Citation Styles and Writing Formats

The Vancouver Citation Style

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The Vancouver citation style is the style formally used for making Recommendations in respect of the Reporting, Conduct, Editing and Publishing of Scholarly or Academic Work in Medical-type Journals, otherwise referred to as the ICMJE Recommendations. The style was developed in 1978 in Vancouver by medical journal editors.

In-Text Citations

How to place citations within a text: Numbers should appear in the part of a sentence where a citation appears. The originally-issued Vancouver style sheet does not indicate where in-text citations should be placed in terms of punctuation. Therefore, it is permissible to place citations before a period or after one. Just make sure you are consistent. 

Each reference number is placed in parenthesis with numbers generated sequentially following the order they first appear, including those attached to legends and tables as well as text. When the same reference is reused, the original number should be reused. 

You should number tables consecutively. Add a short title to every table and put a brief heading over every column. Make sure all tables are referred to within your text. Where data is taken from a different source, mention that source in the reference list at the paper’s end. Add any explanatory information in a note rather than in the table’s heading. 

Try not to use personal correspondence or communications as references, unless there is vital information in these that is not available through an external source. These may take the form of personally-held interviews, phone conversations, email messages, course handouts, or course notes, and so on, information that is not in the public domain. However, do not add these to your references list since they cannot be recovered by other people. Rather, you should cite the person’s name from whom the correspondence or communication came along with the date of the same in parenthesis.

Over time, sources taken from the Internet may be moved, changed, or deleted so it is prudent to keep these in printed version as a record. Additionally, be careful to critically assess how reliable the information is. 

What Should Appear in a References List or Page?

References: A references page or list makes up the last page of a paper. These are usually typed in single-spacing with a double space between individual entries.  

Numbers: References should be listed by number and not in alphabetic order. You should only list each reference once because the same number will have been used throughout your paper. 

Author Names: List every author by their last name, a space, and then their initials – with no periods; put a space and comma between different authors, and a full stop (or period) after the last author’s name. If there are more than six authors, list the names of the first six and then the words “et al” in place of the other authors. For books that are edited, put the name of the editors in place of the author’s name with a comma following the name of the last editor and the word “editor(s).” In the cases of books that are edited but contain chapters that have been written by various authors, list the names of the authors and the chapters first, followed by the title of the chapter, and then the word “In” name of editor(s), and the title of the book.

Titles: The initial letter of a title’s first word should be capitalized with the remaining letters in lower case. The exception to this rule is people and place names. Titles should not be underlined or italicized. If there is an edition number for a book, this should follow the title in abbreviated form and with a period after it e.g. 2nd ed.    

Information about Publications

Book publications: Put a period and a space after the book’s title (and add the edition if appropriate), and then the city of publication. Where a city may not be well-known or could lead to confusion, use the state’s postal abbreviation or, for Canada, the province. Or, in other locations, add the name of the country of publication, with a colon after it. Provide the publisher’s name as it is shown in the book, with a semicolon after it. Where the author and publisher are the same, just use part of the publisher’s name. For example, if the author is the American Medical Association, display this as ‘The Association for Publisher …’ Add the publication year, with a period after it. Where no publication date is available, but there is a copyright date for the publication, use the copyright date with the letter “c” preceding it, for example, c2010.      

Journal publications: List the title of the journal in abbreviated form followed by a period and space, year of publication (as well as day and month in abbreviated form where applicable), then a semicolon, volume number, issue number (within parentheses), a colon, page number or range, and a full stop. Here is a (fictional) example: Human Anat. 2010;801(1-3):30-5. Note: issue number can be left out where a particular journal volume is continuously paginated throughout. 

To locate the abbreviated form of a journal, check the Medline Journals Database and search by the title of the journal. If you cannot find a title, abbreviate the title of the journal you are using in the same way as similar journals in the Medline database have been abbreviated.    

Page numbers or page ranges: List an article’s whole page range when using journal sources, rather than the particular page you found information on e.g. pages 120 to 124 are denoted as 120-4 or pages 218 to 221 as 218-21. Do not give page numbers for books except 1) you are using an entry from a dictionary and 2) you are referring to a chapter that has a different author, in which case you should mention the page range. 

Information taken from online sources: Generally, the same information as applies to printed material should be used, but also add a retrieval link so that readers can find the source(s).   

The term ‘Internet’ should be placed in square brackets following the title of a book or the abbreviated title of a journal.  

Indicate the retrieval date with the term “cited” preceding it in square brackets, and after the publication date.

At the end of your citation, include the retrieval information in the form of the entire URL. While URLs do not normally end with punctuation, you can add a period if the link you are using has a slash at the end.  

Where there is a DOI, you can optionally add this after other retrieval details.

Add a brief note after the link or URL if information about special access applies.


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