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When writing a book, how does bibliography work? Can I just list all the resources used at the end in a "Bibliography" section? If so, do I need to put the exact pages that I used?

Also, do I need to cite the resources after each paragraph in my book?

  • Hi, and welcome to Writers. What kind of book are you writing? Fiction? Non-fiction? Business? As @what points out, we need a little more information to help you. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Nov 1 '16 at 19:51
  • Non-fiction, mostly technical, might touch business and law. I come from a technical background and don't have much experience in writing, I plan on it, but before I start researching and writing, I want to know what kind of information I need to keep track of when it comes to resources. – Dave Nov 1 '16 at 19:55
  • @what then he just made a first step on his way there, which should be encouraged :-) – Lew Nov 1 '16 at 21:24
  • @what, so how do you suggest I get help? – Dave Nov 2 '16 at 12:51
  • @what I've only written research & term papers when I was in college, these seem different. I looked into some books, some of them don't even have a bibliography page. Most authors of technical books are top experts in their field and so maybe they don't need to cite anything!! Math books are the same! I've looked into some science books that have a bibliography section, but they put it at the end of the book only. So nothing inside the paragraphs of the book, no superscript citations or footnotes, just a list of all the resources at the end, which I thought is weird, that's why I'm asking. – Dave Nov 2 '16 at 13:57
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I think your real question here is not about the format of a bibliography but about the requirements for citation in various kinds of work.

Some fields have very specific requirements both for what you are supposed to cite and for how you are supposed to cite it. These are laid out in style guides and different fields have different style guides that they use. If you are writing in a field that has such a style guide or for a journal or publisher that requires you conform to such a style guide, you need to buy the appropriate guide and use it.

Outside of that, you need to think about the functions of citations. Citations exist for two reasons:

  1. To establish the authority of a claim. How often you need to do this depends on how much trust your audience places in you.

  2. To enable the reader to find additional information on a point if they need it.

In academic writing there is a general requirement that you prove the authority of every significant claim that you make. Basically, you proceed on the basis that there is zero trust in anything you say and you have to support everything. In this case, you have to keep track of the source of every claim you make and cite it according to the prevailing style guide.

In professional writing, you will enjoy a degree of trust based on your qualifications and most readers will not require that you prove every claim you make as long as it is not controversial or contrary to received wisdom. In this case, you cite judiciously to back up any claims that people might question or to give people access to further information if they need it.

In popular writing, you are generally assumed to deserve a high degree of trust and readers are presumed to be willing to take you at your word. Publishers may want you to prove you are qualified to write about the subject, but you will rarely be required to formally cite any sources, though you may do so informally in the text itself as a means of emphasis. (As in, "according to the CIA ...")

It is worth noting, however, that there is a genre of popular writing typified by Malcolm Gladwell, which involves the rather breathless boosting and popularization of soft scientific research. In this case, the text tends to tell the story of the research rather than citing the results the way an academic paper might. These books tend to have extensive bibliographies, though not usually a formal citation system.

All that said, there is no general answer. In the end you need to talk to your publisher about the level and style of citation they will want you to provide, and until you know that, you would be well advised to meticulously note all your sources. There is nothing more tedious that trying to track down the source of something after the fact.

  • Very well written and to the point! Thanks! – Dave Nov 2 '16 at 16:00
  • +1 just for "meticulously note." I still remember having to re-look up half the citations on a college paper I did because I couldn't read my own damn handwriting to type up the sources for the bibliography. :) – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Nov 2 '16 at 18:08
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Five seconds with Google turned up this article: Project MLA Format Examples

There are many more resources out there. FYI, @Dave, StackExchange folks are going to look for you to have done some work before you ask questions here. It will help you a lot if you click on the Help and do the Tour to understand better how this works. It isn't a typical forum.

  • Thanks! But that's not what I'm looking for. Please read the comments below my question. I go back and forth with other fellows explaining exactly what I'm looking for. – Dave Nov 2 '16 at 14:37
  • I didn't see those last comments when I was writing my comment - sorry. But I think I am still failing to grasp something here. I think I don't understand why something like the MLA standards (maybe not that one, but another if it is more applicable to the type of book you are writing) isn't going to answer your question. – Terri Simon Nov 2 '16 at 14:53
  • To me, it seems like a technical book is going to contain two types of information -- stuff you've pulled / quoted from other resources. Those require a bibliography (giving credit where credit is due). The other is stuff that you are creating original from your own experience. No bibliography needed. If you are trying to determine where in the text to cite the source, that will, I think, depend on how you are using the data, if it's screen shots of software that's different than quoting a paragraph (maybe). – Terri Simon Nov 2 '16 at 14:54
  • Many books use end notes, which may be at the end of the chapter or all at the end of the book, to give more details on what is being cited. If you're doing a direct quote, citations go at the end of the quote...but I'm not an expert on MLA, etc. hence going back to a standard of some sort. – Terri Simon Nov 2 '16 at 14:56

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