Organizing a bibliography in alphabetical order may seem like a complicated task, but it really isn't. However, you must first know some basics on the subject. Even if you think you know how to alphabetize, you may not know what to do when you come across compound or hyphenated words. Also, you should know the basic rules of bibliographic references in order to know how to order your sources. Only then will you be able to organize your list in alphabetical order.
Part 1 of 3: Applying Concepts About Alphabetical Order
Step 1. Advance letter by letter
The first letter usually indicates where you should place your reference within your bibliography. For example, with the last name "Smith", the "S" indicates that it should go with the rest of the letters "S". Then, you must move on to the next letter, the "M". So you must continue letter by letter until you determine its place in the list of the rest of the words.
- In this example, the idea is to alphabetize the authors with last names "Sheldon", "Smith" and "Sherry". "Sheldon" and "Sherry" have the same first three letters. The fourths in each are "L" and "R", respectively. Since the "L" comes before the "R" in the alphabet, "Sheldon" will come before "Sherry" in the bibliography. Therefore, your authors will go in the following order: Sheldon, Sherry, and Smith.
- "Smith" goes last because his second letter, the "M", comes after the "H" in the alphabet, which is the second letter of "Sheldon" and "Sherry."
Step 2. Find the name of the author or the title of the work
If you have more than two works whose authors have the same last name, you will have to use their names to alphabetize each reference. If you have two or more works by the same author, you will have to use the title to sort the list.
- For example, if one author's name is Robert Smith and another's is Cynthia Smith, the information for Cynthia Smith's work will go first.
- If you have two books or another type of source written by Cynthia Smith, you will want to pay attention to the titles of each work. For example, if one of the works is titled "Bird Tales" and the other is "Zoo Life," then "Bird Tales" will go first on the list, followed by "Zoo Life."
Step 3. Consider compound surnames as one word
In other words, it uses the first letter of a compound last name to locate it within the reference list. Therefore, if you have the last name "Sheldon-Meyers", the idea is to consider only the last name "Sheldon" to order it alphabetically.
On the other hand, if you have authors with last names "Sheldon" and "Sheldon-Meyers", the short name always comes first. Therefore, on your list you will have "Sheldon" first and then "Sheldon-Meyers."
Step 4. Ignore punctuation marks and spaces
When you sort alphabetically, you don't need to pay attention to accents, spaces, or capital letters. You just have to keep evaluating letter by letter to organize your list.
For example, if you have the last name "Mc Murry" listed, the idea is to consider it as "Mcmurry" for alphabetical purposes
Step 5. Ignore words that are unimportant
Sometimes it is necessary to sort alphabetically according to the title of a work. In that case, the short words at the beginning are generally ignored. These include articles, such as "the" or "a."
In other words, if the title of the work is "The cat that could not sleep", the word you must use to alphabetize this reference is "cat". One of the reasons this rule exists is that there are so many titles that start with articles, that if they were organized around these, the sections would have too many references and it would be very difficult to do a specific search
Part 2 of 3: Apply Alphabet Basics to a Bibliography
Step 1. Use the author's last name to alphabetize a reference
In most style guides, the main way to order a bibliography is with the author's last name. If your book has more than one author, use the one that appears first, although you will still have to put both names in the reference.
- For example, most bibliographies begin with the author's last name, followed by his or her first name or initial: Smith, Josie.
- Therefore, the word you should use to assign it a place in the alphabetical order is "Smith."
- If your book has two authors, it is listed as follows: "Smith, Josie, and Roberta George." Therefore, her place on the list will remain the same, unless in the same book Roberta George's name comes first. Use the cover of the book as a guide.
Step 2. Sort an anthology by publisher name
Certain works, such as anthologies, have an editor as the main contributor rather than the author. In other words, when working with a compilation of the works of several authors made by one or more publishers, you should use the name of the publisher or publishers instead of the authors to order your list.
For example, if the editor's name is Jess Jacob, the alphabetical order will be based on Jacob, Jess
Step 3. If the book has no author, look at the title
Sometimes a reference does not have a specified author. If this is the case, you should use the title to sort the reference alphabetically instead of the author's last name.
For example, if the title of the source is “Cats and their sleeping habits”, the word to consider for the order will be “Cats”
Step 4. Order the works of the same author following a style guide
Sometimes there may be more than one work by the same author on your list. If this happens, you will have to place each reference separately, but the order will depend on the style you use for your work. If you're not sure which style your teacher or tutor prefers, be sure to ask.
- To order your bibliography according to the APA style, write your bibliographic citations following the APA style for each reference, but order them according to the publication date. For example, if a work was published in 1993 and another in 1997, the one from 1993 will go first on the list.
- To organize your bibliography in the MLA style, start with a list of references to the works of the author whose last name comes first in your alphabetically ordered list. For example, in a list of works by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice will come before Sense and Sensibility. Then you put a new reference but put only two hyphens at the beginning instead of repeating your last name and first name.
Part 3 of 3: Organize Your Bibliography in Alphabetical Order
Step 1. Sort your references
Before alphabetizing your bibliography, make sure the references are correct. To do this, you have to know what style guide your teacher or your school requires. Some of the main styles are the MLA (Modern Language Association), the APA (American Psychological Association), and the Chicago Manual of Style.
- For example, a basic MLA-style bibliographic reference looks something like this: Smith, George. Cat behaviors. New York: Cat Publishing House, 1989. Printed.
- In this case, the author's name is George Smith. "Cat behavior" is the title. "New York" is the city of publication and "Cat Publishing House" is the publisher, while "1989" is the year of publication. "Printed" is the publication format.
- If you used the Chicago style, the reference would look like this: Smith, George. Cat behaviors. New York: Cat Publishing House, 1989 ". It is quite similar to the MLA style.
- The same reference would look like this in the APA style: Smith, G. (1989). Cat behaviors. New York: Cat Publishing House. Note that this style only uses the initial of the author's name and places the publication date near the beginning.
Step 2. Organize your bibliography in alphabetical order manually
The easiest way to do this is to start with the letter "A". Find all the references that start with "A" and paste them at the beginning of the list. Organize them in such a way that they are in alphabetical order and then move on to the references that begin with the letter "B". Keep going until all the references are done.
Apply the alphabetical rules as you list your references
Step 3. Order your bibliography with a text editing program
Another way to alphabetize a list is to let your computer do the work. Put the references in separate paragraphs; that is, make sure there is a line between each reference. Then select the text. If you work with Microsoft Office, on the "Start" tab click on the button that says "AZ" and it has a small arrow next to it.
- You may want to look in the "Table" menu, next to the Sort button. There you can choose how you want to order the elements. Choose the option by paragraph and text in ascending order.
- This way, the list will be sorted alphabetically, but you will have to format your references with the appropriate indentations and formats.
Step 4. Use a bibliography generator
The last option is to use a tool made specifically to generate bibliographies. Put the necessary information on the generator tabs. This allows you to make sure the references are correct for the style you need and produces a ready-to-use alphabetical list.