Bibliographies made easy
You’ve been working diligently on a paper for hours, paragraph by dense paragraph. You type that last sentence, but before you can breathe a sigh of relief, you remember you still have to do a bibliography or works cited. What’s the point of that list tacked on at the end of the paper? No one really reads those things, do they? And why do they have to be exactly right?
If you have the “bibliography blues,” you aren’t alone, but a bibliography should actually be the easiest and least mentally taxing part of an academic paper. It requires little to no critical thinking to compile and all of the information you need is easy to find. Here are a few tips for easily assembling a good bibliography:
• Don’t save it for the end. Your bibliography should be an ongoing effort during the writing of your paper. Document your sources as you use them in the paper; you’ll have less to piece together at the end and mistakes in your citation will be fewer. I like to use my works cited as a form of “productive procrastination” during the writing process. Making a citation is surprisingly soothing after wracking your brain trying to figure out how the twenty pages of text you just read supports your thesis statement.
• “Cheat.” The web is chock full of different citation generators, some better than others. Personally, I prefer Citation Machine and the unparalleled NoodleBib; simply enter the necessary information and the websites will create the citation for you. They aren’t foolproof, however, so be sure to double-check the citations before you submit your paper.
• Go by the book. Buy yourself a copy of the latest edition of the style handbook for whatever kind of paper your professor wants you to write (MLA, APA, etc.). This sounds like a “teachery” piece of advice, but the books are extremely thorough and user-friendly.
• Talk to your professor. Some professors will be happy if you provide them with the essential information for each of your sources, while others will demand impeccable citations following every rule in the latest edition of the MLA handbook. If you’re unsure if your bibliography is acceptable, ask your instructor before your paper’s due date.
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