By chance, I happened to read this article and noticed that even though the author doesn't reference any other publication, there is a reference list.

Is this a common/sensible practice in scientific publications? Namely, when publishing, say a book or an article, is it an acceptable practice to include reference of the material that wasn't referenced in the main text?

  • 1
    Can you please elaborate: What is the nature of "this article"? It is clearly not in a peer-reviewed journal.
    – user9482
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 7:53
  • @Roland may bad: forgot the add the link. thanks for the comment!
    – Our
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 7:55
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    Wikipedia call Physics Today a magazine. That seems fitting. It's not representative of scientific journals.
    – user9482
    Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 8:01
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    This is not common in standard refereed journal papers, but you can easily find examples of this elsewhere. For example, Scientific American articles (and Martin Gardner's "Mathematical Games" column in particular) used to have references that where almost never mentioned in the articles (not sure if this is still the case; I'm mostly thinking of articles from 1960s through 1980s) and textbooks often have "for further reading" lists at the end (at least those in math and physical sciences, being areas that I'm mostly familiar with). Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 13:43
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    References that are included in a bibliography but aren't cited in the text can be useful for some readers, but many journals prohibit them. I suspect the prohibition is related to the prevalence of citation-counting for evaluation of research. It's too easy to add references just to up someone's citation count. If I felt that a reference is useful for the reader, I'd mention it in the text and say why it's useful, e.g., "for a clear and thorough exposition of background material, see ...." Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 16:26

1 Answer 1


My first thought was that the list of papers there should have called a bibliography, not a list of references. However the link given is not to the article, but just the abstract. The article cites these (at least most of them).

I should add (as mentioned in the comments) that research physics journals do not usually allow a bibliography, but only a list of references actually cited in the text. They are much stricter about this than are math journals, in my limited experience.

Bibliography: Reference List and Bibliography according to U. of Birmingham

  • 3
    Cute irony about having a bibliography... :) Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 21:52

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