In reviewing publishing guidelines prior to submission to a journal, it is listed that "References need not be cited in text." This is also listed in the style guide for the associated professional society.

While simultaneously, the Elsevier guide for authors states "Please ensure that every reference cited in the text is also present in the reference list (and vice versa)." Likewise, a previous question asked on this board received almost unilateral support for the one citation, one reference style.

My question is what purposes would there be for allowing uncited references?

Or alternatively, could someone clarify what is meant by "References need not be cited in text."

Edit to clarify: My interpretation of "References need not be cited in text" is that it is allowable to include a reference in the reference section of a manuscript without citing this reference in the text of the same manuscript.

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    While the language is a bit ambiguous, you have misinterpreted their intent. It is about how to cite, not whether you need to cite. Always cite. Whether you do it inline in the text or otherwise is the distinction intended.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 14:09
  • @ff524 your comment is helpful, and those are exactly the sort of examples I was looking for. Thank you Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


This sentence is present on page 5 in the IEEE guide at:


The guide gives an explanation to it as follows:

References in Text: References need not be cited in the text. When they are, they appear on the line, in square brackets, inside the punctuation. Grammatically, they may be treated as if they were footnote numbers, e.g., as shown by Brown [4], [5]; as mentioned earlier [2], [4]–[7 ], [9]; Smith [4] and Brown and Jones [5]; Wood et al.[7]

This clearly means that numbers rather than the author name (s) are preferred to be used in the text. When author names are used, the guide gives some examples on how to cite them.

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    Hmm, I don't think this interpretation is correct. I could see it making sense as a trick reading of "References need not be cited in text [form]", but the excerpt you provide clearly says "in the text". Like the OP, I'd certainly read that as the style allowing a paper [4] to be included in the list of references without ever being cited "in the text".
    – Anyon
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 14:05
  • You are correct that my question is about the IEEE style guide as linked in my question. Would you be able to clarify your point? Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 15:21

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