This is my first research and I don't know how many references I can use. So far I have collected 14. Is this enough? My research is about physics.

  • 3
    What do you mean by "references"? Citations of other work?
    – Buffy
    Jul 1, 2021 at 13:27
  • Yes, by references, I mean the quotes that I will write at the end of the research
    – Red Bel
    Jul 1, 2021 at 13:34
  • 4
    Is this for a term paper?
    – Ed V
    Jul 1, 2021 at 14:09
  • 1
    The first relativity paper by Einstein did not have references at all.
    – markvs
    Jul 1, 2021 at 17:17
  • How long is this paper? Is it reporting on an experiment or is it theory. A review paper? Jul 2, 2021 at 4:35

5 Answers 5


How long is a piece of string?

The answer is that there is no limit. You should cite as many or as few other works (papers, books etc) as you have used and built on in your research. Adding pointless citations to get your reference count up to some arbitrary number is silly and clutters your work with useless information. Similarly, using or building on someone else's work and not giving them credit via a citation is wrong.

Cite as many other works as you need to.

  • 4
    +1, generally, but especially for the first sentence.
    – Buffy
    Jul 1, 2021 at 13:59

Look at how many citations other publications have in your target journal or field. How many citations do your 14 references have? There is no hard and fast rule, but you should be able to defend that you searched the current literature and point out who has done what and other research that supports some of your claims. In engineering, we typically have ~30-50.

My guess, since you are asking, is that you need more.


You ask "is this enough?" almost as if there's a cut-off for the number of citations. There isn't. Just cite however many articles you need to so that you have actually referenced everything that you've used in your research.


People like to add references to make the paper look more informed. An advisor I had kept a huge list of references he added to every paper remotely related.


Obviously, you should cite any article where you have used their material, and exclude any that you have not.

That said, one should consider that there are several reasons why it is helpful to cite a paper! These factors might alter how much time you might spend on a literature review and what directions you spend your effort.

  • If you are publishing in journal X, it is often appropriate to have a citation to articles in journal X. This demonstrates to the editors interest in field and relevance to the existing literature.
  • Citing a paper means it is marginally more likely you will be read by its authors. If there are particular authors in your subfield of 10 or even a 100 researchers for whom your work is relevant or helpful to, a citation helps make them aware that you exist.

Again, you should not cite articles that you are not using.

  • 1
    "exclude any that you have not." This is not correct for physics. You can cite any relevant work. Jul 2, 2021 at 1:17
  • I would consider "using" a concept as engaging it in any way, even offhanded references. Jul 2, 2021 at 2:05

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .