A Librarian's Advice for Creating a Bibliography

July 15, 2014

Librarians are treasure chests for graduate students. A few good tips from a librarian can provide a graduate student with just the right resources and save him or her hours of work. With this in mind, I interviewed University of Arizona librarian Jill Newby for a few tips on creating a bibliography for fellowships.


Most fellowship applications, especially applications for dissertation support, ask for a bibliography. Many applicants simply copy and paste bibliographies from past papers or from their dissertation proposal. While bibliographies written for your adviser and your professor are, of course, the building blocks for the fellowship bibliography, they should not constitute the final product.


Newby provides the following advice for graduate students.


What are your top two or three suggestions for creating a bibliography?

1.  Learn how to use a citation management software program, such as RefWorks, EndNote or Zotero.  A citation management program makes it easy to import results from a database search, organize citations and full-text articles within the citation management program and create a bibliography using a specific citation style.  The UA Library has information on how to sign-up for a free account and links to help guides (http://www.library.arizona.edu/search/reference/citation.html#software).

2.  Once you have created your bibliography using the citation management software, carefully proof-read each citation against the citation style guide you have chosen. Citation information that is imported into your citation management software may be missing data or the data may not have been correctly mapped to the citation record.   Having an accurate, complete and polished looking bibliography will reflect well on the rest of your application.


What two or three databases (or other tools) do you wish every graduate student used?

1.  ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Full Text (http://www.library.arizona.edu/search/articles/dbfind.php?shortname=dissabstracts_proquest).  Being aware of the dissertation research that has already been done in your specialty is indispensable for your research going forward.  You will likely find research findings that are tangential or supplemental to your own research that may yield other ideas and references to other studies that would be useful to review. 

2.  Web of Science Core Collection (http://www.library.arizona.edu/search/articles/dbfind.php?shortname=webofscience&page=dbDetail)  The Web of Science database includes references to journal articles, books and conference proceedings appearing in core publications in all disciplines, not just scientific areas.  Web of Science offers the capability of conducting a 'cited reference' search to identify other articles that have cited a core/seminal article.  This is a smart way to do a comprehensive search for your research area. 

3.  Summon  (http://arizona.summon.serialssolutions.com/advanced#!/advanced)  With Summon you can search for print and online materials from the library's catalog, databases, and specialized collections in one search.  This database is especially useful for those doing research in an interdisciplinary area where information may be located in multiple databases.  The Summon search box is located on the UA Libraries homepage (http://www.library.arizona.edu/)  For more information Summon, see:  http://www.library.arizona.edu/search-find/summon.


Creating a bibliography can be overwhelming because of the incredible amount of information available. How can a graduate student keep focused?

1.  Along with knowing your audience, let your audience know that you know about the most current thinking in your research area.  Do a cited reference search in the Web of Science database to locate the most cited authors that are working in your field.  In addition, use the most current research publications that cite these authors.

2.  Along with citing noted authors, make sure you are citing publications from well-known journals in your field.  This will certainly get the reviewers’ attention.

3.  At some point, you will need to stop looking for information sources because of time constraints.  You will get to the point where you run into the same authors again and again.  This is an indication that you are on the right track and have probably found the most important core research in your area.


Article by Shelley Hawthorne Smith, Assistant Director of the Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement and Jill Newby, UA Librarian. Feel free to redistribute this information, but please acknowledge the University of Arizona Graduate College Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement.