At its most basic, a bibliography is simply a list of citations – a tally sheet used to describe a set of resources so they might be used and accessed by (other) researchers. Styles vary, but the vast majority of bibliographies list sources alphabetically by author. Sometimes larger bibliographies might be subdivided in some way – according to subject area, for instance – but most are organized in a straight forward, utilitarian manner. This simplicity of design, however, belies the richness of information they often contain, and, for this reason, bibliographies are critical tools for researchers at all levels.
Bibliographies, we discover, are reservoirs of knowledgeable, informative sources, pooled together around a defined subject or set of issues. If those issues, or some portion of them, correspond to the issues we want to investigate, then that bibliography can, at the very least, lead us to related materials, and, perhaps, lead us to critical resources that we’ll want to utilize in our own research. By comparing a few well-formed and well-researched bibliographies and noting their points of correspondence, we can often identify many of the key texts relevant to our area of investigation.
Common parlance sometimes confounds the terms Bibliography, Works Cited, and Works Consulted. While they are similar, there is some technical difference. A Works Cited page (or, sometimes, Reference List) systematically lists the works directly referenced in the text and only those works, while a Works Consulted page might also include influential works reviewed by the author but not specifically cited in the text.
Bibliography encompasses both terms and, thus, constitutes a broader category. An Annotated Bibliography adds descriptive notes to each entry and often comprises a discrete, book-length work on a defined subject – Rebecca Jackson’s The 1960s: An Annotated Bibliography of Social and Political Movements in the United States, for instance.
Footnotes, Endnotes, and In-Text Citations are all ways of bringing references to the attention of the reader as they occur in the text. Footnotes, as their name implies, display bibliographic information (and parenthetical asides) at the “foot” or bottom of the page. Endnotes place those same references (and asides) at the end of an article, chapter, or, sometimes, book. Footnotes and Endnotes often use a “note reference number,” a superior numeral – like this -- to mark each entry. In-Text Citations create a short-form, often parenthetical, reference in the body of the text which links or refers to a longer-form entry for that reference in the Bibliography. In-Text Citations usually include the last name of the author, the date, and, in the case of direct quotations, page numbers – (Blair, 2010), for instance.
"Historical footnotes...seek to show that the work they support claims authority and solidity from the historical conditions of its creation: that its author excavated its foundations and discovered its components in the right places, and used the right crafts to mortise them together. To do so they locate the production of the work in question in time and space..." (32).