaluates the relationship among works in the available materials. It hence draws the picture of the literature topic, taking a stand, and establishing an interpretive viewpoint.
What is a bibliographic essay?
A bibliographic essay is a literature analysis. If a piece of literature is in the hands of a person unfamiliar with it, they should be able to quickly understand its history, content, extent, and methodologies.
The analysis breaks down the literature into sub-groupings, explain issues leading to the sub-group, informs the reader about the general content concerning specific issues, and provides a sense of which article or books to read depending on the project and questions.
A bibliographic essay is a research tool developed by an author for use by others interested in that topic. It helps the reader move quickly to the analyzed literature. At the end of the analysis, there should be an annotated bibliography. It provides the reader with citations for the books and articles discussed.
Annotated means a sentence or two should be at the entry of each bibliography at the end of an analytical essay, describing the article or book that describes the statement’s significance.
How long should a bibliography essay be
There is no exact number of pages; however, anything under twenty-five is too short, and anything over forty pages is too long. Aim for thirty to thirty-five ages without counting the annotated bibliography at the end.
Essays should begin with an introduction and conclude with a summary. The introduction sets the stage by describing the topic and the state of literature supporting it. It should also briefly describe the body of selected resources, explaining why it makes core literature for that field of study. It should further describe the organization of the essay and explain the reason for that organization.
How many books should a bibliography essay cover
There should be enough books and articles to cover thirty to thirty-five pages of work material analysis. You should, however, have enough space to be informative complete your analysis. The more books there are, the shorter the bibliography will be, while the more articles, the longer it will be.
You don’t need to discuss all the books, at least not at length. Some books are more important than others, and you should discuss them at greater length. Others will compare more books than others in the bibliography. While subgrouping, place each book in the category you think it should be and explain why you think it belongs there.
Compiling a bibliographic essay
While compiling a bibliographic essay, ask yourself two questions
- Who is writing, what are they writing, where are they publishing it, and who is it intended for? Further, ask these questions:
- Who is their writer? Are they professional writers, amateurs, professional academics, men or women
- Does their background have impacted their writing of the material work
- What documentation or information is the author using in creating their work
- What organizations are publishing, are they commercial, scholarly or private and who is their audience
2. What are they writing about, and how are they writing? elaborate and ask more questions”:
- What theories, images, conclusions and points of view are in these materials
- Are there assumptions made, and do they question
- Has anything been left out
- What issues, debates and problems are there
- How has the material been presented, what evidence, traditions, expectations, and call do they provoke
Additionally, to these respective sources’ questions, you will account for similarities and differences among works. Investigate overtime changes, demography and geography as to what ideas and whose work, points of view and images how materials have developed in emphases, modes, school of thoughts and themes etc.
These questions enable you to build the “compare and contrast” structure that characterizes the bibliographic essay.
How to gather reading sources for a bibliography essay
Once you figure out who is writing and what they are writing about, you need to know how to gather sources to read.
- Survey several work materials
A survey is an excellent way to identify reading sources. Other than hits from discussion and advice from your lecturer, there are two ways in which you can conduct a survey.
- using reference works, like, dictionaries and encyclopedias
- using various databases available through the Smathers library webpage
Reference and secondary literature is a vital part of your research, and it should be the first step you take
2. legwork and scanning
you will need to decide which books you will include in your bibliographic essay. You will further look at the table of content and indexes, read the introduction of each of those books and get a glimpse of what they are about.
The books you choose not to focus on make up for the footnotes, and you will only mention them in passing. The primary fundamental purpose is to educate people on what to read. You will have to demonstrate your command of the topic equally by telling them the book they don’t need to read.
The books you choose to concentrate on will be the tip of the iceberg, the body you aim to sketch.
You can write a bibliographic essay on virtually any topic. To select a topic, ensure sources are written on the work available. If not, your topic is too narrow. Don’t settle for a topic that is on its last leg. Pick one that is ever added on through archival discoveries. Critical thinking is paramount when you are choosing a topic.
How to write a bibliographic essay
To write a bibliographic essay that will get you a good grade, you need to structure it well and follow the writing principles for this type of essay.
Choose reliable sources only
Find sources that are recommended for your topic only. Though encyclopedias provide good sources, they have relatively short and incomplete information. On the other hand, the website offers unreliable publications and, in most cases, is not verified. Only choose publications in reputable journals and provide your reader with relevant and reliable information.
The library is another place you can visit. There are online and offline sources whose principle is the same. Please include it in your essay once you have a reliable and trustworthy source. Other places you can get information for your bibliography are:
- the heading of an article
- the content page of a magazine
- the header or footer of a website
Check your style guide for your essay
Different institutions, disciplines and journals use different referencing styles. Before writing, consult the relevant style guide. When turning in your bibliography paper, type your sources into a list using the required format as your bibliographic essay template to ensure you have formatted it correctly.
List details for your essay as you go
At the start of your bibliographic essay, list a biography that you will use to record your sources. It is easier to note down details of each text you read during your research. List the sources in an alphabetical order using the author’s last name. If there is more than one author, alphabetize using the first name. If the author is unknown, alphabetize the source using the title.
Write the following information for each source you find for printed sources and websites
- Author name
- Title of the publication
- date of publication
- place of publication
- number of magazines printed
- number of pages
- author and editor names, if available
- title of the page, if available
- the organization that posted the website
- the web address for the page
- the last date you looked at the page
Do not discuss or analyze the opinion of the author
The objective of your bibliographic essay is to give your reader the idea of which sources to use. The primary task is to summarize the thoughts and ideas of others without expressing your view on those opinions.
You don’t need to discuss them to discredit the authors or prove that your opinion is correct. Provide information without stating with whom you agree or disagree.
Your reader should be able to identify your sources quickly through the information you have included in your biography. Provide sufficient biographic detail for each text listed. If you are citing journal articles, include the page numbers.
Consistency is as important as being thorough. For clarity purposes, you need to use the same format for all sources of the same type.
How to structure your bibliographic essay
- Research on the topic and brainstorm search terms
- Skim and review articles
- Evaluate your sources
- Write your bibliographic essay
- Summarize the focus of your essay
- Introduce the texts to be summarized
- Give the title of each source
- Name the author of each source
Give a background information of the author, texts and general topic where the texts have been drawn
- Include information form more than one source in each paragraph
- Use citations and indicate from which source the material comes from
- Indicate similarities and differences
Remind the reader the most significant themes you found and the ways they connect to the overall topic.
Bibliographic essay format
Though different journals use a different format for a bibliography, they contain the same basic information. There are standards for documenting sources of information in research papers. The basic information that each reference should have is the author’s name, date, and source.
Different sources have different formatting. Citing an essay depends on the format required. The commonly used guidelines are the MLA (Modern Language Association) and the APA (American Psychology Association). The bibliography is called works cited in the MLA guidelines, while in the APA guidelines, the bibliography is called the reference list.
Below is a bibliographic essay example in MLA form.
The work cited list should begin at the end of the paper but on a new page with the centred title. Alphabetize the entries by the author’s name using a letter-by-letter system. If the author’s name is unknown, alphabetize the title.
For dates, the names of months should be spelt out in the text of your paper. You should, however, abbreviate them in the list of works cited, except for May, June and July, use either the day-month-year style or the month-day-year style and paramount consistency. Add a comma after the year with the month-day-year style, unless a punctuation mark goes there.
Italics or underlining
If you are writing the bibliographic essay by hand, underline the names of publications. If you are using a computer, publication names should be in italics. Always enquire from your instructor on which prefer to use.
All MLA citations use hanging indents. The first line of an entry is flush left while the second and subsequent lines are indented to1/2”.
Capitalization, abbreviation and punctuation
The MLA guidelines use title case capitalization-capitalize the first words, last words and principal words, including those that follow hyphens in compound terms. The guideline also abbreviates the lowercase to identify the parts of work unless a period follows. Always use the proper abbreviated forms of the publisher’s name whenever possible.
