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Transkills: supporting transition to University


Developing a bibliography

Your supervisor should be able to give you some suggestions to help you start gathering together a list of articles and books to consult. But then it’s over to you, and there are several ways you can look for more material:

  • Carry out some speculative searches in the UL catalogue, using the names of authors or topics as keywords. This will usually generate far too many records, but if you sift through patiently you should find some titles which look promising enough to note down.
  • The UL catalogue will only list books. For articles or essays in edited volumes, you will need to use a bibliographic search engine such as Jstor, the MLA International Bibliography or WorldCat (or use the University Library's iDiscover catalogue).
  • You should also try a series of searches on the internet via Google or another search engine, as this may throw up bibliographies that someone has already compiled on the topic, online articles which are not in print, and material on Google Books (very useful in deciding whether the book is worth searching for in a library).
  • Every book or article you read will have a bibliography of its own, so check it carefully for ideas of where to look next.

Making notes on books or articles

It is absolutely crucial that you note down the publication details of every book or article you consult. Do this even if you are not yet sure you will use any of the material. Being methodical about this will save you a lot of grief at the final stages of preparing your dissertation: if you have missed out any details needed for the bibliography, you may find it difficult or even impossible to track down the book again before the deadline, especially if it is one you read abroad or it is on loan from the library. Use the following checklist:

For a book, note down:

  • the full title
  • the author(s) or editor(s)
  • the date of publication
  • the place of publication
  • the name of the publisher
  • the page number of every quotation or note

For an article in a journal, note down:

  • the title of the article
  • the author
  • the name of the journal
  • the volume and issue numbers of the journal (e.g. 10.2, which means the 10th year of the journal’s publication and the second issue published that year)
  • the date of publication (usually a month and a year)
  • the first and last page numbers of the article
  • the page number of every quotation or note

For an essay or chapter in an edited book (to which several authors have contributed):

  • the title of the chapter
  • the author of the chapter
  • the title of the book
  • the editor(s) of the book
  • the date of publication
  • the place of publication
  • the name of the publisher
  • the first and last page numbers of the chapter
  • the page number of every quotation or note

When to stop reading

It may be difficult to decide when to stop reading and start writing. You don’t need to have read everything ever published on the subject; on the other hand, you need to read enough to make sure that you are aware of the most important critical debates. 

If you are writing a text-based dissertation, an important stage in the reading and note-taking process is to go back to your primary texts after reading the work of other critics. Re-read texts, watch films again or refocus on whatever forms of artistic or cultural expression you have chosen to work on. This will help you regain a sense of their scope and complexity, and encourage you to start thinking critically about how other people have engaged with these texts.