Reference list vs. bibliography
Reference lists (in MLA style called “lists of works cited”) contain a complete list of all the sources (books, journal articles, websites, etc.) that you have cited directly in a document. That means that if there are in-text citations for a source there is a reference list entry, and vice versa.
Bibliographies, on the other hand, contain all sources that you have used, whether they are directly cited or not. A bibliography includes sources that you have used to generate ideas or ‘read around’ a topic, but have not referred to directly in the body of the document.
Which to use
For most assignments at Massey University, you will be expected to provide only a reference list. If you have used any source in your assignment you are expected to say where you have used it by citing it directly.
Some assignments may require a reference list and a bibliography, or a bibliography in place of a reference list. If this is the case, you will be instructed to in your course materials. Some referencing styles (for example, Oxford style) always use a bibliography in place of a reference list. Some lecturers may use the term “bibliography” to mean a reference list, so if there is any uncertainty it's best to ask your lecturer.
Styles of reference list and bibliography
- APA reference list
- MLA list of works cited
- Oxford bibliographies
- Harvard reference lists
- Chicago bibliographies
An annotated bibliography is a type of assignment that involves a list of sources, but also a summary and evaluation of each source's content and purpose. For more information, see annotated bibliography.
Books and other publications often distinguish between “selected” bibliographies and “full” bibliographies. Selected bibliographies only list a few of the most important works cited. Full bibliographies list every work cited and potentially other relevant sources. Again, you will be told directly if you need to do this.