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What Exactly is Bibliographic Information?

Bibliographic information refers to the information used to identify uniquely an item (article, book, paper, video, government document) you are trying to find. You may know it better as citation information. It creates a record of the item and allows you, and others, to identify and find needed material. Bibliographic information in an undergraduate paper might provide support for an argument, the source of a quote, and offer the reader a sense of the type and extent of material used.

For a book basic information would likely include: an author's name, a title, a publisher, a place of publication, and a date of publication. For a journal article, basic information would likely include: an author's name, the article title, the journal title, the volume, the issue, the date and the page numbers. Bibliographic resources (such as bibliographies, indexes and abstracts) collect and provide access to various types of information including books, articles, working papers, government documents, video and audio files, images, etc.

For more information on citations and citing, please see: Citing Sources and Resources.

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Identifying the Resource Type

There are two kinds of access to resources: intellectual and physical. Intellectual access usually means that you have discovered an item exists by finding a reference to it, generally in a bibliographic resource -- in a catalogue, in an index, or in a bibliography or other citation list. Finding the citation containing the name of the author, the title, publication information, and other appropriate information such as page numbers is the first step. The exact form and format of a citation often varies from discipline to discipline, and publisher to publisher but it lets you know that somewhere in the world, a book, government document, article, or other item, exists with which you might be able to answer your research questions. Of course, you still have the problem of achieving physical access. Physical access is achieved when you can view the item itself -- either it is sitting on the Library's shelves in some form (paper, film, fiche) or it is accessible online and you can read it on the screen, download it, or email it to yourself. Sometimes, online bibliographic resources allow you to achieve both intellectual and physical access, but first you have to find the citation and that means you will have to find an appropriate bibliographic resource.

A bibliography is a systematically arranged list of print and/or non-print materials related to each other in some way, frequently by subject, sometimes by gender, ethnicity, nationality, geography, and/or time period. Bibliographies, sometimes in the form of footnotes or endnotes, may appear in articles or books, or may be separate publications. Sometimes bibliographies may be called a reference list or a sources consulted list, or even take the form of a literature review. No matter what it is called, a good bibliography, directly on your topic, can make your research a whole lot easier.

Indexes and abstracts are frequently found together and serve as a particular kind of bibliographic research resource. An index is a systematically arranged list of authors, subjects, proper names, titles, etc. appearing or mentioned in a particular publication or group of publications. An index might cover a single item (such as a book) or a number of periodicals, government or institutional publications, or the like. An abstract is summary of the content of an article or other item. Usually an abstract appears together with a bibliographic citation. Specialized indexes and abstracts are often used by researchers to identify needed material which has appeared in their discipline. Abstracts from articles relating to particular subjects or disciplines, or from particular publications, are often gathered together into standard bibliographic tools known collectively as indexes and abstracts -- for example, Sociological Abstracts. Indexes and abstracts are generally defined by subject / discipline and format / content. For example, if you are looking for journal articles on psychology, you would have to identify an index related to the subject, psychology, which also cited material from journals.

Aggregator database is the term used to describe a database which offers access to collections of bibliographic sources. They are searchable simultaneously or separately.

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Finding the Resource

There are several approaches which might be used to find needed resources. Your first approach might be to identify the type of bibliographic resource you need. For instance, information on books and/or book-length resources held by particular institutions or organizations is generally available through a catalogue. For instance, Quest holds records of books and other whole items held in the collections of the University of New Brunswick. Other types of catalogues, for instance, commercial services such as Google Books, might provide you with a broader range of possible materials, although the depth of the coverage may vary. Such catalogues are often freely searchable.

Sometimes a user will be able to retrieve the citation to an item and the item itself. Public Access Full-Text provides pointers to such items.

Second, some publishers of journals, newspapers and other periodical titles have put up search engines designed to index, and sometimes abstract, individual titles -- in much the same fashion as some publishers offer a paper index to provide better access to a number of issues of a journal. Generally speaking, searching for information on a subject is usually more efficiently undertaken through a collective bibliographic resource. There are some resources which provide free bibliographic access to collections of non-book materials.

However, there may be times you would like to search an individual title or the titles of a particular publisher. There is full-text periodical material available on the internet, free of charge. Sites such as the Directory of Open Access Journals or a search engines such as Scirus, or Google Scholar may help you but will likely provide a mix of fee and free items. Access to many electronic bibliographic resources is governed by license and restricted to those users who are part of a particular community; this is the case with most of UNB's online bibliographic resources.

Third, you might look for materials related to particular subjects (for example, bibliographic materials relating to education). In this approach, you would look first for collections of subject material and then for possible bibliographic resources within them. Many of the subject pages linked from Electronic Sources and Resources by Type / Subject identify indexes, abstracts, aggregator databases, bibliographies and the like.

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This page copyright, created and maintained by Linda Hansen.
Comments and suggestions to: lhansen16@gmail.com
Created: 1999/10/10 Last updated: 2011/12/16
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