Reference list / Bibliography

A precise definition of a reference list is a list of only the sources you cited in your assignment itself. This is different to a bibliography which contains both sources cited in your assignment plus any other sources used for background reading but not actually cited. However, many people use the term ‘bibliography’ to mean ‘reference list’ which can be confusing. 

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Only one

Normally you only have a bibliography or a reference list, not both. Check with your lecturer if you are not sure what they want.  


A reference list comes at the end of an assignment and, in styles like Harvard and APA (name, date) is ordered alphabetically by author’s surname. The same is broadly also true of footnoting systems such as Chicago or MHRA, though when using these systems your department may also require you to divide your bibliography into sections based on the types of sources used.

Compile as you go

Complete your reference list as you go along, don’t leave it until the last minute. An inaccurate reference list can lose marks and may lead to more serious issues with plagiarism. Have a good system for recording your sources; don’t rely on having lots of browser tabs open as you can accidentally close a tab or lose track of them. Alternatively, use reference management software like Endnote which is supported by the Library.

Reflect on your reading

Keeping your reference list up to date is a good organisational strategy, but it is also a good learning strategy. Listing what you have read so far shows the depth and breadth of sources you’ve used: Have you relied too heavily on one main book? Are your sources current or more dated? Have you consulted enough journal articles?  


For more on how to format a bibliography or reference list, including a link to Cite them Right Online, see Brookes' Library pages on referencing: