Project Materials


Knowing the Difference Between a Reference and a Bibliography

Do You Have New or Fresh Topic? Send Us Your Topic

The Difference Between a Reference and a Bibliography

A lot of times, people, including students, tend to make a mistake when it comes to citing a material used during their essay writing or project assignment. People often confuse reference and bibliography to be the same thing. However, they are quite distinct features for citing sources in academic work.

So today, we will be stating the difference between a reference and a bibliography.

What is a reference

A reference or list of references is the part of a research or written work that records all those sources (authors, books, documents, resources) that were cited throughout the text.

The function of the reference is to give support to what you have argued and to allow the readers of said document or research to corroborate the veracity of the citations used.

For this reason, all academic or research work that uses verbatim citations must include a reference in the submitted document.

Characteristics of references

The APA standards, which standardize the presentation of written research papers, suggest a series of rules that characterize bibliographic references and allow them to be identified in a document:

  • Order: References are organized in alphabetical and numerical order, according to the surnames of the cited authors.
  • Structure: surname, job title, year, place of publication, and link if it is a digital document.
  • Line spacing: the line spacing of the reference list must be 1.5.
  • Position: the references always go before the bibliography.
  • Style: French indent (is the space left on the first line of the first paragraph).

Every time a citation is added to the research paper, it must be incorporated into being references. Therefore, all that has been included in the references is because it is cited within the body of the research paper.

If an investigation is based on previous works, these should appear in the references even if they belong to the author of the presented document.

References should be indented (this is where the first line of a paragraph is slightly separated from the left side).

What is a bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of all the resources that were used in the research. This includes books, essays, digital documents or audio-visual materials that have been consulted to support the arguments presented, although they have not been directly quoted. For this reason, bibliographies are also called “external references.” In other words, a bibliography is those books or documents that a researcher consults while doing research and are not directly quoted in work.

As the bibliographic sources consulted do not always serve to support the research, it is often asked to exclude the bibliography from the final document since it is not considered necessary.

There are no APA standards for writing bibliographies, so many times, we resort to copying the structure of the references. The important thing, in any case, is that the essential data of the authors or works that served as context for the research appear.

Characteristics of a bibliography

A bibliography has the following characteristics:

  • Order: It is written in alphabetical order.
  • Structure: surname, job title, year, place of publication and link if it is a digital document.
  • Line spacing: must be 1.5.
  • Position: included after references.

The sources consulted do not have to be included in the body of the work. If they are included as a quote, then they are references.

What are they for, and what is their purpose?

As we are seeing, bibliographies and references have different functions; all of them equally valid and useful. They serve to illustrate our work, to give it more rigor (that is why we are not the only ones who defend an idea), so that interested people can consult the views at a higher level of development in other more extensive or specialized documents, among others.

When to cite sources

Anytime you make a point that is for someone else, you should cite your source. In a research work, the background and conclusion of your work are mainly your thoughts, so you are not expected to cite any source. However, the aim body of work will be predicated on the ideas of other writers.

What is the importance of the bibliography and reference in academic work?

When carrying out an academic work, it is necessary to use arguments and sustainability of the content offered. Hence, the reference serves to guarantee the work’s credibility and durability; it is the guarantee that the work is not part of a single thesis. Still, of something supported by other studies, it is an essential tool in exposing a topic. There are several different opinions, becoming indispensable for those who want quality work.

The reference underlies the research, thus being the basis of all the work, allowing identifying the exposed information, thus allowing confirming the source from which it was extracted, allowing its use to be made whenever there is a need for research. It is essential to quote the original author of the context, making the work not characterized as plagiarism.

Using references and making a final list of them is not necessary for all the above, it is compulsory. Unless we are writing an essay or an opinion piece, where everything we say is originally going to be ours, we must resort to references every time we affirm something that we have previously read or known from other documents. If you ever doubt whether you should use a quote, think about whether what you are explaining has been learned already (literally, or not) or has occurred to you. If the correct option is the first, you should use quotes. Making a list of references and bibliographies can be very tedious and boring. Still, if you do not do I,t, you expose yourself to legal problems if someone realizes it, even if you have not done it with the express intention of copying or plagiarizing.

Comparison Table Between Reference and Bibliography (in Tabular Form)

Parameters of comparison Reference Bibliography
Content It includes all the sources made use of and quoted in a research paper It consists of sources that are related to a research paper although not quoted in the work
Order It is placed immediately after the content of the research work It is placed after the reference list used in the research paper
Scope It is quite restricted in scope based on the fact that it only includes sources quoted in the paper It has a broad scope because it includes sources cited and uncited in the work
Arrangement A reference list can be arranged alphabetically or numerically Whereas a bibliography can only be arranged alphabetically


Top tips about referencing and bibliography

  • Check your style: Take cognizance of the referencing style being used in your institution in order to get the appropriate information.
  • Watch out for missing pieces: To prevent your work from being labelled a plagiarised work, ensure that you fill up all missing information to provide a complete reference.
  • Make use of referencing software: Thanks to technology, referencing research work has now been made simple and faster with referencing software


At this point, after this discussion, we are quite sure you have gained the required knowledge to reference your research paper appropriately.

In this article, we have stated the differences between a reference and a bibliography. In our next post, we will be talking on how to reference using the most popular style that we have mentioned earlier; the American Psychological Association (APA) referencing style.

Not What You Were Looking For? Send Us Your Topic


After making payment, kindly send the following:
  • 1.Your Full name
  • 2. Your Active Email Address
  • 3. Your Phone Number
  • 4. Amount Paid
  • 5. Project Topic
  • 6. Location you made payment from

» Send the above details to our email; [email protected] or to our support phone number; (+234) 0813 2546 417 . As soon as details are sent and payment is confirmed, your project will be delivered to you within minutes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.