MLA template contains the following details
- Author (last name, first name)
- Title of the source
- Title of the container
- Other contributors (names and roles)
- number publisher
- publication date
- location of the source (URL or page range)
- summary of the analysis
Bibliographical essay example APA
In this formatting style, the reference is styled differently. Websites, newspaper articles, websites and other publications have their reference structure. Look for the following basic information from various sources.
- Type of source
- Title of source
- Title of where the source was found
- Publication date
- Location of the source (URL, DIO or page range)
- Summary of analysis
How to start a bibliography essay
The key to writing a successful bibliography essay is to define a topic that will generate the correct number of sources. A bibliography should discuss the items in the relevant literature without being exhaustive.
You may get assistance for your professor on how to define a topic. Still, as you compile the bibliography, you will be required to alter the size of the literature by either expanding or contracting the topic.
The best idea for starting your essay is to consult several most recent publications on the topic to help you identify the main literature contributors. If this doesn’t provide the needed information, consider other sources to add up to your research.
You don’t need a comprehensive discussion on every piece of literature. A topic may have many books written over the years, but you only need to discuss the most recent books plus the first that defined the topic and probably a few others that were important in later developments.
You will still be left with a few books which will not be discussed in your annotated bibliography. In this case, the annotation will place them.
What things should be included in the actual essay
There are several parts to an essay, and the first is the introduction. An introduction provides a concise topic that needs to be reviewed, and it explains the significance of the topic and its literature. The second part, the body, lays out the categories that emerge upon reading the literature defined by the topic. It is in the body that you will analyze the essay topics independently.
In the second part, you can mention a history of literature development to lay out how categories emerged over time and identify significant contributors. Follow this up with a category that discusses the books by explaining why they belong in that category.
Generally, give a sense of how each book proceeds, comparing the book to each other within a category in terms of similarities and differences. Discuss the unique aspects in each book that might make it relate to other books in a different category.
There will most likely be a summary of each book’s content; however, do not lapse into a simple summary that lacks analysis and comparison. On average, discuss at length six to eight books in each category. Some books may be in more than one category for comparison’s sake.
Finally, in your conclusion, provide an overall assessment of the literature. What are the strengths and weaknesses, where nest should it go and, who and on issues central to the literature, who seems to have the best handle on the works?
Nursing bibliographic essay
Several things make writing integral in nursing, among them, learning different nursing skills, patient care, issues of nursing liability, and these rely upon writing as a communication tool. Writing happens in nurses’ notes, clinical studies and scholarly research.
If you have been assigned an annotated assignment, you will be required to describe a list of resources focusing on the common theme. You have to fully cite and annotate each entry, ranging from a few to several paragraphs. Your annotation should be concise and descriptive in summarizing and evaluating the contents of a resource.
Bibliographic analysis essay
You analyze a bibliographic essay by comparing multiple articles and books. You provide your reader with context from the topic you are studying and recommend reputable sources on the subject.
How to analyze a bibliographic essay?
- Seeking sources
You are primarily summarizing a list of sources. Use credible scholarly sources before you start writing. Do not use articles from the encyclopedias as they may not provide in-depth information on a subject.
During your research, skim a reference page to each source page. Some sources may not provide in-depth information but may reference other scholarly works that focus on the topic.
- Use a function statement.
Use a function statement at the beginning of your essay since you will be providing the reader with an overview of the literature on the subject. A thesis statement mainly describes an argument you are trying to prove, while a function statement is the purpose of your essay.
- Do not analyze, restate
Your goal is to summarize what others have written. Include both the description and evaluation of what each source states and consider the subject’s most essential aspect.
- Keep it short
A bibliographic analysis essay requests you to summarize several sources, including your comparison of different sources, in under six pages. Keep your writing concise and avoid repetitive statements. Author background is not necessary unless it is relevant to the source directly.
Annotated bibliography vs literature review
If you have written an essay, a thesis or a research paper, you are probably familiar with an annotated bibliography and how to create and use it. You may also have experienced a literary review. These two are an essential part of any thesis or research paper.
Both annotated bibliography and literature review summarizes a specific topic, its content and sources. They, however, differ in how these facts are presented. Both can be about any topic, but the literature review aims to answer a particular question about a particular subject, while annotated bibliography is about the importance of the sources of information.
