What is the point of a bibliography if I use endnotes?
October 26, 2017 6:20 PM   Subscribe

If, for instance, I am citing a book and I have the page number, author, title, publisher, year, etc. in the endnote, what is the purpose of a bibliography? All the information contained in the bibliography would already be in the endnotes. Is the information supposed to be written twice, if so why?
posted by 8LeggedFriend to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
I understood that a bibliography includes cited references, plus other books the author has found useful for background and further reading on the subject.
posted by GeeEmm at 6:24 PM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

The only style I'm familiar with that uses either footnotes/endnotes and bibliographies is Chicago style. Is that the style you're using?

If so, you'd save space by using short references in the endnotes and full publication details in the bibliography.

From the Chicago Manual of Style, part 14.19: "If the bibliography includes all works cited in the notes, the notes need not duplicate the source information in full because readers can consult the bibliography for publication details and other information. In works with no bibliography or only a selected list, full details must be given in a note at first mention of any work cited; subsequent citations need only include a short form."

Guidelines for short citations are in part 14.29-36.
posted by Boxenmacher at 6:38 PM on October 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Agree with GeeEmm - bibliography is where you can list other references that you didn’t mention specifically in end notes but that were relevant to helping you develop your understanding of the topic. Another way to think of it - if someone was interested in the topic you wrote about and just wanted to read a few books on the subject without having to weed through all of your end notes, what would you tell them to read?
posted by kat518 at 6:51 PM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

There are a gazillion citation styles. Each academic department or publication editor will have their own preferences. If you're working with an advisor or editor, they may be able to give you more information. Of course, it may just be that it was delivered from [$deity] at some point in the dim past, and no one knows why we are commanded to do x and not y.

I'm always grateful when authors include full bibliographies in addition to the notes. That way, I don't have to struggle through a forest of ibids to find out Arrgh what was that book I wanted to look up.

(On preview, also what kat518 said.)
posted by Weftage at 6:54 PM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

And, according to Stewart Brand, not just a bibliography, but an annotated bibliography.
posted by Bruce H. at 8:28 PM on October 26, 2017

Despite having attended sixth grade in 2001-2002, we still had to do a research report, complete with index cards and index card filing box. The office supply stores for miles around were astounded at how these relics were suddenly flying off the shelves.

Only about 15 years later did I realize that we were being taught the style that Umberto Eco wrote about in his book, "How to Write a Thesis" -- it sounds like before information was digitally indexed and networked, you had to basically go to your own small town's library, hope there was a book on your broad topic, and use its bibliography (along with writing letters to libraries, iirc?) to find other books until you found the books on your narrow topic.

Hence the odd specificity of bibilographic citations -- my sixth grade self thought, "who cares which edition, or where it was published? Isn't the title enough?" But if you were traveling to another city in search of this book, you wanted to be sure you were traveling to the right book.

All this is a long-winded way of saying what others did -- bibliographies used to be critical pointers to other information, and a work's bibliography could be more valuable than the work itself by steering you toward what you were looking for.
posted by batter_my_heart at 8:30 PM on October 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

The main advantage of a bibliography is that it is alphabetical (and within works of the same author, chronologically organized). It is searchable, in other words. Trying to find a reference one dimly remembers having read in one or another book by digging through hundreds of footnotes/endnotes in both books is very prohibitive. Service to the reader.
posted by Namlit at 1:46 AM on October 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

Also, notes, end- and foot-, are used for purposes other than citation. You can include explanations, digressions, expansions, etc (depending on the discipline’s norms). The bibliography is an organized list of sources.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:51 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I really enjoyed whatever it is you wrote, or find it useful, it's super easy to photocopy your bib and go to the library and pull all your sources. Think of it as a mitzvah for researchers coming after you.
posted by orrnyereg at 7:13 AM on October 27, 2017

It really pisses me off when scholarly books don't have a bibliography. I don't want to have to go searching through fifty pages of notes to see whether you used a certain book.
posted by languagehat at 7:53 AM on October 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

1. Much easier reference - alpha by author, no need to scan all the endnotes.
2. More comprehensive, as mentioned by others: includes works used for background as well as those directly cited.
3. Easy to pull, scan, or email just the biblio pages when you want to share research resources with a fellow scholar.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

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