I am in a process of making a paper camera-ready for publication. In the reference section, I have listed some works, which are not referenced in the text.

For example, can I write in the main text:

This result1 is cited from [1].
This result2 is cited from [4].

… and in the reference section:

[1] cited from here
[2] cited from here
[3] cited from here
[4] cited from here

I have not referenced [2] and [3] anywhere in the paper.

Is this paper is valid for publication? Or does it not affect the paper?


4 Answers 4


You have three options. I would consider any of them valid, but an editor might disagree.

  1. Remove the extra references and renumber if necessary.

  2. Put a note somewhere, say with the bibliography, that some references here are just background.

  3. Ignore the problem, assuming that readers will assume 2.

I think these are in order of decreasing preference, but I wouldn't object to any of them.


This depends on the journal's style sheet, but usually you only list the references that are cited in the text. Thus, I would delete the superfluous ones (and renumber the notes).

  • 1
    Indeed. Having random unused references in your manuscript is sloppy at best, and is an easy way to indicate to the reviewers that you haven’t proofread it.
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 22, 2019 at 23:33

It depends on why those "references" were present in the first place. If they're mistakes, get rid of them. If you want to point your readers to additional information, put them in a section called "Further Reading" following the References section. The style of the publication may dictate whether and exactly how you do that, but those dangling references do not belong in the References section.


Calling the paper "invalid for publication" is a strong term, but this is not considered good practice[^1]; it is explicitly forbidden in the style guides of some journals[^2], and probably a good copy-editor would catch that issue and ask you to fix it before publication. (Not all journals have good copy-editors.)

[^1]: First of all, because it doesn't make your intent clear: what do you want to say by citing those papers? They are a reference for what exactly?

[^2]: I suspect many journals, but I can't check

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