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What is the difference between a reference list and a bibliography?

difference between a reference list and a bibliographyWe, at WritingPeak, decided to answer one of the most researched questions that pop up for the students: what’s the difference between the reference list and bibliography? A lot of times, when writing the essays, dissertations, and assignments of the mater, the students can’t differentiate between these two concepts, thereby receiving lower grades for the final outcome. To prevent such a scenario from happening, it makes a perfect sense to delve into the fundamental difference between a reference list and a bibliography to make informed academic choices.

Going through the differences

Most of the times, a bibliography solely contains all the works that are cited throughout the paper as well as the ones that were used only for the consultation, whereas each entry to the reference list must be cited in the text. It’s worth noting that such a difference applies usually to the standard MLA and APA styles and could be a bit different, depending on which style you use for writing. At the same time, it may be helpful to define bibliography and reference list to clearly spot a difference between a reference list and a bibliography, factually speaking. Generally speaking, a bibliography is a listing of all the sources that are used for generating ideas about the assignment’s topic, while the reference list is only used for the sources that are cited in the text itself. A lot of times, it’s pretty hard to spot the difference on yourself, which is why more and more people research what’s the difference between a reference list and a bibliography because of such an interchangeable nature of both of the things. 

Academic rules regarding both bibliography and reference list

To receive a good mark for the assignment, it’s important to realize that both bibliography and reference list should be included in the paper that you are writing: it doesn‘t matter if you think that the sources are alike due to the strict regulations imposed on the professors. As a general rule of thumb, it’s much more convenient to cite everything you possibly can to avoid any plagiarism as well as to abide by the honor code set in the difference between a reference list and a bibliography. Sometimes, the professors themselves may easily answer what’s the difference between a reference list and a bibliography to avoid miscommunication with the students, however, at other times, a student has to research everything on himself or herself, which may pose some challenges.


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