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A Brief Guide to Vancouver Referencing

It’s happened to us all.

A client wants you to proofread their essay or journal article, but you are unfamiliar with the referencing system! Suddenly everything is called into question. Imposter syndrome kicks in. You wonder, can you presume to do this with only Google to guide you? What if the information there is unreliable? Should you just admit that you are a fraud, fall on your red biro and hope that your noble exit guarantees you a place in proofreaders’ Valhalla?

Or maybe you’re not as dramatic as we are. Either way, at Proofreading Academy we like to save you unnecessary stress by setting out the basics of some less well-known referencing systems. And today, we’re looking at Vancouver referencing.

What Is Vancouver Referencing?

Vancouver referencing is a citation style, also known as author–number referencing, often used in the physical sciences. While most systems use in-text citations or footnotes, along with a reference list or bibliography alphabetised by author surname, Vancouver uses numbers and endnotes. It is also a citation style which varies between institutions. The examples given below follow the guidelines for Imperial College London. Most institutions will have some kind of guidelines available online. It is important to consult these.

Citations in Vancouver

In-text citations in Vancouver style are reduced to a single number in brackets or superscript, which refers the reader to a reference of the same number in the bibliography. For instance:

Early attempts at organ transplantation were frequently disastrous (1). 

Pinpoint references may be given like so:

According to Sun et al. (1), the results of early operations were ‘abysmal’ (p. 1).

As shown above, in Imperial College’s Vancouver style, if more than one author is listed, et al. should be used after the first author named. When citing multiple authors in one citation, meanwhile, they should be separated by commas:

Several studies (2,7,9) have examined…

Reference List or Bibliography

All cited sources should be included in a reference list at the end of the document. Imperial College’s version of Vancouver also allows students to add a bibliography, where they should list any other sources consulted during research.

Items in the reference list should be numbered and presented in the order in which they appear in the text. Items in the bibliography, however, should be presented in alphabetical order by author surname and do not need to be numbered.

Reference style: Book

A print book reference in Imperial College’s Vancouver style should be set out as follows:

(n) Surname, Initial(s). Title. Edition (if given). Place of publication: Publisher; Year.

In practice, this would look something like this:

(1) Busuttil, RW, Klintmalm, GBG. Transplantation of the Liver. 3rd Ed. London: Saunders; 2015.

Note that all authors are listed, and neither ‘and’ nor ‘&’ is used. Note also that, as with other details, the footnote format may vary between institutions. Many versions of Vancouver, for instance, do not have a comma between the surname and initial.

Reference style: Chapter in an Edited Book

A reference for a chapter in an edited book should be set out like this:

(n) Surname, Intitial(s). Chapter title. In: Surname, Initial(s) (eds.) Book Title. Edition (if given). Place of publication: Publisher; Year. Page range.

This would look like so in practice:

(2) Sun, Q, Zimmerer, M, Hadley, G. Immunology of transplantation. In: Hricik, D (ed.) Primer on Transplantation. 3rd Ed. Hoboken: Wiley  Blackwell; 2011. p.1–17.

Note that you will need to use ‘p.’ even for page ranges, not just single pages.

Reference style: Journal article

A print journal article should be referenced like this:

(n) Surname, Initial(s). Article title. Journal title. Year;Vol(Issue No.): Page range.

In practice, this would look like this:

(3) Kerridge, IH, Saul, P, Lowe, M, McPhee, J, Williams, D. Death, dying and donation: Organ transplantation and the diagnosis of death. Journal of Medical Ethics. 2002;28(2): 89–94.

Note that, with journal articles, you do not need to use ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’ before page ranges. For online journal articles, moreover, you will want to include a URL/DOI and a date of access.

Reference style: Website

To reference a website, the format is like this:

(n) Surname, Initial(s) (or corporate author if no actual author is given). Title. Available from: URL [Accessed date].

This would look like so in practice:

(4) United Network for Organ Sharing. Transplant Living. Available from: https://www.transplantliving.org/ [Accessed 5th October 2017].

This is just an introduction to one version of Vancouver referencing. Please bear in mind that other versions may differ. If you come across Vancouver referencing in your proofreading adventures, be sure to consult the style guide for your client’s university.