The annotated bibliography informs the reader about the sources’ quality, accuracy, and relevance. At the same time, the literature review informs the reader about the topic’s pros and cons also how the author’s views differ and conform to previous arguments about the topic.
An annotated bibliography allows the reader to choose if they want to explore available sources independently. At the same time, a literature review directs the reader to understand the sources available.
Bibliographic essay vs literature review
There are notable distinctions between a bibliographical essay and a literature review. First, those in social sciences and humanities tend to be authors of bibliographical essays, while literature reviews are more often authored by those in sciences and social sciences.
Second, a bibliographical essay offers a detailed view of the current understanding of a particular area of research. This helps identify gaps that other scholars can use in their projects. The essay indicates what is known and what needs to be done. On the other hand, the literature review discusses significant research and theoretical work about the research objective that a particular scholar is studying.
Both genres, however, address the same kind of questions:
- what have others said about this area(s)
- what theories address it, and what do they say
- what research has been done or not done previously
- Are the findings consistent, and do past studies disagree?
- Are there gaps that scholars should attend to
What is an example of a good topic?
This s rather hard to say since you are supposed to examine the relevant literature to determine which topic to choose based on, among other things, the availability of sources for the work material.
It is, however, imperative that you consider the length of your paper. The longer the assignment, the more complex your topic may be. For shorter papers, limit topics and make the strongest argument.
Select a topic you can handle within your time limitations. Your idea might be broad, pick an aspect of a topic which interests you. Familiarize yourself with the topic by several reference source. A good reference will also help you identify the best books and article for the subject.
Bibliographic essay topics examples
- Literature on the role of social media in keeping people connected
- Literature on how mainstream media is contributing to chaos in the society
- Literature o the role of 5Gtechnology in advancing the world
Literature on the view of capital punishment by different countries?
- Literature on how society be encouraged to be gender-neutral?
- Literature on the role of evolution in explaining the origin of man
- The literature on American voting behaviour
- The literature on voting behaviours in the American states
- Impact of religion on American voting behaviour
- Literature on psychotherapy effectiveness
- Literature on positive psychology
- Literature on statistical methods used in psychology
- Literature o transcultural nursing
- Literature on evidence-based nursing practice
- Literature on the role of emotional intelligence in healthcare
A crucial role is played in information studies by a bibliographic essay. It is a tool used in research to develop the collection or dive into recommended readings to increase personal knowledge. Much as a bibliographic essay is characterized by writing that borders book review, academic article, and annotated bibliography, pay attention to its composition and structure.
With the guide on how to write a bibliographic essay and the examples given, you will be inspired to be a prospective contributor in this format. While there may be no room to contain potential books that might be written, there certainly is space for bibliographic essays to assist the way through stacks. Are you up for the challenge?
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Bibliographic Essay Guidelines
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Choice bibliographic essays are intended to identify core books, journals, and digital resources that meet the needs of undergraduates, faculty, and librarians serving these users. Essays address new curricular or interdisciplinary areas; subjects that have garnered significant recent interest; or important new literature on a traditional subject. When the subject and due date of the essay are agreed on, the editor will send the author a copyright agreement to sign and return (by mail or as a scanned PDF file).
Essays are not introductions to a topic, but rather informative discussions of important literature on a topic. Accordingly, essays * take a position * in subjectively selecting and discussing the most important resources for the topic. The author's point of view sets the framework for the essay and provides its raison d’être. Rather than listing and describing resources, the author should evaluate each of the titles in a way that proves its worth to the body of literature about the topic and, thus, why it is in the essay. The author should also discuss the relationships between the resources discussed, providing a narrative thread throughout that explains how the resources are the same or different; if/how one picks up where another leaves off; how changes over time and/or historical context impact the research; and how the titles relate and create a well-defined body of work about the topic. Seminal works should be identified as such; particular journal articles should be included only if they are essential to the topic.
