How Do You Write a Bibliography on a Person?

When writing a bibliography of a person, you look for several reputable sources of information about that person's life and create a list of sources using the format requested by your teacher. Unlike a research paper or a biography, you aren't actually sharing facts about the person's life. Instead, you are doing the background work and finding resources that would provide more information about a famous or important person. These resources could later be used to write a research paper.

Review the assignment requirements. Check to see if you are required to create a bibliography or an annotated bibliography. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, an annotated bibliography "includes a summary and/or evaluation of each of the source." If you are creating an annotated bibliography, read or skim each source so you can write a summary. A regular bibliography just lists the sources, like a reference page of a research paper.

Find out whether your teacher wants the bibliography to be in a specific format. Most high school and college courses use MLA or APA format. Review the correct format before working on your bibliography so you will know what information to record from each source you locate. Purdue Online Writing Lab has style guides for each format. Minimally, plan to locate the following pieces of information, when available: author, title, date of publication, publisher, database title, and web address. You will need different types of information for each type of source.

Use an online periodical or biographical database to locate sources of information about your topic. Your school library website should have a list of databases you can access. The library pays a fee to provide these databases to you because databases include more in-depth, scholarly information than the general Internet. For example, the H.W. Wilson company provides a Biography Reference Bank with researched information on more than 600,000 people. If your university doesn't use the Wilson database, you should have access to a similar product. Record the appropriate information for your bibliography from each source you find.

Visit the library to find books about your bibliography topic. Use the library's catalog to find books about your person. Start by typing in the name of your person. If that doesn't identify enough sources, also look for other keywords related to what he was famous for. For example, if you are researching a Civil War general, look at the Civil War books to see if some of them contain information about your general. Also, ask the librarian about special reference sources available to you. There may be specialized encyclopedias, history books, and biographies available. Record the appropriate information about each source you locate.

Visit Internet sites. The general Internet should be used last since the information is more difficult to verify, unless it is located on a reputable site. Look for websites connected to well-known historical sites, universities, or scholarly projects, if possible. Record the information you need for your bibliography.

Type the bibliography using the information from source. Use the format requested by your teacher. Punctuation, capitalization, line spacing and order of information vary greatly depending on the format you are using. Place close attention to all of the style guidelines because these will likely be a part of your grade.

Edit your finished bibliography. Ask a friend or family member to look over your bibliography for typos and minor errors.

About the Author

Kerri Cox is an elementary librarian and former high school English teacher. She began writing for Internet publications in 2009. Her informative articles, focusing on education and parenting, have been published on Cox has bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Missouri State University.

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