Library Research Skills Tutorial About the tutorial
Referencing & Bibliography

How it works

Structure and formatting

To get the best use out of any software it is important to understand the concepts by which it operates. The using electronic resources section of this tutorial described how to use databases such as the IBSS. You can think of bibliographic software as a tool that will allow you to create your own database of references.


You will find that different software will refer to the parts of a database (or even a database itself) in different ways. EndNote calls a database a 'library'. For the purpose of this section:

  • database will refer to each collection of references that you hold together
  • record will stand for each individual reference
  • and field will describe each element of of your reference (see below)

Records and fields

Like all databases, yours will be made up of records. Each record will contain all the information that you have collected for one reference. This information will be arranged as a series of fields. A field might be any of the following:

  • An author's name
  • The title of a book or article
  • The date of publication

and so on.

For example, the following reference has 5 fields:

Loney, Martin, Rhodesia: White Racism and Imperial Response (Ontario: Penguin Books Canada, 1975)

  1. Author: Martin Loney
  2. Title: Rhodesia: White Racism and Imperial Response
  3. Place of publication: Ontario
  4. Publisher: Penguin Books Canada
  5. Date of publication: 1975

Repeated fields and fields with more than one entry

When you begin to record your references, you will need to decide how to deal with instances where you have more than one discrete piece of information for a field. You should look at the relevant parts of the manual or help pages for your software for guidance, but there are usually two options:

Repeated field
Use a new field, with the same heading, for each new piece of information. Eg:
Subject: Law
Subject: Tax
Use fields with more than one entry
Enter each piece of information in the same field, separating each with a special character. Eg:
Subject: Law # Tax
If you choose the second option, then you must make sure that your chosen special character does not appear in any of the information that you want to enter.

How records are formatted for printing

When bibliographic software formats the records in your database, to generate a bibliography, or to create a citation, it will do this by placing selected fields in an order specified by the citation style. Punctuation, and formatting of text in certain fields, may be added by the software to create the required layout. For example, a citation in MHRA format might be achieved with the following arrangement:

<Author>, <Title> (<Place of publication>:<Publisher>, <Date>)

Most bibliographic software will allow you to format the text font and style (eg size of letters, use of bold or italics) when listing references. However, you will most likely not be able to alter either the use of capitals or order in which you have entered text into a field.

When you start recording your references, you should decide on a standard format for entering information into each field. This is particularly important for author details. Consult your software manual for details of suitable formats.

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