Naming in a bibliography

So, how should it look? The bibliography, I mean. Is it the author or the work that is the most important aspect of the citation? In other words, how much emphasis should be placed on the name? Here are (most of) the possibilities for representing people’s names, let alone the rest of the citation information. Enumerating the types has helped me decide on a style for my thesis.

The default for the biblatex package is to place the first author’s last name first, which makes the bibliography look more obviously alphabetised:

Robertson, Will S., Ben S. Cazzolato, and Anthony C. Zander

This is a nice example but I don’t think it’s helpful for displaying the names more clearly. All last names first removes the inconsistency of reversing the name order of the first author only:

Robertson, Will S., Cazzolato, Ben S., and Zander, Anthony C.

In all of these “full name” cases, I’d prefer to use the European tradition of printing the last names in small caps for emphasis.

Will S. Robertson, Ben S. Cazzolato, and Anthony C. Zander

But maybe first names don’t matter, and should be normalised away to single initials:

Robertson, W. S., Cazzolato, B. S., and Zander, A. C. (*)


W. S. Robertson, B. S. Cazzolato, and A. C. Zander

With names in initialised form, it just doesn’t work to have mixed name orders: (The possibility of too many adjacent initials.)

Robertson, W. S., B. S. Cazzolato, and A. C. Zander

I’m inclined to favour the starred example above. Mostly because full first names aren’t always supplied by authors (or the references to them), so without the “initialisation” you’d get a mix of full first names and initials between different entries in the bibliography.

The counter-argument here is that bibliographic databases should always provide first names to avoid problems of author ambiguity, but this is a printed bibliography we’re talking about, not a bibliographic database. Nice to be concise.

And really, it is the work that’s important. The authors of the paper provide, perhaps, a taste of the authority the paper might hold, but whether it’s interesting to chase up should rest entirely on how it’s being referenced in the work in which it is cited.