I am a PhD candidate and when i'm writing a manuscript for a conference or journal i have the same question. Let's say my manuscript is about a topic A. When i'm doing my bibliographic research i find lets say 30 papers (or more) relative to the topic A. Should i do exhaustive reference of all of them in my manuscript or i am OK if i mentioned the most important of them or the most representative that proves my point? I have a feel i should include everything but maybe its a thing of my OCDish personality, because it doesn't seem every paper add something so different from another (at least from my manuscript point of view).

2 Answers 2


For a thesis it is normal to include a much more complete bibliography that results from a literature search. This seems to be what you are describing.

However, for a paper, it is much more normal, and useful, to include only those you need to cite in the work itself; those from which the current work derives. Don't send the reader astray from the advances you present in your paper.

There are a few exceptions, such a the inclusion of an especially seminal background paper on which the whole (sub) field relies, and certain review papers whose intention is to give a broad overview of a topic, rather than, necessarily, to advance it.

It is good, of course, to keep an annotated bibliography for your own future use.

  • ok, but if i want to show that my paper is better in A and B, where there 10 papers that have done things about A, and 10 papers that have done things about B, can i cite only some of them, like 3 from category A and 3 from category B? (considering they are very similar in between their category) Commented Apr 13, 2021 at 23:22
  • @ihavenoname well the aim of your paper isn't really to win a race. I hardly imagine a situation in which you must stress the superiority of your approach versus 20 others.
    – Alchimista
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 12:02
  • the supervisor's answer was: no, you dont have to include everything, just the one that proves your point, or something like that Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 22:58

This is something you should discuss with your supervisor. Conventions vary by field and venue, so your supervisor can give you more precise advice than random strangers on the internet.

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