Elements of the reference list

The list of references provides publication details of the sources that have been used in the text.

Unless a numbered reference style is used, the sources are listed in alphabetical order (after last name of authors) in the reference list. Anonymous works are often listed under their title.

References, Bibliography, or Works Cited?

Depending on reference style, the list will usually be called 'References', 'Works Cited' or 'Bibliography'. As there are some differences between the use of these terms, it is important to use the one stipulated by the reference style used, and to follow the format of that style.

The term 'bibliography' is often used as if it were synonymous with 'list of references' and 'works cited'. There is one difference, however; a bibliography sometimes includes works used in preparing the text, although they are not referred to, whereas a list of references or a works cited list contain all sources that have been referred to but no other sources.

The word 'annotation' in 'annotated bibliography' indicates that the text has been provided with explanatory notes, comments or other kinds of extra material.

Although the format of the entries on the list of references varies between different reference styles and traditions, they contain the elements listed below (note, however, that not all elements are included in all types of publications):

For specific information about how to write bibliographic records, see relevant reference style.


The author of the book/article/etc. is identified by his/her last name and first name(s) or initial(s), depending on the reference style used.

If there are several authors, reference styles provide information on how their names should be listed. Some styles list all writers in last name-first name order, whereas other styles invert the order after the first writer.

The authors should always be listed in the same order as they appear in the source itself. Sometimes the names are listed in alphabetical order and sometimes according to the authors' level of contribution; in the latter case, the name of the main author will be listed first.


Reference styles differ in the way they reproduce titles, especially titles of articles. Whereas book and journal titles are generally capitalised and italicised in English, practices regarding titles of articles vary: some styles stipulate that article titles should be capitalised and written within quotation marks, whereas other styles recommend non-capitalisation and no quotation marks.


Periodical publications, such as scholarly journals, are published on a regular basis in instalments that are called issues. A volume usually consists of the issues published during one year, but the publication length of a volume may differ.

When compiling a reference list, writers must pay attention to the preferred format; most reference styles state that not only the title of article and  journal should be provided, but also the volume of the journal (or book, if it is a multi-volume publication) and sometimes the issue as well.

Place of publication

When books are included in the reference list, the place (city) of publication should be stated. In references to publications from the US, a two-letter abbreviation of the name of the state is often added after the name of the city.

Some publishers and reference styles from the US also recommend that the country is provided if the place of publication is located outside of the US.


When books are included in the reference list, the name of the publishing company is given after the place of publication. If the company is a university press, the abbreviation UP (for University Press) is sometimes used.

Note that in entries for journal articles, the publisher is not stated.


If the source is a text within an edited volume (such as a chapter in an anthology), it should be listed under the name of the author of the text used, not under the name of the editor. The name of the editor should be given in the bibliographic entry, however. For further information see appropriate reference style.

Date of publication

Whether it is a book or article, the year of publication should be included in the bibliographic post. If there are several editions and prints, the year of the source that has been referred to is to be used. Some references styles ask for edition information too ('2nd ed.', for instance).

If the source is a journal article, volume number (and sometimes also issue number) should be included in the reference list. Depending on style, these are written in different ways; some reference styles give the volume number in bold typeface, whereas other use italics or no emphasis at all.


Many sources are retrieved electronically and some reference styles, but not all, require the url (the Internet address) from which the source was retrieved. To avoid complicated web addresses in bibliographic posts, some reference styles now recommend that a DOI (document object identifier), if applicable, or the article provider, is given instead of the web address.

For more information, see

Some reference styles require that the provider of the electronic text is stated. The content providers of articles from the LU Library (JSTOR and EMERALD, for instance) are specified in LibHub.