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I have a sentence in my literature review that goes something like this:

... has only been thoroughly evaluated by a relatively small number of experts in the xx literature (author1992; author1994; author1998; author2001; author2009; etc etc etc etc).

How do I go about NOT listing every single resource/reference/citation. What can I write that accomplishes the point of listing just a subset of the references from the "small" total.

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How about "see author(year), author(year) as examples"? – Pravesh Parekh Feb 28 '14 at 9:11
Though I have come across a few papers which have mentioned something similar as a whole long list of papers (using numbering style of referencing). They cited 15 articles! – Pravesh Parekh Feb 28 '14 at 9:12
Is there a source out there, like a Wikipedia page, that lists them all? Then you could just cite that source. – CLockeWork Feb 28 '14 at 9:15
Or consider finding a review article that has discussed these papers. So you could say something like "for a review see Doe et al, year" – Pravesh Parekh Feb 28 '14 at 10:20
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Consider something like the following:

... has only been thoroughly evaluated by a small number of experts in the xx literature, the most significant of which are (author1992, author1994, ...).

By casting it this way you're not implying that you're listing all of them but you're also not just picking some at random. You are saying to your reader: "these are the best of what's out there", with an implied "and that's not enough, which is why I'm writing this article".

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I often read meta-analyses. What they do is:

  • explain how they searched for relevant studies (i.e. which databases or bibliographies they used, sometimes even which keywords)
  • give the number of studies they found
  • list the studies in the reference list

They never list any sources when they state how many sources they found. Instead they explain how they searched.

If the databases, bibliographies and other sources you use for your search are not common knowledge in your field, list them in the reference list and cite them in text when you explain your search strategy. For example, if you use the bibliography in the back of a book published 1765, you would list that book and cite it where you mention it in your text. Don't list or cite common databases like PubMed (but mention if and how you used them).

Whenever a meta-analysis claims that there is no more than they found, or an author wants to delineate the development of a research topic from the first publication to its climax and beyond to its decline (i.e. when it is important to accurately know how much has been published on a certain topic at a certain time), the authors explain their search strategy in enough detail to allow a reader of their article to reconstruct that strategy and evaluate it. For example, if they used a databases, they list the keywords they used for their search.

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