For journal article, does the number of references one has for an original research work have an influence on the reviewer? Like if I have say 11 references, in such a case, will the reviewer take it for granted that my work is incorrect?

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    I think this will depend greatly on field (down to the subfield) and journal to the point of being ungeneralizable. For instance in my field (philosophy), history of philosophy journals will want far more citations than contemporary analytic journals.
    – virmaior
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 6:36
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    Influence, yes --- like everything else that is written in your paper. Take for granted that your work is incorrect, that's an entirely different thing. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 11:06
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    Keep in mind the years of the references as well. I always expect to see a fair number of very recent references (last 2, 3 years max). It is not sine qua non, but its a factor. Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 14:46
  • It depends on the topic. If it is in my area, I really don't need the references to tell me whether your hypothesis/problem is new. Otherwise, I might Google base on keywords and do a cursory reading. If you miss the most relevant or seminal papers, then my confidence in your work drops. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 1:25

3 Answers 3


There won't be any hard minimum or maximum number of references that a reviewer will be looking for. In my particular field (engineering/robotics) and in my experience, 20 - 40 references seem to be common, though twice or half that will not necessarily raise any eyebrows. The most important factors are that the author is covering previous work sufficiently (covering keystone papers in their area of research, as well as recent similar work) while well establishing their current contribution, and that any included citations are relevant. Too many or too few papers beyond a reviewer's general expectation in their field will probably prompt a closer examination that these are upheld, but won't necessarily lead them to immediately conclude the work is incorrect. The correctness of your paper is an almost completely separate issue that should be recognizable by a reviewer who works in your field based on your paper content.

As a reviewer, rejections I've given due to lack references were because of specific missing references that, if considered, effectively invalidated the author's claim of novelty or reduced their stated contribution significantly.


"Number" is not an issue, it's "currency", for sure, and possibly (in my world, math) recognition of prior art/history. Certainly there's no algorithm that rejects an ms based on number of references. Rather, when I am asked to referee/review/offer-an-opinion-on an essay, if it expresses (explicitly or implicitly) ignorance of standard background, and/or ignorance of current events, then I have serious doubts, from the outset, about whether-or-not the author has done anything useful.


This will, as other people have mentioned, vary wildly by both field and the purpose of the paper itself. I will however convey a number of experiences I've had as both a reviewer and an author:

  • I did once have a reviewer comment on a paper that I was submitting outside my field that my references section was "sparse". Which does indeed suggest that some reviewers come into a review with an expectation of a certain (and unknown) number of citations. It was not their only, or indeed their most substantial criticism, so I don't know how much impact it had on the final decision.
  • I have docked papers I have been reading for not having enough references, but that is usually because they have made either an unsupported argument, or one where there is a sweeping assertion followed by very limited references. In these cases though, it's not as if I came in with this idea that they needed between 25 and 50 references or it's a rejection.

Note there are also some journal-level requirements - in my field (epidemiology) I mostly encounter this as a limit to the number of references outside review papers.

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