Prof. Dr. Holger Kersten
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik


How to Compile a Bibliography

What is a Bibliography?

A bibliography is a listing of books, articles and other sources used in finding information for your term paper ("Hausarbeit"), M.A. thesis or any other type of serious academic writing project. The purpose of a bibliography
is to allow the reader to check your sources of information and to provide a list of sources for further study of the topic. These sources could be books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias, pamphlets, videos, audiotapes, interviews, CD-ROMS or internet resources such as world wide web sites.

Form and Content

The bibliographic form should be correct and consistent.

  • Correct and consistent: In your work for my classes you are required to follow the guidelines specified as MLA style. This style should be used throughout the bibliography.

Quality, quantity and variety are important.

  • Quality – a good bibliography should include the most important standard works on the topic and other works which have a clear connection to the given topic.
  • Quantity – a good bibliography will include the best known publications on the topic, those that are repeatedly mentioned in bibliographies at the end of articles, essays and in books. The number of titles listed should be large enough to make the bibliography a useful research tool.
  • Variety – a good bibliography will include books and articles, and may include Internet resources. Depending on your topic, you might also want to include government documents, maps, statistics or references to interviews that you have conducted. Again, depending on your topic, you might want to include both primary (diaries, letters, first-hand accounts, public opinion surveys, laboratory studies) and secondary (published interpretations of primary materials).

The Steps to Compiling a Good Bibliography

1. Find Relevant Materials

Once you begin research on a given topic, check the following sources for relevant materials:

  • Library Catalogs
  • MLA Online Bibliography
    Accessible only from within the Otto-von-Guericke-Universität network
  • Material provided by LRC (Literature Resource Center, Gale)
    Accessible only from within the Otto-von-Guericke-Universität network
  • Bibliographies (book length lists of articles and books on a subject)
  • Article indexes
    • for journal or magazine articles on your topic
    • different indexes cover different subjects
    • remember that not every article you find in the article index is available in this library
    • check the library catalogue to see which magazines and journals UB Magdeburg owns
  • Encyclopedias
    • for a concise overview of your topic check the end of the article for a bibliography
  • Books that deal with a special topic will usually have a list of works cited at the back of the volume
  • Click here to go to a page with pre-selected online resources

2. Apply the Required Bibliographic Style

It is no doubt true that there is more than one way to write up a bibliography. In my classes, however, I require you to use MLA style.

3. Overall Format

Make sure your selected bibliography has all the required header information (name of compiler, date, subject, list of sources used to compile your bibliography).

Examples of selected bibliographies compiled by Magdeburg students:


  Version vom 30.08.2018