How To: Bibliography, Referencing and Secondary Sources

Writing an essay only seems daunting when you don’t know how to write it, what to write about or how to deal with the formalities of referencing, structuring secondary sources into your text or formatting a bibliography. Once you get the hand of your formalities it’ll get significantly easier. 


The most important part of writing any essay, literary or not, is referencing.

  1. When you include a book/film title, always italicize it.
  2. If it is the title of a chapter, article, or poem then just put single quotation marks around it.
  3. After quoting always add a surname of the person and the page number from where you’re quoting. If it’s a poem then add the line number. Your reader will then use this information to find the source from your bibliography.

It’s monotonous but think of it this way: when you post a photo of someone on Facebook, it is polite to tag them in that post. You are posting as part of your profile, their profile and for others to see. Others can then find the other person from your tag. You wouldn’t just post a photo of someone else without including them in the post, it would seem strange to exclude the very person of whom the image is taken. The same way you shouldn’t write ideas in your essays without crediting them to the source from which you read them.

Citations also add depth to your own argument so even if your idea is original, try to find a paper that talks about something similar to compare or contrast it to; give it a foundation of sorts. Which leads me to the next topic…

secondary sources

Think of secondary reading as the cup for you cupcake – the cupcake being your essay. Find a few relevant papers directly linked to your essay topic and put them down as the foundation of what you are writing about. For example:

The ‘popular’ was also associated with the ephemeral, it ‘must have immediate success, to secure so much as existence’ (Mill p.15). King and Plunkett highlight a similar point, ‘the case of Smith proves all too well Rymer’s point about the ephemerality of the popular’ (p.167). However, this is in regards to popular literature before the existence of technology that now allows us to digitally preserve writing which goes out of print. Gregory Sporton in his book Digital Creativity notes that today, technology is believed to have a democratising effect on society (p.5) by allowing everyone access through the internet.

The secondary sources you use support your argument, and you only need one right line to make your essay sound better.


This comes at the end of your essay but it’s helpful to write it at the same time as your essay. So, every time you read something that’s relevant to your essay, add it to your bibliography.

If you don’t know how to format you bibliography, find out which referencing style you should be using from your institution. There are several helpful apps like ‘RefME’ but I personally like using ‘Google Scholar.’ Press ‘cite’ which will give you several referencing styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard, Vancouver) which you can copy and add to your bibliography without the hassle of forms.

Alternatively the easiest way to write your own bibliography is:

Surname, Name. Book Title. City-of-Publishing: Publisher. Year.

If the book has editors then add them after the author and write (ed.) in brackets. If you’re using a specific chapter, write ‘The Chapter Title’ before writing the title in italics and then page numbers for the chapter after the year at the very end.

All the references need to be arranged in alphabetical order by surname but you can do that once you’re done with the essay. There’s an alphabetising feature in word, if that’s what you’re using to write.

Bibliographies are easy once you give into the whole boring process of being specific!



Note: This is a quick summary. I will keep editing this page for more accuracy. If you feel like I’ve missed something – comment with your suggestion!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s