Documentation and Bibliography: Meaning, Methods, Guide

Documentation and Bibliography: Meaning, Methods, Guide

Documentation is the act of providing documents in support of a specific event. It serves as proof with evidence, lending authenticity to the information used in any form of communication. When writing reports, books, statements, circulars, etc., we frequently rely on information from other sources. Since this material is not our own, we may need to acknowledge it.

Sometimes, this acknowledgment is a legal obligation, and failure to do so may result in compensation suits in a court of law. Therefore, documentation is the recognition of the sources of information included in business communications.

When to Acknowledge

The decision to acknowledge or not acknowledge a source should primarily be based on giving credit where credit is due. If we quote someone else’s words, we must give credit to that specific individual.

If we paraphrase, meaning we use someone else’s ideas in our own words, we should give credit unless the material covered is considered general knowledge. Documentation is a courteous and sometimes obligatory practice. Therefore, whenever we use information from an external source, we must acknowledge it and provide evidence to support it.

How to Acknowledge or Documentation Methods

There are three methods of documentation commonly used in business to acknowledge sources of information. They are:

  1. Parenthetic author-date references within the text.
  2. Footnote references.
  3. Endnote references.

However, the last method is losing favor, primarily because the typing advantage it offers has been reduced by the advent of word-processing equipment.

Parenthetic Author-Date Method

In recent years, the author-date method has become the most popular referencing method in business. It involves placing the author’s last name and the year of publication in parentheses immediately following the cited material.

For one author:

(Calahan, 1984)

Horizontal communication is the diagonal exchange of messages either within work unit boundaries, involving peers, or across work-unit boundaries, involving individuals who report to different supervisors (Bartol and Martin, 2000).

Reference with specific page numbers:

The reference is keyed to a list of all publications cited (a bibliography) that appears at the end of the report (see Bibliography in the following section). If specific page numbers are needed, they follow the date:

(Calahan, 1984, 117-18)

Reference with multiple authors up to three:

If multiple authors are cited, the last names of all authors may be listed:

(Smith, Corley, and Doran, 1988, 31)

Reference with more than three authors:

If there are more than three authors, list only the last name of the first author and use the conventional “et al.” or “and others” for the other writers:

(Clovis et al., 1981)

(Francis and others, 1987)

Reference with organizational authorship:

When no individual author is listed, as in unsigned publications issued by a company, government agency, labor union, or similar entities, the author’s name is the organization’s name:

(U.S. Department of Labor, 2000)

(Ministry of Finance, Government of India, 2003, 31)

These references are keyed to a bibliography that appears at the end of the report. To find the details of the reference, the reader turns to the bibliography and traces the reference through the alphabetical listing.

For example, for the reference “(Khan, 1988),” the reader finds “Khan” in the alphabetical arrangement. If more than one publication by Khan appears, the reader will know to refer to the one written in 1988.

The Footnote Method

The footnote is the traditional method of acknowledging sources. In this method, the references are placed at the bottom of the page and keyed with the text material using superscripts (raised Arabic numerals). The numbering sequence of the superscripts is consecutive by page, by chapter, or by the entire work. The footnotes are placed inside the page layout, single-spaced, and indented or blocked just as the text is typed.

The footnote form may vary from one source to another, but one generally accepted procedure is presented here. It permits two structures: an abbreviated one used with a bibliography in the report and one used when no bibliography is present.

Abbreviated Form of Reference:

Abbreviated references contain only the following parts: (1) author’s surname, (2) title of the article, bulletin, or book, and (3) page number of the publication.

Book reference: 1 Mohiuddin, Business Communication, p. 2004

Periodical reference: 2 Mohiuddin and Mahmood, “Personnel to Human Resource Management: A Developmental Perspective Analysis,” pp. 287-296.

The Complete Form of Reference:

The complete form of reference is usually the preferred form of acknowledging the source of materials. It is a descriptive form of reference, with points separated by commas, and the entry ending with a period. Capitals are used only with proper nouns, and abbreviations are acceptable if consistently used.