Top tips

Use as many references as you need
You’ll need an appropriate amount for your academic level – this will vary

Reference everything you cite 
If you use an idea, cite and reference it

Ask your tutor
They may have guidance for you on how much reading they expect you to do

Students sometimes worry that there is an optimum number of references that they need to cite.

There’s no right or wrong answer answer as to how many references you need – it depends on how many you’ve cited in your writing!

The most important thing is that you don’t plagiarise. Make sure you include references for everything that you’ve cited in the text, so that it’s clear where your information has come from.

Depending on what you’re writing, you might have only a few. As long as they are appropriate for your level of study, and you have enough evidence to back your arguments, you shouldn’t worry. Lab reports, for example, might have relatively few references because you are writing up work that you have done in the labs.  

You can also look at the marking criteria for your assignment as that might indicate on what is or isn’t sufficient. If in doubt, check with whoever set you the work as they might be able to give you a clearer idea.

Remember, you are looking to provide proof that you have done the research. Citations and referencing point your readers to the sources you have used in your research process.