Citation & References

Mechanical aspects of citations and references

Citation & References

Citations in-text

The Vancouver referencing style and the Harvard referencing style are the two referencing formats most frequently employed in scientific writing. The primary difference between the two styles is how references are provided in the running text.

1. Citations by names of authors, the Harvard system: references arranged alphabetically at the end.

Eg: There are widespread concerns that the post-industrial process of economic change comes with increasing labor market polarisation, driven by the changing composition of jobs (Autor et al., 2006; Goos and Manning, 2007; Goos et al., 2009).

2. Citations by numbers, the Vancouver system: numbered list of references at the end.

Eg: Peer review is a major mechanism for selecting significant and reliable scientific contributions from among the growing number of dubious submissions to scholarly journals. In addition, comments and recommendations from reviewers contribute to improving the reviewed contributions.1              

Sometimes, Citations in text, both Harvard and Vancouver are combined.

Eg: journals for research and 41% for teaching, reported Tenopir and King. (Tenopir and King, 2005, P.802)¹.

Details for  Vancouver referencing style

  • Position of in-text citation can be normal (inline) or superscripts and its posture can be normal (roman) or italics.
  • There can be no enclosure or round brackets (parentheses) or square brackets and in-text can be placed before punctuation or after.
  • The in-text citation can be numerical in sequence or out of sequence (because references are arranged alphabetically by author).                                               

Details for Harvard referencing style

The following details should be taken care and it can vary based on your target journal.

  • Check how many author names before ‘et al.’: two, three, six, … are specified by the target journal.
  • Ensure that et al. or et al. (in italics) or not. And also note that et (Latin for ‘and’) is never followed by a full stop.
  • Check Author(s), year OR Author(s) year specified in target journal.
  • Multiple citations can be alphabetical, chronological, or reverse chronological.

Example: Harvard-style citations

Harvard-style citations permit only the last names (family names or surnames) of authors, neither first names nor initials. However, use initials to separate authors with the same last name when the year is also the same, as in the following example.

It was established (M lyer, 2014) that although rural Indian households use LPG, they do not replace fuelwood. Therefore, the better option to decrease the land required for cooking-fuel by using an improved cookstoves, which can reduce  fuelwood use by one-third (R D lyer, 2014).

 Sample instructions

Following are some of the sample instructions/ examples preferably used in most journals. As previously said, don’t forget to stick on to your target journal.

  • Relevant instructions can be from Ear and Hearing (based on APA style)
  • Follow a name-year system without a comma between the “et al.” and year (e.g., Hampshire et al. 2013) or between a single author’s last name and the year (e.g., Brown 2011) unless there are multiple references (e.g., Stevenson 2008, 2012).
  • Multiple citations in chronological order (Smith 1994; Jones et al. 1995)
  • First author’s last name plus “et al.” for references with 3 or more authors (e.g., Dorn et al. 1998)  
  • Do not use commas before “et al.”
  • Use “and” in the case of direct references, e.g., “Brown and Tom (1995) stated…” and “&” for indirect (e.g., Brown & Tom 1995).
  •  Citations can be in chronological order. Eg: (Treisman and Zhang, 2006; Hollingworth, 2007; Richard et al., 2008; Logie et al., 2011).
  • Citations can be in reverse chronological order. Eg: (Weaver and Nemeth 2007; Onkar et al. 2007; Shukla et al. 2005; Shukla et al. 2004).
  • Citations in alphabetical order Plant domestication is a very popular topic, subject to multidisciplinary research methodologies (Abbo et al. 2012; Allaby 2010; Burger et al. 2008; Diamond 2002; Doebley et al. 2006; Gepts 2004; Ross-Ibarra et al. 2007; Zeder et al. 2006).
  • Citing the same author/ authors but different years in this scenario.

Citing sources not consulted

  • Ideally, you should have seen for yourself every source you cite.
  • If that is not possible, mention the original source (the one you have not seen) and the secondary source-which alone appears under references.
  • Example:

The myth that spinach is a good source of iron was born in the 1930s, due to a misplaced decimal that put the concentration at ten times the real value (Hamblin 1981, as cited in Larsson 1995). This paper by Hamblin does not appear in the list of references; the paper by Larsson does.

Difference between references and bibliography

  • References are the details of sources cited, or referred to, in-text.
  • Bibliography refers to the sources used but not specifically cited.

Warning from a journal

  • Literature cited: citations in-text must be checked for consistency with those under references. Authors must pay serious attention to the formatting of references.
  • Manuscripts will be returned even without reviewing if the reference style does not adhere to the target journal.
  • “too many authors seem to fade out when they reach the references when preparing a manuscript and subsequently omit some from either the text or reference list as well as formatting them incorrectly!”
  •  Errors are also present in top medical journals according to studies.

Formatting references

While formatting references, the following things need to be noted down.

