How can I write a bibliography

Bibliography: 9 tips + 7 examples for correct references

If you're looking for a flawless bibliography, we've got nine valuable tips that can help you. You can round off your academic work perfectly with additional examples of correct references - so nothing stands in the way of a good grade.

The bibliography

A bibliography can be found at the end of an academic paper. At universities, the list is only followed by the appendix and the affidavit. This means that everything was written by myself and that the parts that were not written by yourself can be found in the bibliography with correct references. For this reason, it is very important that you do not forget a source. Otherwise there is a risk that you will fail because of a plagiarism attempt.

Content and structure of your bibliography

In the bibliography you will find all the sources that you have identified in the running text. This includes both direct quotations in quotation marks and indirect quotations that you have provided with a comparison. There are two different ways of citing this: the German and the American / Harvard system. Find out more in the guidelines of your university or ask a fellow student what kind of citation you use.

Break down your references into primary and secondary literature. You should provide other sources such as video material (films, series, interviews, etc.) or internet sources with your own headings within your bibliography, as they are not actually literature.

The basic elements for a reference in the bibliography

The basic elements for a reference in the bibliography

The basic elements of a bibliography are always the same. All important information must be available in order to be able to understand your literature source. Incomplete information will not be accepted in scientific papers. As a rule, the individual references differ depending on the medium. For example, journals are indicated differently than monographs. But more on that in our examples.

For complete information, the following must be included: surname and first name, title including all subtitles, edition, if not first edition, the edition number if applicable, place (s) of publication: publisher, year of publication The references in a directory always end with a period. The bibliography is listed in the table of contents of your scientific work, but unlike the chapters, it is not numbered.

The bibliography is not a bibliography

There is often confusion when it comes to the name of the bibliography. For example, the list of sources can be used synonymously, but not the bibliography. The difference: A bibliography or list of sources only includes the sources that were actually (directly or indirectly) cited in the bachelor thesis, master thesis, seminar paper or dissertation. A bibliography, on the other hand, gives an overview of literature on a specific topic.

9 tips for a perfect bibliography

Are you satisfied with your academic work, but the bibliography is still lacking? Below you will find important tips for a flawless bibliography. In this way, your scientific work, in which you have put so much diligence, is perfectly rounded off.

Make reading easier

Make reading easier with a good structure

To make reading the bibliography easier and to create a well-structured overview for your lecturer, you should format your directory accordingly. To do this, follow the guidelines of your college or university. The first line of your reference may follow the pre-formatted margins. The second line is indented so that the author's last name stands out. You can either do this manually for each reference or create a format template in Word that you can use for each of your academic papers.

Another option is to italicize the title of your reference. This is not mandatory, but it also makes reading easier. Take a look at our examples in the corresponding chapter. Make sure that the line spacing is not set too small. Otherwise your directory will appear squashed and less attractive to look at.

Write out first names

At some universities it has been customary to abbreviate the first names of the authors or editors with their first letters. However, it is more advantageous and more modern to spell out the names in full. So nothing can be confused. Also include any authors or editors who contributed to your source.

Check your bibliography for completeness

It is essential for a perfect bibliography that you fully name all sources that you have cited in the text in the bibliography. So at the end of your scientific work, be sure to give yourself a few more hours in which you can look closely at all of your quotes and comparisons. Check for each one of them whether the quoted work can also be found in your bibliography and make sure not to add any works that you have not used in your work. Literature that you have only used for reading in or as instructions, but not cited, does not belong in the directory.

Always stay consistent

Depending on the subject, college or university, there are different requirements for citing and preparing a bibliography. Some guides require a publisher's name to be given, some not. But the most important thing is always to stay consistent. When unity is granted, many lecturers sometimes ignore it if the guidelines have not been followed one-to-one. If your guide doesn't give you enough information, borrow a guide for scientific work from the library.

Division into primary literature and secondary literature

Division into primary literature and secondary literature

Many students face the same problem year after year: What was primary and what was secondary literature? The exact distinction is sometimes not that easy and has to be made with every literature source. We summarize the essential difference for you so that you never have to deal with this annoying question again.

Primary literature

Primary literature describes an author's own work. Thus literary works (epic poems, drama, poetry, etc.), legal texts, historical or religious texts are primary texts in the sense of their respective science. One example is Goethe's “Faust” as primary literature and a scientific work on his motifs as secondary literature.

Secondary literature

Secondary literature is specialist or non-fiction literature that deals with primary literature and illuminates it scientifically. But sometimes secondary literature can also become primary literature. For example, when the work on the motifs in Goethe's Faust is examined scientifically and critically.

There are even Tertiary literature. Lexicons, encyclopedias and other reference works are referred to as these. Depending on the university, tertiary literature can also be listed under secondary literature in the directory.

Use the usual abbreviations for your bibliography

In a perfect bibliography, even the abbreviations have to be correct. If everything were to be written out, your references would be very long and confusing. Remember to always abbreviate uniformly, even if there are several options. We have compiled and listed all common abbreviations for you. You will find some of them in our example chapter.

  • Editor (Hrsg.) Or (Hg.), (Hgg.) Can also be used for the plural
  • Edition: ed.
  • Edition: Edition / completely new revised edition: completely new revised. Output
  • without location: o.O.
  • without year: no year
  • without author: o.V.
  • Page: S.
  • Booklet: H.
  • Year: Jg.
  • If you have to name the same author / editor in a reference, use in the same: in ders.
  • If there are three or more publishing locations, use and others: [and others].
  • Volume: Vol., Volumes: Vol.