Organization, Length & Format
Essays should begin with an introduction and conclude with one or two summary paragraphs. The introduction should set the stage by describing the topic and the general state of the scholarly literature supporting it. It should also describe the characteristics of the body of selected resources, presenting a brief “thesis”—explaining the selection and why it succeeds as a core literature for that particular field of study. The introduction should then briefly describe the organization of the essay and explain the reason for that organization. The text should be prepared in MS Word with minimal to no formatting (Word templates should not be used). Reference materials—bibliographies, dictionaries, etc.—are typically discussed together, as are digital resources. But this is not a hard rule. Essays should discuss 50-75 titles and should top out at about 5,000 words. (Sample essays are available at http://ala-choice.libguides.com/ .)
Editing & Style
Essays are edited for clarity and Choice house style. The editor will send the author a copy of the edited essay, with queries and comments, if any, before the essay goes to the copy editor. The editor will send the author page proofs before the essay goes to production.
Every title mentioned in the essay should be in the works cited list, and all titles in the works cited should be discussed in the essay. Citations should be arranged alphabetically by author (or by title, for edited works and digital resources). Information should include author(s)/editor(s), title, publisher, date of original publication, and (if applicable) preferred edition. URLs for internet resources should be formatted without embedded hyperlinks.
Tips on Writing a Bibliographic Analysis Essay
A bibliographic essay is written to summarize and compare a number of sources on a single topic. The goal of this essay is not to prove anything about a subject, but rather to provide a general overview of the field. By looking through multiple books and articles, you can provide your reader with context for the subject you are studying, and recommend a few reputable sources on the topic.
Explore this article
- Seeking Sources
- Function, Not Thesis
- Restate, Don't Analyze
- Keep It Short
1 Seeking Sources
Since your essay is primarily focused on summarizing a list of sources, you should ensure that you are using credible scholarly sources before you begin writing. Search your school's library for books on the subject; you can also find scholarly articles on online databases such as JSTOR. You should not use articles taken from encyclopedias since they do not provide the depth of information you need on the subject. Also avoid Web-published articles that are not explicitly published in a scholarly source.
When doing your research, skim the reference page of each of your sources. Even if your sources do not provide you with the depth of information you are looking for in the subject, they may reference other scholarly works that do focus specifically on that topic.
2 Function, Not Thesis
When writing a bibliographic essay on a subject, you are trying to provide your reader with an overview of the literature on that subject. You are not trying to make an argument or prove any information about the topic itself. Because of this, you should use a function statement at the beginning of your essay, rather than a thesis statement . Whereas a thesis statement describes the argument your essay is trying to prove, a function statement describes the purpose of your essay. In the case of a bibliographic essay, this function is your overview of articles written on the topic. For example, an essay written about prison policy might use the following function statement:
"This paper seeks to review the current psychological and sociological literature concerning inmate rehabilitation and recidivism rates."
3 Restate, Don't Analyze
Your bibliographic essay is an overview of other scholarly sources on a subject, not a paper on that subject itself. Your goal in writing the paper is not to come to a conclusion about the subject you're writing about, but to summarize what others have written. You should include both a description of what your sources state about the subject, and an evaluation of what each source considers the most important aspects of the subject. It will also be helpful for your reader if you include a compare/contrast section at the end of your essay. Highlight any trends you notice in the subject matter or analysis methods of your sources. If two or more authors cover the same topic in opposing ways, note this difference as well.
4 Keep It Short
A bibliographic essay assignment typically requests you to summarize six or more sources in under six pages, including your comparison of different sources. This means that you should try to keep your summary of each source to one or two paragraphs. Keep your writing concise and avoid any repetitive statements. Limit your description of each source to its main thesis and the pieces of evidence it analyzes in support of that thesis. Background for the authors of your sources is not necessary unless it is directly relevant to the source's content; for example, mention that an author is a Freudian psychologist if a Freudian method factors majorly in their analysis.
- 1 University of Florida: The Bibliographic Essay
- 2 New Mexico State University: Just What IS a Bibliographic Essay?
About the Author
Jon Zamboni began writing professionally in 2010. He has previously written for The Spiritual Herald, an urban health care and religious issues newspaper based in New York City, and online music magazine eBurban. Zamboni has a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Wesleyan University.
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