Q: Is there a limit to the number of references we can include in an article?

Detailed Question -

Is there a limit to the number of references we can make in an article? Is there a limit to references to other articles we can make? If so, how many?

1 Answer to this question

Some journals put a limit on the number of references, depending on the category of the contribution. Ambio, for example, allows no more than 10 references for Comments (which cannot be longer than 1000 words), no more than 60 references for Research Articles or Perspectives (each no longer than 6000 words), and no more than 100 references for Reviews (no longer than 9000 words). Canadian Journal of Forestry Research requests authors “to cite only the most pertinent literature and to not cite more than one article in support of a single point.”

Review articles, by definition, will cite more references than most other types of contributions, whereas a case study may cite only very few. Incidentally, self-citations (references to papers published by a given journal in a paper appearing in the same journal) amounting to more than 10% often raise suspicions of the journal in question trying to boost its impact factor (IF).

Apart from such considerations, it is difficult to place a limit on the references, although reviewers may point to superfluous or outdated or irrelevant references. For additional information, you may refer to this previous query by another researcher: What is the standard number of references a paper should have?

To sum up, you may consult the journal’s author guidelines for specific limits, if any. If not, and if you think that you have included too many references, see if you can eliminate some.

Hope that helps. All the best for your paper!

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