Use only reputable internet sources

Use only reputable internet sources - like us ;-)

Serious sources should always be traceable. Internet sources are therefore still a source of skepticism among many old-school lecturers. Some even give a certain number of printed literature as a criterion for a term paper. Others now even accept Wikipedia, as long as the exact source can be traced. If you are unsure about how your lecturer feels about internet sources, just ask him before you worry about it while you are working and wasting valuable time. Here you will find tips for successful time management.

In general, internet sources should not predominate in your bibliography. Finally, there is also enough current specialist literature. But if you get your information from reputable newspapers or checked online encyclopedias, or your homework topic deals with online phenomena, it is unlikely that a lecturer will be annoyed if you have some Internet sources in your directory.

Create a bibliography in Word

Microsoft Word offers a function with which you can automatically create your bibliography. To do this, click on "References" in the Word bar and then on "Manage sources". You can then enter all your sources in the source manager by simply clicking on "New ..." and entering all the information about your source.

Once the source has been entered, you can insert it into your text as often as you want in the appropriate citation (e.g. APA or Harvard) as a reference. To do this, click on "Insert quote" in the reference bar and select the relevant source.

In order to create your bibliography at the end, simply click on "Bibliography" in the reference bar and select your desired format. If you'd rather format your directory yourself, click on "Add Bibliography" instead of choosing a format.

Pay attention to accuracy

Your references should always be given exactly as you found them. If you have quotation marks or dashes in your title, or anything is italicized or bold, you should include that in your bibliography. Also, don't leave out any subtitles or subheadings.

8 examples of correct references in the bibliography

8 examples of correct references in the bibliography

In this chapter you will find short definitions of the different types of your references (e.g. monograph, anthology) and suitable examples. We do not include the publisher's name in the examples. However, you should make sure in the guidelines for writing academic papers from your university whether you can also omit the information or whether you are advised to include the publisher. If a publisher is requested, a colon should usually be added after the place of publication, then you state the publisher's name and the year and close your information with a period.


Monographs are independent publications (from the Greek: "individual writings"). They are complete in themselves and deal with a special problem or question that is to be answered with theses by one or more authors. They also go beyond the current state of research. Thus, they differ from anthologies or manuals. Monographs are indicated in the bibliography as follows:

  • Elias, Norbert: About the process of civilization. Sociogenetic and phylogenetic studies. 8th edition Frankfurt / Main 1982.

Collective works

Collected works and edited volumes are often confused. The collective work is designed as a complete work and consists of several individual contributions that are coordinated with one another. However, the anthology does not claim to be completely consistent. It just fits in with a rough main topic.

In the following example you can see how you should include multiple editors or authors in your bibliography. The slash between the names of the authors and the order of first and last names are important.

  • Grimm, Gunter E. / Werner Faulstich / Peter Kuon (eds.): Apocalypse. Doomsday visions in 20th century literature. Frankfurt / Main 1986.

Articles in anthologies

As the term suggests, an anthology is a collection of texts in one cover. In contrast to the anthology (collection of text passages, quotations or idioms) the term is primarily used for scientific publications. The collected texts do not always have to be coordinated. They are only collected and published on a specific main topic.

Below is an example of how to correctly list an anthology in the bibliography. If you theoretically have to name the same author or publisher twice, just use the abbreviation “in: ders.”. If you have two places of publication, use a slash, if you have three or more, use the abbreviation [and others].

  • Kluxen, Wolfgang: Philosophical perspectives in the work of Thomas von Aquin, in: ders. (Ed.): Thomas von Aquin in a philosophical conversation, Freiburg / Munich 1975, 15-37.

Articles in magazines

Articles in journals (also called periodicals) can be found both in print and online in the bibliography. The information shown here as an example relates to printed magazines. The place does not have to be specified here. An example of specifying Internet sources can be found later in this chapter.

  • Alewyn, Richard: A landscape Eichendorffs. In: Euphorion 51 (1957), pp. 42-60.


Articles in a lexicon do not deal with a topic and therefore do not have a title. The term that is being explained should therefore be put in quotation marks. After specifying the term / title, it is either possible to use “, in:” as in this example, or “. In: “as was the case in the previous example for articles in magazines. The most important thing is to always stay consistent.

  • Ricken, Friedo: "Naturalistic Fallacy", in: Korff, Wilhelm / Beck, Lutwin / Mikat, Paul (eds.): Lexikon der Bioethik, Vol. 2, Gütersloh 1998, 733f.

Editions (work editions)

In the humanities sense, editions are attempts to restore certain original texts. They are often provided with information on reception, a factual comment or text criticism. Both the author and the editor are named.

  • Benjamin, Walter: Origin of the German tragedy. In: ders .: Collected writings. Edited by Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser. Work edition. 12 Vol. Frankfurt / Main 1980. Vol. 1. pp. 203-430.

Web sources

Truly reputable internet sources should always have an author and a title. If this is not the case, you should use the abbreviation o.V. (without author) and name the website as authors. Quoting internet sources can often be tricky. So here are two examples. Make sure you don't forget the date it was published and the date it was last accessed. Use as much information as you can to be specific.

  • Süselbeck, Jan: clay pigeon shooting. “Kritische Ausgabe”, the “Zeitschrift für Germanistik & Literatur”, presents six workshop discussions with contemporary authors. In:, No. 7/2007 (July 2007). URL: (accessed on April 14, 2012)
  • Spiegel Online (o.V.): fairy tale survey. Snow White beats Little Red Riding Hood. In: (November 27, 2007). URL: (accessed on: July 19, 2018).
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