There is a small difference between a bibliography and a reference: the former includes all works consulted and the latter only those that are cited in the paper. Should we maintain this technical distinction when writing a paper?

Some journal templates require the title of the last section to be 'References'. Does this mean all the references must necessarily be cited in the paper?

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    There is a small difference between a bibliography and a reference — Not in my field, there isn't.
    – JeffE
    Mar 22, 2013 at 18:19
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    just for curiosity, are you aware of any field which adopts this distinction between References and Bibliography?
    – seteropere
    Mar 23, 2013 at 5:51
  • @seteropere: In thesis templates, it is usually Bibliography rather than References, so perhaps not all cites need to be mentioned inside the thesis.
    – Bravo
    Mar 23, 2013 at 14:46

4 Answers 4


From a practical point of view, whenever you send your paper for a peer review, they check if you have all citations both in your text and in sources. It means that "yes" they must be cited.

Saying so, there is normally clear advise from a journal how to cite and produce bibliography. You should do what it says.

At last you can always solve the problem by adding one sentence in your text: "Additional information about ... can be found in [your references]." With this sentence everyone should be happy.


Yes, they are different and should be marked as such. For my thesis, I am required to have both a list of works cited and an annotated bibliography. As mentioned, the list of works cited (reference list) should only contain references that match-up to citations in the text.

Additionally, my thesis also has an annotated bibliography as an appendix. Essentially this is where I can place works which may have influenced my paper, but may not necessarily have been cited in the text. Each entry also has an annotation describing how it is relevant to the paper itself.

An example of this, is that one of the books (which I read while doing research for my thesis) provided insight I used to prototype the testing framework for my project. I did not end up actually using anything from the book for the written portion. But, it did influence the project overall. Therefore I put it in my annotated bibliography, but not in my list of works cited.

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    This doesn't answer the question. The question is about writing academic papers, not about what your university requires in a thesis. Oct 8, 2014 at 11:47

I think this is just a misunderstanding about what a bibliography or reference is. If you insist on this difference perhaps you can cite a more reputable source on academic writing. In a paper, references on a subject that you think are useful to the reader, from which you are not citing specific results, also need to be introduced in the text (often footnotes are used for this). How else would a reader know what they are or why they should look at it. It is quite common to write for example: "For a great introduction on the subject of ... we recommend [1]."


Yes, all references must be cited. To skip the citation process is to engage in plagiarism. If you put a reference in your reference list but you do not cite it in your text, then you must ask yourself why is it in your references (since you actually do not reference them)?

In my field (business) you would never add a publication to your reference list unless you actually cited (in the text) from that publication. To do so would be to produce a bibliography which I've never seen anyone outside of primary and secondary school require.

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    "then you must ask yourself why is it in your references (since you actually do not reference them)?" - because it provides further information that is generally related to the topic, without being related to any specific statement from the text. The counterpart of this is the habit followed by some people of learning about a topic by just looking at the references of a paper to find interesting works related to a topic (without reading the actual paper text). Jul 7, 2015 at 8:32

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