Derived from the Greek word ‘biblion’, meaning ‘book’, and ‘graphia’, referring to ‘writing’, the word bibliography is an amalgamation of the two and is as such used in a slightly different context today. Originally, bibliography implied a field of academia which studied the book as an object or a symbol and an integral part of cultural phenomena. It was concerned with the understanding of books through listing by chronology and devising new ways to describe them.
In the field of academia itself the word bibliography has another related but vastly different meaning. You may find this at the end of any scholarly work often under the title of ‘References’, ‘Works Cited, or simply, ‘Bibliography’. It is a comprehensive list detailing all the books, articles, papers, and journals the author has referred to or made use of in the process of composing the scholarly work.
What does bibliography consist of?
Roughly speaking there are three broad ways to qualify bibliographies attached at the end of any work.
1. Enumerative Bibliography – The most common type of bibliography is one in which all the sources of the work are listed one after another, sorted according to categories of publication or alphabetical order. This typically contains extensive dates of publication, name of publisher, and other technical details.
2. Descriptive Bibliography – This contains a detailed description of the physical aspects of the book or work in question, such as details regarding the paper quality, illustrations contained within the book, the cover art and binding, among others.
3. Analytical Bibliography – This belongs more to the academic field of bibliography studies in which a book is analyzed by considering the physical traits of the object and the tradition of social and historical practices it is a product of.
In modern times this term has lent itself in the creation of a host of other terms which are similar in meaning but used in fields other than written scholarly works. For instance, the term discography has been coined to refer to the list of recorded music by a particular artist. Filmography and webography are other words used to imply the same in other contexts.
Advantages of a Bibliography
- It can be viewed as an essential component of any academic work that ensures transparency and better communication of intentions.
- It helps build a coherent and holistic understanding of any piece of work and the material on which the scholarly work is built.
- It helps to create taxonomy of sorts in any field, as the bibliography provides a clear picture of how critical thought has progressed in the particular field of studies.
Disadvantages of Bibliography
- It has also been viewed as something disrupting the flow of thought in an academic work, where each citation has little or no link with the other and may break the continuity of the finished work.
- Due to such fragmentation it can draw inordinate interest from the reader to unimportant areas while leaving large sections unreferenced.