The 200 Reference Problem

“I have 200 references in my bibliography! How can I remember all those details?! What do I do if my examiners ask me about one of them??”

The 200 reference problem is not actually a problem. It’s a not-irrational worry linked to being perfect, the desire to know everything and be ultra-competent, but isn’t something to invest attention in.

How can I remember all those details? You can’t. Don’t try. Look for the most important references and do your best with those. It’s likely you’ve highlighted them in your thesis, but creating an edited bibliography could help you too.

What if my examiners ask me about one of these references? If your examiners ask you about one you can’t remember off-hand, you can check your thesis. It’s there with you in the viva to support your discussion. So check it. But it’s far more likely that your examiners will ask you about something important, something you know, than a random paper buried deep in the seventeenth page of your bibliography.

The 200 reference problem isn’t a problem. It’s a nudge to look again at your references and figure out how to use them as part of getting ready.