How many references have you got!


Hi All

My thesis is laid out in self-contained chapters, therefore each chapter has a list of references (supervisor strongly recommended this layout!). The problem is that it is easy to see how many references you have for the literature review and hence how much ‘work’ you have done! So the difficult question is how many references should you have?

All thoughts appreciated.


Avatar for sneaks

erm, I really don't think you can think in terms of how many references. It depends on how you write and what's out there in your field. My sup thinks I over-reference, I find it easier to stick in a few citations, rather than being confident and saying "this is my point - I don't need citations because I'm STRONG" haha! anyway, I have about 30 pages of references for my thesis, whcih is about 300 pages long including contents pages, refs, appendices etc. But as I say, its a bad measure - its the critical thinking and in-depth analysis you need, NOT a list of citations.


Totally agree with Sneaks on this.


You're all wrong. The answer is no more, and no less, than 15, regardless of chapter length. If you put in too few, it shows you've done no work, if you put in too many you haven't read them all. Fact.


I agree with Sneaks.
There is no right or wrong answer to number of references and it will vary with the subject matter.
More references does not necessarily mean more work done over the PhD. When I write up I will have pages of references because as a science discipline I will follow others techniques to save repeating their discoveries. The key papers that will have influenced my work will be much smaller, and those will be cited and discussed more in the thesis.


As many as it takes!

I only put those in that I cited throughout the thesis (science based), which in my case was 138. I know I read a whole lot more than that though. My colleague had a mere 88 in his.

I was told that roughly 200 is "normal" for an entire thesis, but it really does depend on what you are doing AND whether these references are journal publications, conference publications, books etc. (a good portion of mine were journal publications).

As for your literature review the examiners will be looking for a good grounding and possibly specific techniques (or whatever it is you are doing), that they may feel important to your subject area, have been included. They won't necessarily be "counting" how many references you have and I certainly wouldnt get hung up on it!!!

If your literature review is lacking, I would have thought your supervisor would have pulled you up on it (or will do, with your best interests at heart).

Don't stress the small stuff. :-)


250 pages, 233 references. In general terms I think I was fairly thorough and I don't think 'over-referencing' is really a problem if the things being referenced are relevant. The main thing is that you don't reference badly or mislead the reader about the point you are trying to make and how it relates to the literature.

This information is fairly useless, though, since everyone's studies are different. My longest chapter was also the one with the least references. *shrug*