How to write a bibliographic essay

How to write a bibliographic essay

As a college student, you can never escape assignments. Have you received an assignment, but you do not know what a bibliographic essay is or how to write it? You are stuck wondering what is expected. You do not know how to answer the question presented.

Are you wondering, “what does a bibliographic essay look like?” Are the structures of a bibliographic essay the same as other essays?  You have a rough idea of what a bibliographic essay is, but you have never written one. You are running out of time to work on your paper, but you still want good grades.

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This article explores all the aspects of a bibliographic essay. It covers what a bibliographic essay is, its purpose, and how to write it. This article is what you need to learn everything about such essays.

What is a bibliographic essay?

A bibliographic essay gets its name from the term bibliography.  Answering the question “what does bibliography mean will give you a rough idea about the essay.” It is an essay written about the literary sources of a topic. If you are looking for information about a specific topic, look for a bibliographic essay on it. It will contain multiple sources of information for your essay.

A bibliographic essay is an essay in which you are expected to identify several research sources in a subject, discipline, or sub-discipline. You are supposed to summarize, evaluate, compare and analyze the core works based on the topic. These works include books, journals, and digital resources.

You are not expected to prove anything in particular about the subject. You should just give a general overview of the subject based on your findings. Your bibliographic essay should not be based on your own opinion. It should be based on generally accepted ideas and opinions.

Some of the factors examined in this kind of essay include;

  • An important new piece of literature about a traditional subject
  • New interdisciplinary and interconnected areas in two or more subjects
  • Subjects that have become the center of recent societal interest

When you go through multiple sources of information about the topic, you understand the context better. This way, you can convey reliable and precise information about the topic to your audience. You can also give several recommendations of credible, reliable, and reputable sources on the subject.

Purpose of a bibliographic essay

bibliographic essay example

  • Examines multiple sources of information based on a specific topic
  • Gives a summary accumulated from several sources
  • Compares and contrasts information offered by different sources
  • Provides a generalized overview of the subject
  • It gives you the ability to recommend the best sources of information
  • Provides a context about the subject for you and your reader

How to write a bibliographic essay correctly

How do you avoid creating a mess and writing a faulty paper? This is what you need to know to write a good essay that will earn you good grades;

1.      Ensure your sources are credible and reliable

Make sure that all the sources you include in your essay are acceptable in your school’s curriculum. Do not use encyclopedias because they give shallow, incomplete, and summarized information. You should also know that in most cases, websites are not verified.

Sites like Wikipedia are also unreliable because anyone from the public can change or alter the information within the site. You should focus on looking at sources in reputable journals that give reliable and relevant information.

Go through your school’s library to find valuable books on the subject. You can also use online databases such as JSTOR to collect scholarly articles. As you do your research, go through the reference pages of your sources.

You might find another source with the profound information you are looking for. Some of the sources in the reference list may specialize further on the topic you are researching. You should include such sources in your essay to make it more detailed.

2.      Do not include discussions and analysis

Do not forget the purpose of your essay. This essay is not meant to discuss or analyze the information. It is intended to give your audience an idea of the more reliable sources.

You do not have to try to prove that your opinion is correct. Focus on your primary task, which is to summarize the thoughts and ideas presented in other people’s scholarly works.

Your responsibility is to convey the information as it is written. It is not to agree or disagree and state what you think is right or wrong. Do not try to create an argument about the topic or the information from the sources.

In this essay, you are advised to use a functional sentence in the introduction instead of a thesis statement. A function statement describes the purpose of your writing, while a thesis statement presents the point you are trying to prove. You can start your function statement with, “this paper seeks to….”

3.      Restate and paraphrase

Your paper is an overview of other authors’ input on the subject through their scholarly works, not your personal opinions on the subject. As you write about these sources, you should restate what they talk about. Come up with clever ways to paraphrase the information to avoid being penalized for plagiarism.

 Find the thesis statement on each source that is the main point of their argument. Focus on what the authors had to say about the topic and the main issues they addressed. Even though you are not writing about your opinions, it is crucial to make the essay unique.

The best way to do this is to use your own words to say what the author wrote about. When you paraphrase, the content is from your sources, but the delivery is different and stands out.

4.      Keep it short

A bibliography is a summary of six or more sources written in six pages or less. This should include your comparison of the different sources. This means that you should keep using two or three paragraphs for each reference.

Focusing on the central theme and the thesis statement of each source will help you pick out the most critical points. Write concise sentences and avoid repetition. It is not necessary to include the author’s background information unless it directly affects the content contained in the book.

