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Works Cited vs. References vs. Bibliography

Knowing the proper term for your paper’s list of citations can be confusing. Do I call it a works cited page? Should it actually be called a bibliography? How is it different from a reference list? In this article, we explain what these three terms mean and how they are different or related to one another.

To begin, each citation style has its own way of naming the list of sources you used in your paper. Here we break down the differences in these list types, so that you can better understand which option works best for your work.

Works Cited

A “Works Cited” list is an alphabetical list of works cited, or sources you specifically called out while composing your paper. All works that you have quoted or paraphrased should be included. Works Cited is generally used when citing sources using MLA format (Modern Language Association) style, and sources should be listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Example Works Cited entry :

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford UP, 2007.

References or “Reference List”

A “Reference List” is very similar to a Works Cited list, and is a term used when citing sources using APA format (American Psychological Association) style. The page should be titled “References,” and is arranged alphabetically by author last name.

Example References entry :

Middlekauff, R. (2007). The glorious cause: The American Revolution . Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.


Bibliographies, on the other hand, differ greatly from Works Cited and References lists. In Works Cited and References, you only list items you have actually referred to and cited in your paper. A Bibliography, meanwhile, lists all the material you have consulted in preparing your essay, whether you have actually referred to and cited the work or not. This includes all sources that you have used in order to do any research. Bibliographies are often used in Chicago and Turabian citation styles. They usually contain a long reference that has a corresponding footnote within the body of the paper.

Example Bibliography entry :

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Citations, References and Bibliography in Research Papers

citations bibliography references

As an academician, terms such as citations, references and bibliography might be a part of almost every work-related conversation in your daily life. However, many researchers, especially during the early stages of their academic career, may find it hard to differentiate between citations, references and bibliography in research papers and often find it confusing to implement their usage. If you are amongst them, this article will provide you with some respite. Let us start by first understanding the individual terms better.

Citation in research papers:  A citation appears in the main text of the paper. It is a way of giving credit to the information that you have specifically mentioned in your research paper by leading the reader to the original source of information. You will need to use citation in research papers whenever you are using information to elaborate a particular concept in the paper, either in the introduction or discussion sections or as a way to support your research findings in the results section.

Reference in research papers:  A reference is a detailed description of the source of information that you want to give credit to via a citation. The references in research papers are usually in the form of a list at the end of the paper. The essential difference between citations and references is that citations lead a reader to the source of information, while references provide the reader with detailed information regarding that particular source.

Bibliography in research papers:

A bibliography in research paper is a list of sources that appears at the end of a research paper or an article, and contains information that may or may not be directly mentioned in the research paper. The difference between reference and bibliography in research is that an individual source in the list of references can be linked to an in-text citation, while an individual source in the bibliography may not necessarily be linked to an in-text citation.

It’s understandable how these terms may often be used interchangeably as they are serve the same purpose – namely to give intellectual and creative credit to an original idea that is elaborated in depth in a research paper. One of the easiest ways to understand when to use an in-text citation in research papers, is to check whether the information is an ongoing work of research or if it has been proven to be a ‘fact’ through reproducibility. If the information is a proven fact, you need not specifically add the original source to the list of references but can instead choose to mention it in your bibliography. For instance, if you use a statement such as “The effects of global warming and climate changes on the deterioration of environment have been described in depth”, you need not use an in-text citation, but can choose to mention key sources in the bibliography section. An example of a citation in a research paper would be if you intend to elaborate on the impact of climate change in a particular population and/or a specific geographical location. In this case, you will need to add an in-text citation and mention the correct source in the list of references.

citations bibliography references

Now that you have understood the basic similarities and differences in these terms, you should also know that every journal follows a particular style and format for these elements. So when working out how to write citations and add references in research papers, be mindful of using the preferred style of your target journal before you submit your research document.

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Citing Sources - References vs Bibliography

References and Bibliographies - What's the difference?

When you write academic papers, you will need to include a list of sources you used to write the paper. There are two main ways to list your sources, with a reference list or a bibliography.

References include sources that have been directly cited in your paper. For each source, you will have at least one in-text citation in the body of your paper. The citation styles that use reference lists include APA citations, AMA citations, and MLA citations.

