Bibliographical footnote

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This is a follow up to my last post None too sweet. There I discussed different understandings of the term “bibliography” – I said inter alia that different understandings of what this word means can confuse students and other writers, and may even underlie some instances of unintended plagiarism.

A week later, catching up on my reading, I came across a review of Jason Puckett’s  Zotero: a guide for librarians, researchers and educators by Keith Daniels in CILIP’s Information Professional (October 2018). My eye was caught by a paragraph which reads:

Published by the Association of College and Research Libraries, the book does have an American slant, using the terms “bibliography” to encompass what UK-based students and educators would usually refer to as “references” and teaching staff as “professors”.

It seems a curious point to pick up on in a short review, the use of “bibliography” instead of “references.”  But, given my background in international education, perhaps I have become less aware of such distinctions, or maybe more aware of different and other terms in different style guides and/or in different countries.

Is “references” a British usage?  Maybe.  Many British universities use varieties of Harvard.  Although there is no single definitive version of Harvard (as detailed in the three-part-post Harvard on my mind), they all use the term “References.”     Certainly, this is so at the University of Bedfordshire, the stated affiliation of Keith Daniels, the author of the review. The University’s page Using the correct referencing system suggests that unless otherwise required by specific courses and departments, UB’s default referencing style is Harvard – and References is the name given to their list of references in their Harvard Referencing Guidelines for Students. It could be all to easy to think this is The-Right-Way-And-Perhaps-The-Only-Way to title the list of references that comes at the end of an article or paper.

In double-checking my thoughts about Harvard’s widespread use across UK, I came across a FAQ in the Bath Spa University guide BSU Harvard Referencing System which contrasts with Turabian’s unhelpful advice (as detailed in None too sweet), that the term “Bibliography” can refer not only to a list which includes only the works cited in the text but also a list which includes both works cited in the text and also works which have been used but have not been cited in the text. *

What is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?
Technically, a bibliography lists all the sources of information you have accessed in the course of your study about the topic, while a reference list will only list the sources you actually refer to in your in-text citations. HOWEVER…it is common for people to use the term ‘bibliography’ when they really mean a reference list. Check with your tutor if you are unsure whether to include sources in the reference list that you have not explicitly referred to using an in-text citation.

So there we are. The most helpful advice then, be aware that the term “bibliography” may cause confusion, so be clear what you mean when you use the term, be sure that your reader/ listener has the same understanding and, if assessment and grades are involved, seek clarification.

* I have since confirmed that the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition, on which Turabian’s manual is based, uses the term “Bibliography” in its bibliography-notes style to refer not only to a list which includes only the works cited in the text (on the one hand) but also for a list which includes both works cited in the text and also works which have been used but have not been cited in the text (on the other hand) (see CMOS17, section 14.64, note 1).


2 thoughts on “Bibliographical footnote

  1. Pingback: Names will never hurt me (perhaps) | Honesty, honestly…

  2. Your thoughts on this and all the other topics covered in Honesty, honestly… are so interesting and so useful. Thank you very much John.

Leave a Reply to Anne Steadman Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.