Vancouver Referencing Style : General rules of Citation

Vancouver style or NLM style of referencing is commonly used in medicine to cite other’s work in the text.

vancouver citation

General Rules

1. Reference numbers: Indicate the reference using arabic numerals inside [square] or (curved brackets) or as superscripts – use the same style throughout your scientific writing. Reference numbers must be outside full-stops and commas but inside colons and semi-colons.

2. Reference list: Title the reference list in a new page as “References”. Use the correct punctuation at correct place. Arrange the list in the order of citation and not in alphabetical order. Once a source has been cited, the same number is used in all subsequent references.

3. Author names: Enter surname (last name), followed by not more than 2 initials. Give all author’s name in the order they appear in the original source, each separated by a comma and a space. If space is a concern, use “et al.” after 3-6 authors. If a person or organisation cannot be identified as the author but there are editors, revisers or translators named in the publication, begin the reference with the names of the editors/revisers/translators followed by their role. If no author, authoring organisation, editor, reviser or translator is given, begin the reference with the title of the source.

4. Article title in non-English language: Translate to english and place within sqaure brackets and mention the original language after pagination.

5. Date format: Date appears in the format of YYYY Mon DD, i.e. year followed by 1st 3 letters of month and then the day.

6. Capitalization: Use capitalization only for the following –

  • Initials for surname and first and/or middle names
  • First word and proper nouns in the book or article title
  • Acronyms
  • All significant words in journal, newspaper and conference titles
  • City names and country names
  • Proper words and other significant words in publisher name
  • As it appears in the title of webpage, e.g. EpoMedicine

7. Titles of the journal: Use abbreviated journal names as they appear in NLM catalog.

8. Unknown publication place, date or publisher: If no place of publication can be found but can reasonably be inferred, place the city in square brackets. Eg. [Kansas]. If no publisher can be found, use [publisher unknown]. If no date of publication can be found, use the copyright date preceded with ‘c’ c2012. If no copyright date can be found, use [date unknown].

9. Pagination: Use “p.[space]” for book and conference papers followed by page ranges and abbreviate it eliminating the preceeding common numbers. If a pagination is followed by a letter, do not eliminate preceeding common numbers. Include a letter (often S for Supplement or A for Appendix) when it precedes the page number. Examples:

  • 111-116 becomes p. 111-6 for book and 111-6 for journal articles
  • 111A-116A stays as p. 111A-116A
  • S111-S116 becomes p. S111-S6

If no page numbers are provided, you may provide the total number of paragraphs, or estimated number of printed pages or screens. Provide in square brackets, e.g. [2 paragraphs], [about 2p.], [about 2 screens].

10. Online source and Digital Object Identifiers (DOI): If the source is online, use “Available from:” after pagination. If an article has a DOI, this should be included after the pagination. Whichever available, use as – doi: doi number. PubMed PMID: numbers; PubMed Central PMCID: PMCnumbers.

11. When using various media: Mention medium after title of the source as Title [Medium]. This [Medium] may be [Internet] or [CD-ROM] or [DVD] or [Slides], etc.

12. Editions: If there are editions, it appears after the title of the source in an abbreviated form. e.g. 2nd ed. Note its “ed.” and not “Ed.”.

13. For newspaper: Use abbreviations “Sect.” for Section and “col.” for column after the date.

14. Commonly used abbreviations:

  • c. = circa (about, approximately)
  • 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

Currently, I’ve been learning this style of citation. If there are any mistakes, please comment them below.


Patrias K. Citing medicine: the NLM style guide for authors, editors, and publishers [Internet]. 2nd ed. Wendling DL, technical editor. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2007 [updated 2009 Oct 21]. Available from:


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