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The CBE Citation Style

The CBE writing style is often used by scientific writers, e.g., chemists, biologists and others in the field of science, when creating various types of papers. Different styles are used to indicate what informational sources a writer has used within a text and in bibliographies at the end. The CBE style is a “name/year” style and its main features are: 

  • Citations are shown within a paper’s text in parenthesis;
  • The citation precedes the last punctuation mark in a sentence where there is a reference.
  • The main components of in-text citations are the last name of the author and the year the work was published;
  • Name and year are separated by a space.

Citing Authors

Where the author’s last name appears in a sentence, it is only necessary to include the publication year in parentheses.

Where there are two creators or authors are responsible for a particular work, both names need to be mentioned in the citation with an “and” separating them.

Where there are three authors or more for a particular work, the name of the first author needs to be mentioned in the citation followed by the words “et al.” 

Where two works published the same year are cited in a paper and the authors have the same surname, the authors should be distinguished with their initials. It is important to note that periods or commas are not used in these cases and a space is not used to separate initials.  

Where two works or more by the same author and from the same publication year are cited in a paper, the works should be distinguished by adding a letter in lower case to the year of publication. For example, the first paper published in the particular year should bear the label “a,” and the second one “b,” and so on. The same modifications should apply to the dates of publication in a works-cited section or page. 

Where the author of a cited work is a government agency or corporation, you should create a short version of the author’s name by using the initials of the agency’s or corporation’s name. Where the organization or corporation name already has a well-known abbreviation, you may use that abbreviation as the short version in your citation.  

To create a matching entry for a citation in a works-cited page, you should precede the reference with the (short version) initials you used within the text, but within square brackets. 

Where no author can be identified for a given work, the work should be cited in-text using the initial or initial few words of the work’s title, with an ellipsis following in place of the name of the author.  

You should only use as many words as you feel are necessary to differentiate this type of cited work from any other work you cite. 

Using Dates Properly

Where a work does not clearly have a date of publication by which it can be identified, you may use a copyright-type date. A copyright date is a date that has a “c” immediately preceding it. If you cannot provide either a publication or copyright date, you can use the date the work was last updated, revised, or modified. You should then precede the cited work with the appropriate abbreviation e.g. “updated,” “rev” or “mod” and with a space, and enclose the reference in square brackets. Where a date is not available, you may use the words “[date unknown].” In all these situations, you should use the exact same pattern when listing the cited work date in a works-cited section or page.

It is acceptable to refer to several works within the same citation when using the Name-Year referencing system.

When citing several works by different creators or authors, the references should be ordered chronologically and separated within single parentheses with semicolons. When citing the same creator or author several times, it is only necessary to use the name once and list the publication years chronologically, with commas separating them.    

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