November 7, 2011

Term Paper Woes: Compiling a Bibliography

What’s worse than writing a term paper? Having to string together the bibliography.

It seems to me like this tedious task can almost be more unpleasant than having to actually write the paper itself. Almost. Alas, there is no quick and easy way to do it. My best advice for you when it comes to compiling your reference list is twofold:

Time Management

Do not leave conducting your research for your paper to the last minute.

On that note, it’s a mighty good idea to start your paper (or at least brainstorm and begin to think about it) the week it is assigned, not the week it is due. By allowing yourself plenty of time to sift through library databases for scholarly sources, you will be able to spend more time examining each individual source more carefully. Rather than half-heartedly skimming through merely the abstracts, headings and conclusions, you are instead given the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the material and focus your attention on each source in its entirety. Reading comprehension takes time, so the worst thing you can do is limit yourself to an unreasonably short period of aimless scanning.

It is also not advisable to start putting together your citations the night before it is due. It’s totally possible, just not very wise. Compiling your list of citations in the correct format when pressed for time can be rather stressful, meticulous and all-around unpleasant. Scrambling to string together a decent reference list half an hour before its submission date isn’t very fun and often leads to annoyance and frustration which could have easily been avoided had you started on it earlier. Writing and proofreading your paper is a time-consuming ordeal as it is. Do yourself a favour and work at it a little bit at a time.


Another set of skills that go hand in hand with time management pertains to organization. The first thing to be mindful of even before starting on your bibliography is to ensure that you are completely familiar with the particular format that is required of you. APA-rently, every professor has their own preference, so be sure to know your expectations.

There are a couple of ways you can approach this bibliographical compilation process. One is to construct it manually all throughout. If you choose to do it this way, I cannot stress enough how imperative budgeting your time wisely and keeping tabs on all your consulted sources are. If you’re more tech-savvy, there exist plenty of neat citation tools and programs online. A few that have been recommended by countless profs and librarians in the past include: RefWorks, EasyBib, and Zotero. (They’re free, too)

I know how tempting it is to neglect this process and leave it to the very end. More often than not, I regret not having kept track earlier on. With that, cite responsibly, scholars!

About the Author

Recultured Team
Recultured Team
This is where you'll find the blog posts that the team has contributed to collectively! What team? Wildcats! -Nope, wrong team. Recultured!

  • That platypus made me lol, thanks Anneliese!

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