How bibliographic essays are different

Here are the differences between annotated bibliography vs literature review;

  • In a bibliographic essay, you do not only give the source of data, but you also provide the information contained in it
  • You can write some information about the author of your source if it is relevant to the essay
  • You can include any secondary information about the source and the author
  • You can use any writing style such as MLA, APA, or Chicago for referencing depending on your institution’s rules of writing
  • Your citations should be numbered
  • Your opinion is not required

Steps of writing a bibliographic essay

This is the most appropriate order to use when writing a bibliographic essay;

Understanding the question

This is the most important step since it affects your whole essay and the results after. Make sure you know what is expected of you. Study the difference between a bibliographic essay vs literature review.

Read the question several times and give yourself time to internalize it. Ask your professor or classmates to clarify anything that is not clear. Use a dictionary to find the meaning of vocabulary.

Understanding the question is important because you need to know what you are working on and how to go about it.


Once you know what is expected, take time to brainstorm ideas and concepts that interest you. Think about your goal, skills, and interests. You do not want to write a paper you are not passionate about.

Come up with a theme and topic that is unique and clever. Write about something that has not been overdone. Write down some keywords that pop up in your mind to guide you when choosing a topic.

You can write your essay about any topic you see fit. The topics are limited by your knowledge, Imagination, and interests. Some examples you can use for your bibliographic essay topics include;

  • Elections and transparency
  • Poverty and corruption
  • Gender inequality and its impact
  • Doping in sports
  • Criminal justice and social cohesion
  • What is human cloning, and what are the impacts
  • Importance and effects of vaccination
  • Mental health awareness and treatment
  • Advertisement and marketing
  • Importance of child psychology

You have the freedom to choose any topic, but you should not choose a topic that no one would be interested in. If your topic is too old-fashioned, common, or specific, you should consider changing it. You can choose a topic that is set within the education system of your institution.

That would be an engaging, relevant, and unique approach towards bibliographic essays. If you are stuck on a topic, you can create a list of options and ask your professor to help you choose the most appropriate.


From this essay, your research needs to be thorough and intense. Before you begin your own research, look at other bibliographic analysis essay examples. This will help you understand what kind of information you should research.

Other people will be using your research to find good sources for their essays for years to come. They will be using your research to steer their writing. You do not want to mislead them.

Allocate enough time to go through as many books, journals, and articles as possible. Take note of all the sources you discover. Later you can organize them in order of relevance to know which ones you will include in your essay.

Before you begin writing, here are some questions to help you gain a bearing for what to capture;

• Who are the authors and editors, e.g. professional academics, amateur students, or corporation teams?
• Does their background have any impact on the writing or the views presented in the body of their text?
• What kind of sources the authors use in their publications because if they weren’t scholarly, the information might be compromised?
• Which scholarly, corporate, or private organizations have published their material?
• Which theories, views, and conclusions have been made in this text?
• What assumptions and questions have the authors raised in their work?
• Is there any important information they have left out?
• Which ideas are potential issues, problems, or points of contention, or debates?
• How have the authors presented their arguments?
• Which evidence have they provided?
• What expectations, lessons, or images have they created in their readers’ minds?

Evaluate your sources

Each source you encounter will contain some information about your topic. Look at the ones with the most relevant information. Check the credibility of each scholarly text. You need to make sure they are from reliable sources.

This will make sure that the sources you choose and the information you convey is substantial and factual. To avoid using outdated sources, check when the source was published and when it was revised last. You should also look at a bibliographic essay example APA style to know which citing style you will use.

The smallest detail may disqualify a source, and if you do not pay enough attention, you may miss it.  You can read through the content in your sources again. You should also check your sources’ reference lists because they might contain better books and journals.

Begin writing your essay

Remember the purpose of your essay is to summarize scholarly works on a specific topic. Your essay needs to be organized in a way that your readers will understand the sources. They should also be able to evaluate the presentation of valuable data and themes.

Use different formal writing skills to ensure your audience can comprehend your essay. Observe the structure of bibliographic essays to make sure that your work has a good flow.

Create a reference list

Just like other essays, a reference list is essential in this essay. Understand the difference in format between a bibliographic essay vs annotated bibliography. Referencing shows that you acknowledge you have used other people’s works as sources for your essay.

 Every title from a book, journal, or article that appears in your essay should appear on your reference list. All your citations should be arranged alphabetically, not in the order they appear in the essay. All the titles you include in your reference list should also be used in the paper and cited using in-text citation. 

