Difference Between Reference and Bibliography (With Table)

Reference vs Bibliography

The key difference between Reference and Bibliography lies in the fact that reference means to mention someone or something, but bibliography means to mention a book, website, journal, or somebody by which they have researched.

Reference can be used for a thesis, while bibliography is used for research purposes. Reference is based on a primary source, but the bibliography is based on a primary and secondary source.



In scholarship and academics, a reference is a piece of information that is provided below the written work such as orations, reports, articles, essays, and books.

These pieces of information are those which the author relied on while creating the literary task. The reader is supposed to skim them to receive more clarification or independent verification of the facts contained.



Just like references, the bibliography is also a list of the sources of information which is displayed at the bottom of the page.

However, unlike reference, these pieces of information need not necessarily have been used or relied upon to create specific literary work.

Instead, they are merely those that are related to the contents in one way or another.


Comparison Table Between Reference and Bibliography (in Tabular Form)

Parameters of Comparison ReferenceBibliography
ContentsComprises the sources of the materials such as texts, books, websites, magazines, periodicals, and scientific papers which have actually been quoted in the book or essay.Comprises all the research materials such as text, books, websites, magazines, periodicals, and scientific papers which are not necessarily quoted in the book or essay.
OrderAppears immediately beneath the essay and above the bibliography.Appears below the reference list.
ScopeOnly limited to the materials and contents that have actually been quoted in the essay work. It is hence quite limited in scope.Pretty broad in scope in that it comprises those contents which have been quoted in the essay work and some others which are relevant but not quoted.
ArrangementA reference may be arranged numerically or alphabetically. This means the reference list is more flexible and broader than that of a bibliography.The bibliography may only be arranged alphabetically. As such, it is not as flexible as the reference list.
ContentsA reference showcases the source of the information such as a website or book followed by the year of publication or the time when you visited the web page.A bibliography, on the other hand, includes much more information than a reference. It contains the last and first names of the author, title of the book, the year of publication, place, and name of the publisher.


What is Reference?

The reference refers to those sources of information which you have used to make up your writing contents. The sources are the ones that you have actually quoted from.

The reference list appears immediately underneath your work and is arranged either alphabetically or in numbered form. In most instances, the reference contains only a few lines or extractions.

This is how a reference looks – Reference to literary work

What is Bibliography?

A bibliography is much like the list of references above. However, it is broader in scope by virtue of containing material which is more likely to offer more information but is not necessarily cited within the body of the writing.

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This list appears immediately below that of the reference. It is in most cases arranged alphabetically. Bibliographies are longer and more comprehensive than the references.

This is how a Bibliography looks – Citation of non-literary work

Main Differences Between Reference and Bibliography

Listed and explained hereunder are the key differences between the reference and the bibliography:

1) Bibliography lists those materials which have been consulted but not quoted in the work.

Reference, on the other hand, are those materials that are actually cited within the body of the literary work.

2) A bibliography is not expressly incorporated in the text.

References, as stated above, are expressly incorporated in the body of the text.

3) The reference list may be numbered over and above arranged in an alphabetical format.

The bibliography can only be arranged in alphabetical format.

4) In many cases, a reference is a single sentence, explanation, fact, or quote.

Bibliography in many cases though is a listing of whole books that you consulted while compiling your contents.

5) A reference is a single quote, fact, explanation, or other sentences from a book, article, or other published material used in a larger piece of writing.

6) References are limited in scope given that in many cases they are only simple expressions and extractions.

Bibliographies are more comprehensive in that they reference whole books for a large part.

7) A reference is in many times simply one or two words.

A bibliography is often very long by reason of showcasing the publisher’s location, publishing house, copyright date, title, editor or author.

8) Many books and publications do place the bibliography at the back of the text.

References, almost exclusively are placed on the page in which the content that is quoted from the very source is placed.

9) You will come across references almost anywhere.

Bibliographies are for a large part reserved for those complicated scientific journals, long history books, and other high-end scholarly materials.

10) References are often cited using the same font and writing styles that are employed by the contents of the book.

Bibliographies are formatted by bolding, italicizing, underlining and highlighting as need be.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About References and Bibliography

  1. What comes first References or Bibliography?

    It all depends on the platform where the work will be submitted. Mostly, references come first before the bibliography. This is because a reference contains only the items that you have cited and referred to in your paper.

    Every source cited is included in the list of references, which must explicitly contain sources that have been cited, unlike a bibliography. ‘Works Cited’ is sometimes used to refer to references.

    A bibliography, on the other hand, is a list of books or articles cited in the text with a brief description of around 120 words that explains the relevance, quality, and accuracy of the authors.

  2. Does a Bibliography include References?

    Since a bibliography can contain a list of sources that are not cited and may not be closely related to the texts in the document, it cannot include references.

    References are used explicitly for sources that have been cited in the document. However, a bibliography may include bibliographical references for sources provided in endnotes or footnotes.

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Well, we are now pretty confident that you have obtained the insight you need to reference your academic publications well.

In the course of our discussions above, we have made every attempt to explain how exactly these two concepts differ from each other. The ball is now squarely on your court.

It is up to you to now look into how best to devote the twin issues to your advantage. Still, need further insight? We are always willing to listen to you.

Simply let us know so that we may offer you the additional help you desire. All the best in your scholarly work ahead!


Word Cloud for Difference Between Reference and Bibliography

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Reference and Bibliography. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.

reference and bibliography
Word Cloud for Reference and Bibliography



  1. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter/apa/references/examples
  2. https://aut.ac.nz.libguides.com/APA6th/referencelist
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliography