Monday, August 10, 2009

Bibliographic Timelines

It is a simple idea, but one that looks useful

During a recent mid-term review of AMREF's Katine Community Partnerships Project, I started to create a bibliography of project related documents, with a difference. Normally documents listed in a bibliography are structured in alphabetical order, by the authors' name. This helps you find the document if you know the authors name, but not much more.

This time I listed all the project documents in time order, by the year and the month when they were produced, starting with the oldest. In the text of most reports referenced documents are usually referred to by their author and date, so it is still easy to find cited documents in this chronologically ordered list. The added advantage of this "bibliographic timeline" is that it also gives you (the reader and/or writer) a quick sense of the history of the project. Most document titles make some reference to the event they are describing (e.g. baseline studies, needs assessments, workplans, annual reports, etc), so by scanning down the bibliography you can quickly get a rough sense of the sequence of activities that have taken place. Even though there may be a time lag between an event and when it is documented (say in the next month).

I have attached below a graphic image of the "bibliographic timeline" that was produced this way. Click on the image to get more detail.

1 comment:

  1. In an email to the MandE NEWS email list, Chris Whitehouse commented:

    Brilliant idea, Rick. It's often the simplest ideas that make the most sense!

    All I would suggest, being the contrary kind of person I am, is to have the references listed in reverse chronological order, so the most recent would be at the top, i.e. would be more prominent.

    And especially where many cited documents may be from a single year, and therefore possibly difficult to find in the list at the end, I would favour the citations in the main text being made slightly longer, with the month given as well as the year, e.g.: (Copeland, Oct. 2007, p.17) instead of the standard (Copeland, 2007, p.17).

    Let's see how others feel, but yes, I think it's an excellent idea.