Difference Between Reference and Bibliography

What is Reference?

When researchers write research papers, they cite or copy chunks of information, facts, and figures from other sources. These sources are not owned by the author, but he uses them as supplemental for his own research. In academia, reference is used to imply a source that you have cited in your scholarly writing. Reference is added to give due accreditation to the author and owner of the source and also to validate one’s own citation.

References are usually added at the end of a scholarly document in the form of a list. The reference can be anything – ranging from a book to a journal to a website. Any piece of information the scholar borrows from another source has to be properly referenced at the end of his work. In case he fails to do, it is termed plagiarized. The reference list is a requisite of every research document because it helps the supervising authority and readers to evaluate the work.

The most interesting thing about references is that they are added in certain universally accepted formatting styles. For example, sometimes the referencing is done in MLA format, sometimes in APA format. These styles are made to standardize the referencing process across the globe and also to improve the readability of the referenced sources. These formats encapsulate information about the source in a concise way.

What is Bibliography?

The word bibliography comes from two Greek words, biblion (book) and graphia (writing) – in the 19th century. A bibliography in academia means a sequential list of all written or documented sources consulted or used in a scholarly work. It includes all sources that a researcher cites in his research paper alongside the background readings that he does not cite.

The bibliography is also added at the end of a work in the form of a list. This list contains all books, journals, research documents, websites, et cetera that a researcher used in any possible way. A bibliography does not only include sources that are directly cited in the text of the scholarly work. Rather it contains every single source that is related to the writing of a research paper in any way.

In the bibliography section, the researcher or author refers the reader to a number of other sources that he thinks will be beneficial for the reader in understanding the topic. The bibliography is flexible and can incorporate almost any source. It is not necessary to include a bibliography in every scholarly work. However, adding a bibliography contributes to increasing the reliability and understandability of a work.

Difference Between Reference and Bibliography

  1. Reference is used to indicate the original source of cited sources, whereas a bibliography is a list of all relevant sources.
  2. References are confined to cited sources, whereas a bibliography may include supplemental and further readings as well.
  3. Referencing is done in certain universally acknowledged formats, whereas a bibliography does not have standardized formats.
  4. Referencing validates the genuineness of a text, whereas the bibliography is used to further the understanding of the reader.
  5. References are necessary to be added in every scholarly work, whereas a bibliography is not as needed.

Comparison Between Reference and Bibliography

Parameters of ComparisonReferenceBibliography
MeaningList of Cited SourcesList of Relevant Sources
ScopeCited SourcesCited & Supplemental Sources
FormatsAPA, MLANon-Standardized
FunctionValidation, Authentication, VerificationEnhancing Understanding, Increasing Insight
ImportanceNecessaryNot Necessary


  1. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=o1g95bB-ABoC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=references+and+bibliography&ots=Z8hqtOZdsj&sig=fiITslWyAzadUrY7VcweaKmHQNs
  2. https://asistdl.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/asi.20208