  • Elements or parts of a reference
  • Sequence and details of elements
  • Punctuation between elements
  • Typography

1. Elements, or parts, of a reference

  • Whether the reference to be formatted is a journal or Chapter in a book or a whole book or a presentation at a conference or Webpage or News item.
  • Author/s and year of publication
  • Title of the contribution
  • Need the following source details.
  • title of the article, chapter, etc. | title of the journal, book, conference, etc. | editor/s | volume-, issue-, page numbers | publisher and place of publication | edition if not first dates and place of the conference |conference organizer | URL | Date accessed.

2. Issue number essential for magazines

  • Most journals begin only with a new volume, not every new issue, with page 1.
  • Most magazines begin every new issue with page 1.
  • Issue number, therefore, is essential for magazines
  • ‘Inverting’ names (last name first, then initials)
  • Only the first author’s name inverted

In the following references, note the sequence: the first author’s name is inverted [last name first, then initials]; names of the rest of the authors are not inverted.

Eg: Balmford, A. A. Bruner, P. Cooper, R. Costanza, S. Farber, R.E. Green, M. Jenkins, et al. 2002. Economic reasons for conserving wild nature. Science 297(5583): 950.

Different placement of the year of publication

In the first example, the year follows the authors (mirroring the citations); in the second, the year is moved later, placed between the journal and its volume number.

Eg: Bardwell, L.V. 1991. Problem-framing: a perspective on environmental problem-solving. Environmental Management 15(5): 603-612.

Lynch, J.P. Turner review no. 14. Roots of the second green revolution. Aust. J. Bot. 2007, 55, 493-512.

How papers with hundreds of authors can be cited?

  • List the first six authors.
  • Skip all the rest except the last, representing omission with ellipsis (…..)
  • End the list with the last author.

Eg: paper title: Fruit-fly paper has 1,000 authors

       Singh P K, Daniel R, Gupta P K, Kaul S T, Smith G, Roy G M… Menon R. 2014. Offshore turbines. Energy 34: 5-12

Details of elements: titles of papers, journal names, etc.

Ensure the following questions are satisfied according to target journal requirements.

  • Titles of papers to be within quotation marks or not. (More common in the humanities)
  • Titles of papers in title case or sentence case
  • Journal names to be abbreviated or not. If abbreviated, whether there is a dot after abbreviated words. One-word names of journals are not abbreviated.
  • Check whether the journal name is spelled out in full, in italics.

Eg: HILEY, P.J., BYFORD, H. L., HALLFORD, D. M., CAMPBELL, J. W. & PEHEZ-EGULA, E. (1995). Physiological responses of beef cattle to Gulf coast tick (Acari: Ixodidae) infestations. Journal of Economic Entomology 88, 320-325.

  • Check whether the journal name is abbreviated; in italics, dots after abbreviations.

Eg: Lynch, J.P. Turner review no. 14. Roots of the second green revolution. Aust. J. Bot. 2007, 55, 493-512.

  • Check whether the journal name is abbreviated; no dots after abbreviations, no italics.

Eg: Vogel CR, Willden RHJ (2017b) Multi-rotor tidal stream turbine fence performance and operation. Int J Marine Energy 19:198-206.

Example of trivial differences in formatting volume number

The following things may be noted down for formatting the volume number in the reference section. Check whether the volume number is,

  • Followed by comma and page numbers
  • Followed by colon and page numbers; no space before the colon
  • Bold, followed by a comma and a space
  • Italics, followed by commas and page numbers
  • Preceded by a semicolon (no space) and followed by issue number
  • Preceded by the word ‘vol.’ and followed by a comma.

References to web pages

The webpages in the reference part can be formatted according to the following formats.

  • American Psychological Association format

Use the template shown next to construct references for unpublished works.

Author DateTitleOnline articleURL
Author, A. A., & Author, B.B.(2020).Title of the work [Unpublished manuscript]
Title of work [Manuscript in preparation]
Title of work [Manuscript submitted for publication].
Department Name, University Name.https://xxxxxx
  • Example of the Oxford University Press style

Eg: Allaby, Michael, ‘Feathers and Lava Lamps’, Oxford Reference (2013),,accessed 9 Nov. 2013.

Digital tools for handling citations and references

  • Spellcheck
  • Citationsy, Bibme, Edifix, APA Wizard, etc.
  • Open source software packages such as Zotero and Mendeley
  • Word macros, mail merge

Also, don’t depend on digital tools more.


“Many of the messages presented in respectable scientific publications are, in fact, based on various forms of rumors. Some of these rumors appear so frequently, and in such complex, colorful, and entertaining ways that we can think of them as academic urban legends. The explanation for this phenomenon is usually that authors have lazily, sloppily, or fraudulently employed sources, and peer reviewers and editors have not discovered these weaknesses in the manuscripts during evaluation.”

Source: Rekdal O B. 2014. Academic urban legends. Social Studies of Science 44: 638-654

Key takeaways

  • Cite only those sources you have consulted yourself.
  • Avoid copying whole chunks of the published text.
  • Paraphrase the copied text but try to retain the intended meaning.
  • Examine the citation and referencing style of the target journal in detail.
  • Reference fully and accurately, by following the correct format.
  • Engage actively with sources of information instead of using digital tools.

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