If you do not know how to cite an essay, your reference should contain the following;

  • The title of the scholarly work cited
  • The names of the authors or author
  • The list of editors
  • The publishing company
  • The year and date of the original publication
  • The edition

Edit and revise

Your essay is bound to have countable errors that your computer software cannot rectify. Remember to edit it manually for clarity and cohesion. A friend can help you with this stage.

Give them your completed essay so that they can read through and point out issues that need revision. This s important because you might correct most of the errors but miss others. Your friend will look at it with fresh eyes and see what you missed.

Make sure you correct all punctuation, grammatical and structural errors. It is easier for your professor to mark your essay if he does not need to stop to correct avoidable mistakes. It will also earn you more marks if your paper has a good flow with no errors.

Structure of a bibliographic essay

The bibliographic essay follows a standard structure used in most essays. This means that you will not have a problem when it comes to organizing your work into parts. His is the bibliographic essay format;

Cover page

This is always the first page of your essay. This is where you include your credentials and information about the course you are writing for. You should include a bibliographic note with your name, title, and affiliation. Using a bibliographic essay template might ease up this process

Your cover page should include the following;

  • Your name and your group members names if it was a collective assignment
  • The title of your paper
  • The name of your professor
  • The name of the subject
  • The date of submission


To answer how to start a bibliographic essay, you can look at several bibliographic essay samples.

You are advised to begin by giving a statement summarizing the center of focus in your bibliographic essay. You should also introduce the scholarly texts you will be talking about in your essay.

Give the titles of each source. Remember to follow the recommended citation guidelines of your institution. You should also present the names of the authors of these books.

If someone was to use your essay to look for sources, your introduction should be enough to let them know. After reading your introduction, they will decide whether your essay will be of help or not. Make your introduction gripping enough.

Give away the necessary information to keep your reader interested but don’t tell them too much. Give important information about the author and the context of the text. You should also give some general background information about your topic, its importance, and its relevance to the world.

Do not just list and describe the sources you are using. Give an evaluation of each, stating why they are the best fit for the topic you chose. Show the reader why they are worthy of being included in the body of your essay.

You should also discuss the characteristics of the body of the selected scholarly writings. Remember to include a function statement instead of a thesis statement. You can also describe the organization you will use in your essay and why you have chosen that arrangement.

The body

Each paragraph in your essay should be an informative summary of the content of your chosen sources. You should use citations to indicate which information comes from which source. Be careful not to plagiarize.

Read the texts, collect the information, then paraphrase it to convey the same information. Include information from different sources in each paragraph. In some cases, the data might take up two or three paragraphs from the same source.

Examine the similarities and differences between the different sources you have chosen. Represent each scholarly text fairly. Important factors to include in the body are;

  • Is the information from one source a continuation of information from another source
  • Is the information from all sources similar or different
  • How is one reference related to another
  • How are all the sources interconnected
  • How has change in time and historical development affected the research
  • How does the information from each source match the title, is it well represented?

Some sources like big books and journals are considered seminal. This means that they are not entirely about the topic but include sections and articles related to your topic. You can include such sources for your essay only if they have essential information.

Each source has a unique way of looking at the topic. Your paragraphs should highlight and focus on these unique aspects. Make sure you discuss each book to convince your reader that it is the best source.

An author’s writing style might also affect the value of their book. If the author appears to be radical or extremist, their outlook will differ from a liberal author. How the different styles of writing and what your reader will prefer.

You can also choose to include all types of writing styles and discuss them under the similarities and differences. Your reader will appreciate seeing the topic from different perspectives. Briefly research a bibliographic essay example MLA format to know how to analyze various references.


Your conclusion should remind your reader what the most significant themes were from the sources you included in your essay. Discuss how they are connected to the main topic. Your conclusion should not contain any new information.

Use the conclusion for emphasis. It should be at least a paragraph or two. You are not restating everything from the essay, only the essential details, and points.

Your conclusion should be revising enough that your reader will want to go through those books. Show your audience that you understood each source to the core. Even though your sources have discussed different themes, find a common theme to tie them all up to your topic.

Closing remarks

A bibliographic essay is unique and complicated. To write a good one needs optimal concentration and mastery of the technique. You may struggle the first few times you attempt this essay, but you will internalize it with time.

This essay has pointed out all the requirements, expectations, and techniques for an excellent bibliographic essay.  You can also read a bibliographic essay example to gain insight. However, if you have read it and still have questions or need clarifications, we are here to help.

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