Bibliographies, on the other hand, contain all the sources that you have used for your paper, whether they are directly cited or not. In a bibliography, you should include all of the materials you consulted in preparing your paper. Chicago citations and Oxford citations are two citation styles that use bibliographies.

Both reference lists and bibliographies appear at the end of a written work and are usually organized alphabetically. A paper can have both a reference list and a bibliography.

For more information on how to cite your sources, check out the De Paul Library's Citation Guide .

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Citing references

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Reference list vs bibliography - what's the difference?

Compiling a reference list or bibliography.

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citations bibliography references

A  reference list  is a list of all the sources that you have referred to in your text. A reference list may be ordered in alphabetical order of authors' names, or numerically, depending on the referencing system you are using.

If you have been asked to include a reference list, you may also include a bibliography which lists works that you have read but not cited.

A  bibliography  lists all the sources you used when researching your assignment. You may include texts that you have not referred to directly in your work, but which have had an influence on your ideas. If you find you have a lot of works that are not referred to directly though, you may wish to look back over your work and check that all of the ideas are fully referenced.

Compiling a reference list

A reference list should be ordered alphabetically by author’s surname unless you are using a numeric referencing system. In this case, sources are assigned a number when they first appear in the text, and are listed in numerical order.

Example bibliography using the Harvard referencing style

Abu Salem, H., Gemail, K.S. and Nosair, A.M. (2021) 'A multidisciplinary approach for delineating wastewater flow paths in shallow groundwater aquifers: A case study in the southeastern part of the Nile Delta, Egypt',  Journal of Contaminant Hydrology,  236, article number 103701.

Ashbourn, J. (2014)  Biometrics in the new world: the cloud, mobile technology and pervasive identity . 2nd edn. London: Springer.

Environment Agency (2020)  The flood and coastal erosion risk management strategy action plan 2021.  Bristol: Environment Agency.

Mintel (2019)  Sports and energy drinks - UK.   Available at: http://www.academic.mintel.com (Accessed: 5th July 2022).

Nasta, S. and Stein, M.U. (ed.) (2020)  The Cambridge history of Black and Asian British writing . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tiwari, S. and Ambinakudige, S. (2020) 'Streetscapes and stereotyping: streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr., and the geographies of racial identity',  GeoJournal,  doi:10.1007/s10708-020-10291-4.

World Health Organization (2020)  Salt reduction . Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/salt-reduction (Accessed: 24 June 2022)

Compiling a bibliography

Use a single list which integrates all the different types of source material you have used. The exception is where you have discussed a number of primary sources (such as novels, films, ancient sources, letters, historical documents etc), when you should separate your bibliography into primary and secondary sources. All lists should be ordered alphabetically by first-named author's surname or organisation if there is no named author.

Video on compiling a bibliography

Although this video focuses on compiling a bibliography most of the guidance also applies to compiling a reference list.

If you are unable to view this video on YouTube it is also available on YuJa - view the Compiling a bibliography video on YuJa (University username and password required)

  • Compiling your bibliography (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.
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Create a bibliography, citations, and references

Your browser does not support video. Install Microsoft Silverlight, Adobe Flash Player, or Internet Explorer 9.

Put your cursor at the end of the text you want to cite.

Go to References  >   Style , and choose a citation style.

On the References tab choose a citation style from the Style list

Select Insert Citation .

Point to Insert Citation, and choose Add New Source

Choose  Add New Source  and fill out the information about your source.

Once you've added a source to your list, you can cite it again:

Go to References  >  Insert Citation , and choose the source you are citing.

Insert Citation dropdown

To add details, like page numbers if you're citing a book, select Citation Options , and then Edit Citation .

Select Citation Options, and then Edit Citation

Create a bibliography

With cited sources in your document, you're ready to create a bibliography.

Put your cursor where you want the bibliography.

Go to References > Bibliography , and choose a format.

Tip:  If you cite a new source, add it to the bibliography by clicking anywhere in the bibliography and selecting Update Citations and Bibliography .


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Works Cited vs. Bibliography vs. APA References

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You’ve come to the end of your paper and now you need to cite your sources. Should you use a works cited page now? Or, is it a list of references? What’s the difference for a bibliography vs. reference lists? Knowing the answer for what citation format to use comes down to the topic and whether your paper is MLA, APA or Chicago style. Using this knowledge, learn if you should use a bibliography vs. works cited or APA references.  

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Using MLA Works Cited

Usually, in high school English and even many college classes, your teacher will tell you to use MLA style . MLA, which stands for Modern Language Association , is used when writing about language, literature and other humanities subjects. MLA format uses a “works cited” page.

Works cited is a reference list of all the sources you actually used while writing your paper. You’ll list your citations in alphabetical order. Also, remember that you’ll create a works cited in addition to  parenthetical citations used after paraphrased or quoted information that includes the author and page.

An example of a works cited page looks like this:

Works Cited

Lee, Harper. To Kill A Mockingbird . Cornerstone, 1989.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time . Penguin Press, 2016.

When to Use APA Style References

In college, particularly in the social and behavioral sciences, such as psychology and sociology, you may be required to format your paper in the APA style . APA, which stands for American Psychology Association, uses a simple author-date citation style for in-text citations and a “references” page at the end.

Much like the MLA works cited, the APA references will include all the sources that you cited in your paper. So, what that means is that information for every quote cited in your paper needs to appear in your list of references.  

References will look like:

Lee, H. (1989).  To Kill A Mockingbird.  Cornerstone.

Smith, Z. (2016). Swing Time. Penguin Press.

What’s the Difference: Bibliography vs. Reference List?

A bibliography, on the other hand, is a list of all the sources you consulted to write your paper. Even if you did not use them directly in your paper, you’ll still list them in your bibliography. This is a key difference between works cited and bibliography. Keep this in mind when you’re deciding between using a bibliography vs. reference list for your paper.

In order to make sources easier to find, you may section your bibliography by author, type of work, online sources or other designations. Chicago style requires a “bibliography.”

Chicago Style Bibliography Example

Generally, when you are writing in fields such as history, you will create a bibliography using the Chicago notes-biblio style of citation.

Check out an example of a bibliography citation list :


Lee, H.  To Kill A Mockingbird.  London, Eng: Cornerstone, 1989.

Smith, Zadie.  Swing Time . New York: Penguin Press, 2016.

MLA, APA & Annotated Bibliographies

Although you use reference lists and work cited lists in MLA and APA style, you may also create bibliographies. Your teacher may ask you to develop an annotated bibliography , or you may include a bibliography with your MLA or APA style school research paper. 

You will label your bibliography in MLA style as a “works consulted” page. APA style uses the term “bibliography.”

References, Works Cited or Bibliography?

Smiling girl student looking at bibliography vs works cited on a computer with her teacher

MLA’s work cited page and APA’s references are reference lists, not bibliographies. The big difference is that references and works cited are lists of sources you have quoted or paraphrased within your school paper. Each entry in the body of your paper matches up with information in your reference list.  While the exact format of works cited vs. references entries will vary, the main objective is the same.

But, what about a bibliography vs. reference lists?  In a bibliography, you will be citing every source you consulted. That’s the main thing to keep in mind when comparing a bibliography vs. works cited lists.

Works Cited, Works Referenced

It may seem confusing, but once you understand the basic differences between a works cited in MLA style, APA references or bibliography, you will have a good grasp on completing your research project. Paying attention to formatting your paper in the correct citation style will make your teacher happy. You are now well on your way to an “A” research paper.

In-Text and Parenthetical Citations

Types of Bibliography Styles

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How do I write a reference list or bibliography?

Check your style Make sure you know what style you need to use to make sure you have the right information

Look for missing information You need your references to be complete, so check that there are no gaps

Use referencing software This will make the whole process easier and quicker

Referencing is a two-part process. In addition to the citations within the text, you also need a list with a full reference for each source you have used. This list should contain all the information needed to find each piece of research. Correct citing and referencing should guide your reader to the sources of your information and evidence .

What's the difference between a reference list and a bibliography?

Reference list.

A reference list is a list of everything that you have cited in your work.

The list will be drawn from everything that you have either paraphrased or quoted in your assignment.


This is a list of everything that you have cited in your work and any other sources that you might have consulted during your research but have chosen not to cite in the assignment.

Whether you are asked to provide a reference list or a bibliography, both should provide accurate and full references. You need to give enough information that people can easily find your reference. It will vary depending on the type of material you need to reference, but you will always need to include the author, date of publication and title.

