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Vancouver Referencing Style : Quick guide on how to use it
For examples of bibliographic references, click here 

General Information on how to use the Vancouver Referencing Style

Faculty of Health Sciences - University of Pretoria (July 2013)

Vancouver is a "numbered" style and, follows rules established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Using Vancouver style means you're obeying the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts submitted to Biomedical Journals.

However when we're writing articles for publication we have to consult the 'Instructions to authors' for the specific journal in which we want to publish.

  • Your list of references should identify all references cited (eg books, journal articles, pamphlets, internet sites, CDRom, DVD, etc) in sufficient detail so that others can locate and consult your references.
  • The Vancouver reference style is the one that is commonly used in the medical field and when publishing in medical journals.
  • It is very important that you use the right punctuation and that the order of details in the reference is correct.
  • A List of reference at the end of the assignment, research report or journal manuscript contains the full details of all the in-text citations.
In-text referencing


  • The identification of references within the text of your assignment are identified by Arabic numerals in superscript.
  • A number is assigned to each reference as it is cited. A number must be used even if an author was named in the sentence, eg. Smith12 argued that.....
  • Use double quotation marks to enclose a direct quotation. Type [sic] after a misspelled word or an incorrect or apparently absurd statement in quoted material to indicate that this is an accurate rendition of the original source. Use single quotation marks for quotations within quotations.
  • The original number assigned to a reference is re-used every time the reference is cited in text, regardless of the previous position in text.


  • ... as one author has put it "the darkest days were still ahead"1: which is well documented in the literature.2-3 This proves that "the darkest days were still ahead".1

  • When multiple references are cited at a given place in a text, use a hyphen to join the first and last numbers that are inclusive, eg. 6-8
  • Use commas (no spaces) to separate non-inclusive numbers eg. 2,3,4,5,7,9 is abbreviated to 2-5,7,9
  • Placement of referencing numbers with a text should be carefully considered, eg. a particular reference may be relevant to only part of a sentence. However, as a general rule, reference numbers should be placed outside full stops and commas, inside colons and semi-colons.


    • The coach can carry out his own assessment of the athlete5,9 in relation to the agreed constructs and so pinpoint areas of agreementon the one hand, 2-4 and differing perceptions on the other.
    • Butler and Hardy maintain "that people's intrinsic motivation could be weakened by the application of external controls".,1
  • The main advantage of the Vancouver style is that the text reads more easily, without the intrusion of in-text quotations which can be difficult to keep brief. Reader can also check the list of references as they read through the text, without having to search through the list of references alphabetically for the first author of a particular referenced publication.
How to create a 'List of references'


  • Your reference list should appear at the end of your assignment/report with the entries listed numerically and in the same order that they were given in the text.


    1. Baker PN, editor. Obstetrics by ten teachers. 18th ed. London: Hodder Arnold; 2006.
    2. Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347(4):284-7.

    It is very important that you use the right punctuation and that the order of details in the reference is also correct.

  • Book and journal titles are not italicised or placed in quotation marks.
  • Only first words of the article title and words that normally begin with a capital letter are capitalised.
  • Journal titles are abbreviated. A list of abbreviations for the titles is available online at either NLM Catalog: Journal abbreviation or Medical Journal Abbreviations (Internationally recognised abbreviations for journal titles)
  • If the journal has continuous page numbering, you may omit month/issue number.
  • Some commonly used abbreviations:
    • c. = circa (about, approximately in time)
    • ch. = chapter
    • ed. = edition
    • et al. = and others
    • fig; figs = figure(s)
    • ill; ills = illustrator(s)
    • p. = page(s)
    • para; paras = paragraph(s)
    • pt; pts = part(s)
    • rev = revised
    • suppl = Supplement
Examples of the most common publication types are listed below.

For examples of bibliographic references, click on the type of reference you would like to see:



(PLEASE NOTE: Journal titles are always abbreviated.) Go to either NLM Catalog: Journal abbreviation or Medical Journal Abbreviations (Internationally recognised abbreviations for journal titles)



Main elements of a reference to a book:

Author/Editor/Compiler's surname initials. Title of the book. # ed. (if not the 1st) Place of publication: Publisher's name; Year of publication.

Single author Carlson BM. Human embryology and developmental biology. 3rd ed. St. Louis: Mosby; 2004.
2 - 6 authors Murray PR, Rosenthal KS, Kobayashi GS, Pfaller MA. Medical microbiology. 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby; 2002.
More than 6 authors** Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, Wilson JD, Martin JB, Kasper DL, et al, editors. Harrison's principles of internal medicine. 14th ed. New York: McGraw Hill; 1998.

**Give the first six names in full and add "et al". The authors are listed in the order in which they appear on the title page.

Editor(s) or compiler(s) as author Gilstrap LC 3rd, Cunningham FG, VanDorsten JP, editors. Operative obstetrics. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2002.

Follow the same methods used with authors but use the word "editor" or "editors" in full after the name/s. The word editor or editors must be in lower case. (Do NOT confuse with "ed." which is used for "edition")

Organisation as an author Royal Adelaide Hospital; University of Adelaide, Department of Clinical Nursing. Compendium of nursing research and practice development, 1999-2000. Adelaide (Australia): Adelaide University; 2001.

Different editions

First Edition: Heffner LJ, Schust DJ. The reproductive system at a glance. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing; 2001.

Second plus Editions**: Heffner LJ, Schust DJ. The reproductive system at a glance. 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing; 2006.

**The first edition of a book is never mentioned. However from the 2nd edition onwards always give the specific edition of the book, eg 2nd ed.

