How many citations is too many

Why isn’t there a clear answer about how many references there should be in your research paper? Simply because the number will vary depending on various factors and requirements for your research paper. It is impossible to recommend a reference number for every writing job. That is why we decided to define the main criteria that determine the approximate number of sources.

  1. Reason for writing the search. Whether you are writing a literature review, narrative essay, book review, or analytical review, the number of references will be different in each case. While working with different research papers, you have to use different sources to achieve your goal. If you only need a few articles to make a decision and understand the topic, in other cases you have to use many sources of information.
  2. The amount of information available. Sometimes high school students choose less researched topics that are difficult to write about. Such a topic may be related to a relatively new scientific field, to topics that are not under study, or to an innovative philosophy. In this case, you have to deal with a very small number of elements that will become the basis of your work. If the number of references you provide for your research paper is very low, check the list of references used for your information source and broaden your search.
  3. Limits and requirements. Although you may not find a universal answer to your question about the number of references in your writing, your professor can give you some very clear advice. Some professionals prefer to give strict guidelines for writing each specific document. Knowing your essay’s purpose, size, and topic, your professor can give you an approximate number of references to include. Also, the number of references may be limited if you are submitting your article to a scientific journal.
  4. The length of your essay. If your research paper is 3 pages long, you obviously use fewer sources of information than when you are responsible for writing a 15-page paper. The more pages you write and the more important points you include in your thesis, the more sources you provide.

Obsolete citations

Sources published several years ago may make a limited contribution to the mission. In some cases, the guidelines will state that all sources must be within the last 5 or 10 years, but where there are no guidelines, it may not be prudent to use multiple prior references. References to original and even planned articles are accepted. However, it appears that no additional backreferences will be needed and will not add any significant content.

The number of cited references may also depend on the type of task assigned. A literature review article requires the largest number of references, with all the ideas cited, as well as any subsequent extensions or contradictions of theories. Since the purpose of a literature review is to identify and report a variety of ideas found in various reliable sources, a literature review, or the literature review section of a dissertation, will have the highest reference level. An argumentative essay needs references to support the first ideas presented. However, since the purpose of an argumentative essay is to analyze and critique the ideas presented, with a discussion of different aspects of an argument, fewer sources are needed compared to a literature review, with a higher proportion of content made up of thought. original. and discussion A personal essay may not require references. The essay score can also affect the number of suggested references. For example, graduate students are generally expected to provide more citations supporting more in-depth research than undergraduate students.

Statistics on the number of references and citations

To give you a general idea, here are the estimates from two studies that have studied the citation characteristics of articles published in different disciplines.

According to Milojević’s study that includes research in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, robotics, ecology and economics, the average and highest number of references per article page was as follows:

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