Referencing in Vancouver Style

Referencing in Vancouver Style

Referencing is an integral part of scientific research, writing, and publication. The ‘why’ to reference is straight forward than ‘when’ and ‘how’. Referencing allows tracing the sources of accessible, documented evidence. It helps to expand and spread the web of knowledge, guiding readers, reviewers, and editors to the original work for critical scrutiny and verification of the research questions, the methods used to obtain the results, and discussions to compare and contrast with the available literature.

The issue of ‘when’ to reference is not so straightforward. Referencing is needed ‘to acknowledge the source of findings, theories, definitions, techniques, instruments, formulas, to recognize the contradictory or different findings, to support a point not universally accepted by readers, to support a conceptual point, to justify the use of methods, techniques, or instruments (e.g. reliability, validity, or appropriateness), to support the importance or viability of research topics, questions, or purpose of a study, source of tables, photos, statistics, and diagrams, and when paraphrasing other’s idea. The list can go on. The common knowledge shared in the public domain, undisputed facts freely and publicly circulating may not require citation, for example, the sun rises from east, and other information freely shared by community and society. However, the complexity is that not everyone in a particular discipline or from different socio-culture background agrees on what is common knowledge. Thus, at times the simple logic is ‘cite if in doubt cite.

The referencing in Vancouver style should include original publications. The quality of citations is mainly the ‘validity of sources’ and ‘errors in citation’ style. There are many referencing styles, but can be broadly categorized into two types: intext author name (e.g., American Psychological Association APA and Harvard style of reference, used mostly in social science), and numerical citation (e.g., referencing in Vancouver style, common in scientific, medical journals).

Referencing in Vancouver Style

Referencing in Vancouver style is popular because it is friendly to authors, reviewers, editors, and librarians. References are numbered in Arabic numerals (after the full stop in superscript in consecutive order in which they appear in the text, tables, and graphs and are listed at the end of the document as ‘references’. The journal can have their modification of referencing in Vancouver style, mentioned in authors guideline, and is a good practice to read the earlier publications in the journal in which one plans to submit.


The National Library of Medicine (NLM), USA has adopted referencing in Vancouver style for its database and is available with examples and explanations in NLM’s Citing Medicine, 2nd edition. Referencing in Vancouver style has been adopted by a majority of biomedical journals. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE, has recommendations in detail for conducting research, its reporting, editing, and publication. Scientific research and writing is the building block of knowledge and events in the universe based on a cycle of ‘research-writing-publication-research writing publication.

Academia and universities in and around the world require medical school, especially postgraduate degrees to write and publish in scientific journals. However, the skill and knowledge to do so are lacking, especially in reference writing, and there is a need to introduce courses and training in their curriculum to develop the culture of research, writing, and publication, rather than simply to fulfill the criteria to obtain an academic degree or faculty position. Appropriate referencing, and need for more training are necessary for both students and faculty. Referencing software has advanced over time. Scientific writing is an essential component of the medical curriculum, and understanding various referencing systems including referencing in Vancouver style, is necessary for the effective use of these tools.

Referencing in Vancouver Style

Referencing in Vancouver style is popular in medical journals. In-text it is numbered in Arabic numerals in sequence and listed in ‘references’. The journals can have modifications referencing in Vancouver style. The referencing in Vancouver style includes instructions on referencing other material obtained from the Internet. These follow the principles behind citing print sources, namely, a reference is a detailed description of the item from which you obtained your information and is used to acknowledge the work of others. Lastly, it should contain sufficient information for someone else to trace the item. Thus, quoting a website's address e.g., is similar to quoting a journal-title alone.

In referencing in Vancouver style, the author/s are traditionally listed as proposed by western culture- “family space name full stop. However, as publications from Asian culture, especially Chinese (who write their name starting with family name first), now constitute a significant proportion in the online literature, seems logical to write the authors name in full as it appears in their respective culture). Up to six authors, all are listed, in case of more than six, list first six and then use et al. Some journals have et al after three authors.

When using the Vancouver style, the reference list should be

·         In numerical order and each number matches and refers to the one in the text.

·         The list should be at the end of the work.

·         Books, paper or electronic journal articles, etc., are written in a particular format that must be followed.

Referencing in Vancouver Style

Some of the examples, from Citing Medicine, the eBook published by the U. S. National Library of Medicine, is useful for the derails of referencing in Vancouver style useful to authors, editors, publishers, and librarians.

·         The general format for referencing in Vancouver style of a journal article

·         The general format for referencing in Vancouver style of a book.

·         The general format for  referencing in Vancouver style of a conference proceeding (with a title for the book of proceedings as well as a conference title)

·         The general format for referencing in Vancouver style of a homepage, internet.

·         The general format for a referencing in Vancouver style of a newspaper article.