Vancouver Referencing Style

on December 29, 2018 by ProofreadingPal in Uncategorized facebook in twitter

Most of us are familiar with the common academic citation formats. We see APA, Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA reference formats all the time. Each academic field has its preferred style, and after a bit of use you can get comfy with the requirements of that method, such as author-date citations and footnoted bibliographic entries.

But there’s a whole world of referencing styles out there beyond the Big Three, used by a range of disciplines and required by many academic journals. Being able to accurately apply the right referencing style can make a huge difference in your grade for a class or in an editorial board’s determination on whether to publish your paper.

In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the “underground” referencing styles that are essential to specific disciplines, but perhaps not as well known as their brethren. We'll start with Vancouver style.

Vancouver Style

So what is Vancouver
referencing, anyway?

It’s a numeric system and the preferred style for most biomedical journals, so it applies to topics in medicine, biology, microbiology, neuroscience, and a whole range of other subjects.

Technically, it’s called the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (ICMJE Recommendations). It was established as the preferred biomedical format by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors at a 1978 meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada—hence the nickname—and has been the standard ever since for more than 1,000 medical and biological sciences journals.

Numeric referencing like that
used in Vancouver style is pretty easy to master. You simply give each source a
number, corresponding to the order in which it appears in the text. If you
refer to that source again, you use the number you first assigned it.

If you’re referring to more
than one source within a sentence, cite both, one after the other, in

At the end of your manuscript,
the reference list is just a numbered list of all your citations, in order,
providing full bibliographic details.


Example of Vancouver In-Text Referencing

Let’s take a look at
Vancouver references in action within a manuscript.

there has been some debate over whether to apply Vancouver style to
pseudoscience manuscripts (1,2), with some scholars suggesting that this would
undermine the credibility of the style and others insisting that it will
bolster the validity of reporting in publications like the Onion (3-5). A literature review of this debate shows that tensions
have begun to rise in the past three years (6).

So in this example, there are
two references (1 and 2) supporting the statement about “debate over applying
Vancouver style,” and another three references (3, 4, and 5) supporting the
specifics of that debate. A sixth reference (6) documents the literature

Next, let’s look at how those
references appear in the bibliography.

Example of Vancouver Bibliography

1. 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):115-24.

2. 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 [Internet]. 2014 Fall [cited 2018 Dec 27];19(4):135-41.
Available from: by selecting PDF link in table of

3. Sigman N. A series of
scribblings. In: Grey R, Hanx JK, Stephenson AJ, editors. Fundamentals of
academic rigor. 10th ed. San Francisco: Some Publisher; c2013. p. 732-86.

4. Buckingham Q. Pretending I
know what I’m talking about: fundamentals, methods and clinical applications of
academic writing. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Another Press; c2012.

5. Association of Crazed
Researchers. Standards of practice. Toronto: The Association; 2011.

6. 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

General Rules for Vancouver Bibliography Entries

Start your bibliography on a
new page, with the heading “References” centered on that page.

Your references themselves
should be single-spaced, with double-spacing (that is, a blank line) between
each entry.

Number your references in the
same order they’re included in the text. Don’t repeat entries—you use the same
number in the text to refer to a single citation at the end if you cite a
reference more than once.


List each author’s last name
followed by a space and then initials without any periods; put a comma between
authors and a period after the last author in the list. If there are more than
six authors for an article, list the first six followed by “et al.”

If you’re citing a book with
an editor, use the editors’ names in the author position and then follow the
last name with a comma and the word “editor” or “editors.”


sentence-style capitalization. That is, capitalize
the first letter of the first word in the title and leave the rest of the title
lowercase, with the exception of proper nouns. Don’t use underline, bold, or


Vancouver style uses
abbreviated journal titles, rather than writing out the full formal title of
the journal. You can search for the full journal title in the Medline
and it’ll provide the correct abbreviation for you.

Provide 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.

If the article is available
online, provide a digital object identifier (doi) or directions for how to
access the article so that it can be located even if some information later
changes or a webpage is moved.

Happy referencing!

Kate S.

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