Chapter in a book


Meltzer PS, Kallioniemi A, Trent JM. Chromosome alterations in human solid tumors. In: Vogelstein B, Kinzler KW, editors. The genetic basis of human cancer. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2002. p. 93-113.

Elements of the reference:

Author's (of the chapter) surname initials. Title of chapter. In: Editor's surname initials, editor. Title of the book. # ed. [if not 1st] Place of publication: Publisher's name; Year of publication. p. #. [page numbers of chapter]

  • Abbreviate page numbers to p. eg p. 12-26.
  • Abbreviate numbers where appropriate eg. p. 122-8.
Sponsored by institution, corporation or other organisation Australian Pharmaceutical Advisory Council. Integrated best practice model for medication management in residential aged care facilities. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service; 1997.


Pharmaceutical Society of Australia. Medicines and driving [pamphlet]. Pharmaceutical Society of Australia; 1998. DR-7.

(if available include additional information eg place of production, printer)

Package insert (leaflet supplied with medicine) Lamaxil [package insert]. East Hanover (NJ): Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Corp; 1993.


Dictionary and similar references Dorland's illustrated medical dictionary. 29th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 2000. Filamin; p. 675.

Note: Include the definition looked up - in this case "Filamin"

Encyclopaedia Hanrahan C. Valerian. In: Krapp K, Longe JL, editors. The Gale encyclopedia of alternative medicine. Michigan: Gale Group; 2001. vol 4 p. 1768-70.

Legal Material Public law:
Veterans Hearing Loss Compensation Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-9, 115 Stat. 11 (May 24, 2001).

Unenacted bill:
Healthy Children Learn Act, S. 1012, 107th Cong., 1st Sess. (2001).

Code of Federal Regulations:
Cardiopulmonary Bypass Intracardiac Suction Control, 21 C.F.R. Sect. 870.4430 (2002).

Arsenic in Drinking Water: An Update on the Science, Benefits and Cost: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Environment, Technology and Standards of the House Comm. on Science, 107th Cong., 1st Sess. (Oct. 4, 2001).


(Please note: Journal titles are always abbreviated.) Go to Journals referenced in the NCBI databases or Medical Journal Abbreviations (Internationally recognised abbreviations for journal titles).

Recommended to always cite an article as a print copy except (when pages clearly indicate e3-e5).

Main elements of a journal reference:

Author's surname Initials, Author's surname Initials. Title of article. Title of Journal. [abbreviated] Year of publication Month date; Volume number (issue number): page numbers.

Standard article Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002 Jul 25; 347(4):284-7.
More than 6 authors** Rose ME, Huerbin MB, Melick J, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Regulation of interstitial excitatory amino acid concentrations after cortical contusion injury. Brain Res. 2002; 935(1-2):40-6.

**Give the first six names in full and add "et al". The authors are listed in the order in which they appear.

Organisation as author Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Hypertension, insulin, and proinsulin in participants with impaired glucose tolerance. Hypertension. 2002; 40(5):679-86.
No author 21st century heart solution may have a sting in the tail. BMJ. 2002; 325(7357):184.

Supplement and/or parts

Volume with supplement Geraud G, Spierings EL, Keywood C. Tolerability and safety of frovatriptan with short- and long-term use for treatment of migraine and in comparison with sumatriptan. Headache. 2002; 42 Suppl 2:S93-9.
Issue with supplement Glauser TA. Integrating clinical trial data into clinical practice. Neurology. 2002; 58(12 Suppl 7):S6-12.
Volume with part Abend SM, Kulish N. The psychoanalytic method from an epistemological viewpoint. Int J Psychoanal. 2002; 83(Pt 2):491-5.

Issue with part

Ahrar K, Madoff DC, Gupta S, Wallace MJ, Price RE, Wright KC. Development of a large animal model for lung tumors. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2002; 13(9 Pt 1):923-8.


Cochrane Review Curioni C, André C. Rimonabant for overweight or obesity. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD006162. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006162.pub2.


Elements of a reference to a conference paper:

Editor's/Authors surname Initials, editor. Title of the Paper. Number and Name of Conference; Date of conference; City where conference took place:Place of publication.

Conferences Christensen S, Oppacher F. An analysis of Koza's computational effort statistic for genetic programming. Paper presented at the 5th European Conference on Genetic Programming; 2002 Apr 3-5; Kinsdale:Ireland.


Thesis / Dissertation Borkowski MM. Infant sleep and feeding: a telephone survey of Hispanic Americans [dissertation]. Mount Pleasant (MI): Central Michigan University; 2002.


Newspaper Tynan T. Medical improvements lower homicide rate: study sees drop in assault rate. The Washington Post. 2002 Aug 12;Sect. A:2 (col. 4).


Unpublished Material

Tian D, Araki H, Stahl E, Bergelson J, Kreitman M. Signature of balancing selection in Arabidopsis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. In press 2002.


CDRom / DVD Anderson SC, Poulsen KB. Anderson's electronic atlas of hematology [CD-ROM]. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2002.


Video Recording Conochie LB. Phsical examination of the musculoskeletal system. Program 6. Cervical spine and neurological examination of the upper extremities. [video recording]. Montreal: McGill University; 1987.


Elements of a citation:

Author/Editor/Organisation's name [Internet]. Title of the page. Place of publication: Publisher's name; [updated year month day; cited year month day]. Available from: URL

Homepage/Web site International Association for the Study of Pain [Internet].PAIN retains ranking as most influential. IASP;
[updated 2002 May 16; cited 2002 Jul 9]. Available from: http://www.iasp-pain.org/am

Updated: July 2015
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