AMA Referencing Style

on February 27, 2019 by ProofreadingPal in Editing Tools facebook in twitter

we continue on with our series on less-common academic citation formats, we’re
starting to see a trend: citation formatting really depends on your field, and
specific fields have specific requirements. That makes sense, as you might have
different priorities when citing, and it’s also a way to show that you “belong”
in your field of study—that is, you’ve done the work and you know the secret
formatting handshake.

next style we’re looking at is another of these specialist fields: medicine.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has a particular style it prefers
authors to follow when writing, and pre-med and medical students, doctors in
residency, and researchers may all be asked to use this.

What Is AMA Style?

first AMA style guide came out in 1962; it was only 68 pages long and was meant
for the AMA’s in-house editorial staff as a guideline when preparing
manuscripts for publication in their journal. Soon, though, authors started
requesting copies, and various nuances of writing started filtering in, needing
to be addressed.  Today, the 10th
edition of the guide has more than a thousand pages!

is another numeric referencing style
and it’s extremely similar to our friend Vancouver
. Both label references with numbers in their order of
appearance in the text, and both format their reference list in the
corresponding numerical order.

key difference is that AMA style uses Roman superscript numbers, placing them outside commas and periods and inside semicolons and colons. If you use
more than one citation, separate the numbers with a comma and no space. If you
use a series of references in order, separate them with a hyphen. Repeating a
reference later in the paper? Give it the same number it had the first time,
and only list it once in the reference page.

create your reference list in the corresponding order, giving all bibliographic

simple, right? Yup! That really is all there is to it.

Examples of AMA In-Text Citations

a few examples of AMA in-text citations:

  • Stoker et al.1
    have established that….
  • Spontaneous
    human combustion is a topic of hot debate.2-4
  • Not all scholars
    believe that the Loch Ness monster is cold-blooded,1,5-8 but some
    insist it is.
  • The results were
    as follows9: First…

you can see, it’s pretty straightforward—just number up those references in
order! As you place references within your manuscript, start keeping a numbered
log of them on your growing references page and you’re all set.

of reference pages…

General Rules for AMA Reference Pages

like in-text citations, AMA bibliographies are very similar to Vancouver style.
In each entry, you’ll give the surname of the author and the author’s initials,
with no periods. Write out every author up to six. If there are more than six
authors, write out the first three,
then use “et al.”

article titles, you’ll only capitalize the first word and any proper nouns and capitalized

the titles of journals and books, but not article titles.

you’re providing page numbers, provide all the relevant numbers—don’t
abbreviate. So, for example, a page range would read 341-348, not 341-8.


titles of journals should be abbreviated using the accepted Index Medicus or
Medline abbreviation (search the journal title here to find
the accepted abbreviation).

providing the year of a publication, stop
using spaces
. That’s right, no spaces after that semicolon! All the journal
details run together, with numbers touching semicolons touching parentheses
touching dashes. It’s a little strange at first, but you’ll get used to it!

the year, volume, issue, and page numbers for the journal to allow readers to
quickly locate the correct article, in the format: YEAR;vol(iss):page-page.

there’s no issue number, specify the month after the year, as in: 2014 Dec.


follow a similar format to journals. Use the author’s surname and initials,
write out the title of the book using headline-style capitalization, and give
the place of publication, publisher, and year.

a book chapter, give the chapter’s authors, the title of the chapter in
sentence case (capitalizing only the first word and any proper nouns), then
give the publication information of the book, including the editor if

Online Sources

online sources, give as much information as possible, including the date of
access. Many internet sources don’t have a listed author; in these cases (and
when you don’t have the author of a report or other source), list the
organization as the author.

look at some examples!

Example of AMA Bibliography

Stoker A, Jacobs PE, Brahms CJ, Langley K, O’Hare JL. Pseudoscientific babble: Comparison
of evidence and fancy in current scholarship. J Histotechnol. 2014 Dec;37(4):115-124.

Kelly J, Zhao L, Liu C, Fishbone D, Krazinski M. Searching for accuracy in the
ramblings of a guy on a soapbox. Can J
Rural Med
. 2014 Fall;19(4):135-141.

Sigman N. A series of scribblings. In: Grey R, Hanx JK, Stephenson AJ, editors.
Fundamentals of Academic Rigor. 10th
ed. San Francisco, CA: Some Publisher; 2013:732-786.

Buckingham Q. Pretending I Know What I’m Talking
About: Fundamentals, Methods, and Clinical Applications of Academic Writing
2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Another Press; 2012.

Association of Crazed Researchers. Standards of Practice. 2011.
Accessed February 25, 2019.

Vijay PK, Fitzwilliam SK. We’re right and you’re wrong: A literature
review of referencing mayhem. J Aca Writ.1999;42(1):209-238. doi: 10.1038/nphys1170

These general guidelines and examples should get you well on your way to appropriately formatting your next medical paper. If you run into some issues, you can reach out to a professional editor who’s experienced with all kinds of formatting styles, like the experts at Proofreading Pal! Plus, the AMA editors produce a handy blog that discusses many tips, tricks, and style nuances to help you on your adventures in medical writing. Check it out, and happy referencing!

Kate S.

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