The high-resolution optical birefringence study was carried out to experimentally study the impact of surface functionalized CdSe nanoparticles on the phase transitions of a smectic A liquid crystal 8CB (octyl-cyanobiphenyl). The birefringence data have then been used to probe the temperature variation of the nematic order parameter across both the nematic-isotropic (N - I) and the nematic-smectic A (N - SmA) phase transitions of 8CB + CdSe colloidal mixtures. With the inclusion of CdSe nanoparticles, both the N - I and the N - SmA phase transition temperatures have been observed to shift to lower temperatures as compared to the 8CB host, signalling the stabilization of the SmA phase. For 8CB + CdSe colloidal mixtures, the N - I transition is identified as weakly first order while the N - SmA transition remains continuous within the experimental resolution. From the detailed inspection of the optical birefringence data in close vicinity of the N - SmA transition, the upper limits for a possible latent heat for all colloidal mixtures have been derived. Also, the specific heat capacity critical exponent alpha values near the N - SmA transition for all compositions have been produced. it has been well established that the incorporation of CdSe nanoparticles to 8CB host leaves the N - SmA transition essentially bulk-like. A Landau-de Gennes type mean-field approach has also been used to describe our experimental data. (C) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.