For books, you’ll need to include information on the publisher. For journals you’ll need to include facts on the journal itself - journal title and volume, issue and page numbers. For other types of reference you’ll need different pieces of information.

The more academic work you read, the more you will get used to recognising different types of reference.

The easiest thing to do is use some reference management software. For undergraduates, we suggest RefWorks . RefWorks is available online and free for you to use. It will manage the references for you but you’ll still need to make sure that the information that you put in is accurate.

The information you need to include in your reference will vary according to the style you’re using – make sure you know which style your department uses.

In the Library we support two styles, Harvard and Vancouver.

Referencing styles

Harvard referencing style

Harvard style

Vancouver referencing style

Vancouver style

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  • Harvard Style Bibliography | Format & Examples

Harvard Style Bibliography | Format & Examples

Published on 1 May 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on 7 November 2022.

In Harvard style , the bibliography or reference list provides full references for the sources you used in your writing.

  • A reference list consists of entries corresponding to your in-text citations .
  • A bibliography sometimes also lists sources that you consulted for background research, but did not cite in your text.

The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. If in doubt about which to include, check with your instructor or department.

The information you include in a reference varies depending on the type of source, but it usually includes the author, date, and title of the work, followed by details of where it was published. You can automatically generate accurate references using our free reference generator:

Harvard Reference Generator

Table of contents

Formatting a harvard style bibliography, harvard reference examples, referencing sources with multiple authors, referencing sources with missing information, frequently asked questions about harvard bibliographies.

Sources are alphabetised by author last name. The heading ‘Reference list’ or ‘Bibliography’ appears at the top.

Each new source appears on a new line, and when an entry for a single source extends onto a second line, a hanging indent is used:

Harvard bibliography

Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.

Reference list or bibliography entries always start with the author’s last name and initial, the publication date and the title of the source. The other information required varies depending on the source type. Formats and examples for the most common source types are given below.

  • Entire book
  • Book chapter
  • Translated book
  • Edition of a book

Journal articles

  • Print journal
  • Online-only journal with DOI
  • Online-only journal without DOI
  • General web page
  • Online article or blog
  • Social media post

Newspapers and magazines

  • Newspaper article
  • Magazine article

When a source has up to three authors, list all of them in the order their names appear on the source. If there are four or more, give only the first name followed by ‘ et al. ’:

Sometimes a source won’t list all the information you need for your reference. Here’s what to do when you don’t know the publication date or author of a source.

Some online sources, as well as historical documents, may lack a clear publication date. In these cases, you can replace the date in the reference list entry with the words ‘no date’. With online sources, you still include an access date at the end:

When a source doesn’t list an author, you can often list a corporate source as an author instead, as with ‘Scribbr’ in the above example. When that’s not possible, begin the entry with the title instead of the author:

Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:

  • A reference list only includes sources cited in the text – every entry corresponds to an in-text citation .
  • A bibliography also includes other sources which were consulted during the research but not cited.

In Harvard referencing, up to three author names are included in an in-text citation or reference list entry. When there are four or more authors, include only the first, followed by ‘ et al. ’

In Harvard style referencing , to distinguish between two sources by the same author that were published in the same year, you add a different letter after the year for each source:

  • (Smith, 2019a)
  • (Smith, 2019b)

Add ‘a’ to the first one you cite, ‘b’ to the second, and so on. Do the same in your bibliography or reference list .

To create a hanging indent for your bibliography or reference list :

  • Highlight all the entries
  • Click on the arrow in the bottom-right corner of the ‘Paragraph’ tab in the top menu.
  • In the pop-up window, under ‘Special’ in the ‘Indentation’ section, use the drop-down menu to select ‘Hanging’.
  • Then close the window with ‘OK’.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

Caulfield, J. (2022, November 07). Harvard Style Bibliography | Format & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved 5 December 2023, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/referencing/harvard-bibliography/

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Harvard: Reference List and Bibliography

A version of the Harvard (author-date) System of referencing has been adopted as the standard for the presentation of academic text at the University of Birmingham.  The examples on this page refer to this version, as found on the  Cite Them Right Online  website.  For detailed guides on how to reference and cite different sources see the right-hand side panel. 

How to list your references

In the Harvard (author-date) System the list of references is arranged alphabetically by author's surname, year (and letter, if necessary) and is placed at the end of the work.

A reference list is the detailed list of references that are cited in your work.   A bibliography is a detailed list of references cited in your work, plus the background readings or other material that you may have read, but not actually cited.  Different courses may require just a reference list, just a bibliography, or even both.  It is better to check with your tutor first.

Example of a reference list

Banerjee, A. and Watson, T.F. (2011)  Pickard’s manual of operative dentistry.  9th edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Davidson, A. (2013) ‘The Saudi Marathon Man’,  The New Yorker,  16 April. Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-saudi-marathon-man (Accessed: 22 June 2015).

Guy, J. (2001)  The view across the river: Harriette Colenso and the Zulu struggle against imperialism.  Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia.

Hislop, V. (2014)  The sunrise.  Available at  http://www.amazon.co.uk/kindlestore  (Downloaded: 17 June 2015).

Homer (1997)  The Iliad.  Translated by J. Davies. Introduction and notes by D. Wright. London: Dover Publications.

Knapik, J. J., Cosio-Lima, L. M., and Reynolds, K. L. (2015) ‘Efficacy of functional movement screening for predicting injuries in coast guard cadets’,  The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 29 (5), pp. 1157-1162.  EDUC 1028: E-learning.  Available at:  http://intranet.bir.ac.uk  (Accessed: 25 June 2015).

Lucas, G. (2004)  The wonders of the Universe.  2nd edn. Edited by Frederick Jones, James Smith and Tony Bradley. London: Smiths.

Medicine in old age  (1985) 2nd edn. London: British Medical Association.

‘Rush (band)’ (2015)  Wikipedia.  Available at  https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Rush_(band)  (Accessed: 18 June 2015).

Example of a bibliography

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (1994)  Epi Info  (Version 6) [Computer program]. Available at  http://www.cdcp.com/download.html  (Accessed: 23 June 2015).

Gregory, S. (1970)  English military intervention in the Dutch revolt.  B.A. Thesis. University of Birmingham. Available at:  http://findit.bham.ac.uk/  (Accessed: 18 June 2015).

Jones, B., (1997) Methods in tumour research.  National Agency for Tumour Research,  volume. 7.

Peart, N. (1976)  Something for Nothing.  Toronto: Toronto Sound Studios.

Rush (2015) [Bishopthorpe Social Club. 29 March].

The University of Birmingham (2010)  The University of Birmingham experience.  Available at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLxV5L6IaFA  (Accessed: 18 June 2015).

Style notes

  • The date of publication always follows the author(s) name(s).
  • All authors’/editors’ names are given in the reference list (not matter how many there are).
  • If submitting a manuscript for publication, formatting conventions may be stipulated by the publisher. Always check with the publisher before submitting your work. 

Further help

  • If in doubt, consult the  Cite Them Right Online  website.

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    The citation styles that use reference lists include APA citations, AMA citations, and MLA citations. Bibliographies, on the other hand, contain

  7. Understanding Citations vs. References

    Each in-text citation connects to a source citation in your references. References will be found at the end of the work. They are on their own page with a title

  8. Compiling a reference list or bibliography

    Compiling a reference list. A reference list should be ordered alphabetically by author's surname unless you are using a numeric referencing

  9. Create a bibliography, citations, and references

    Create a bibliography, citations, and references · Put your cursor at the end of the text you want to cite. · Go to References > Style, and choose a citation

  10. Reference lists versus bibliographies

    A reference list contains works that specifically support the ideas, claims, and concepts in a paper; in contrast, a bibliography provides works for

  11. Works Cited vs. Bibliography vs. APA References

    Works cited is a reference list of all the sources you actually used while writing your paper. You'll list your citations in alphabetical order. Also, remember

  12. How do I write a reference list or bibliography?

    You need to give enough information that people can easily find your reference. It will vary depending on the type of material you need to reference, but you

  13. Harvard Style Bibliography

    A Harvard reference list or bibliography is an alphabetised list of all your sources. Different information is included for each source

  14. Harvard: reference list and bibliography

    How to list your references. In the Harvard (author-date) System the list of references is arranged alphabetically by author's surname, year (and letter, if