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Reference Style and the Uniform Requirements 

Reference Style and the Uniform Requirements


Cheryl Iverson

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Reference Style and the Uniform Requirements

For greater uniformity in “technical requirements for manuscripts submitted to their journals,” the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, meeting in 1978 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, developed the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals.5 Suggested formats for bibliographic style, developed for uniformity by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), are included in that document, which has been revised and updated several times. Editors of approximately 500 journals have agreed to receive manuscripts prepared in accordance with this uniform style. Although Uniform Requirements is intended to aid authors in the preparation of their manuscripts for publication, not to dictate publication style to journal editors, many journals have used them for developing their publication style.5 Formatting of references that adhere exactly to the Uniform Requirements will be acceptable without challenge in manuscripts submitted to JAMA and the Archives Journals, and any necessary formatting changes will be made by the JAMA and Archives manuscript editors.

The reference style followed by JAMA and the Archives Journals is also based on recommendations of the NLM described in the National Library of Medicine Recommended Formats for Bibliographic Citation (hereinafter referred to as NLM Recommended Formats).6 Both the Uniform Requirements and JAMA/Archives style represent modifications of the NLM style but follow the general principles outlined in the NLM document. Whatever reference style is followed, consistency throughout the document and throughout the publication (journal, book, website) is critical.

Each reference is divided with periods into bibliographic groups. (See 3.4, Minimum Acceptable Data for References, for an illustration of these for the principal types of references.) The period serves as a field delimiter, making each bibliographic group distinct and establishing a sequence of bibliographic elements in a reference. Bibliographic elements are the items within a bibliographic group. Bibliographic elements may be separated by the following punctuation marks:

  • A comma: if the items are subelements of a bibliographic element or a set of closely related elements (eg, the authors' names in the reference list)

  • A semicolon: if the elements in the bibliographic group are different (eg, between the publisher’s name and the copyright year) or if there are multiple occurrences of logically related elements within a group; also, before volume identification data

  • A colon: before the publisher’s name, between the title and the subtitle, and after a connective phrase (eg, “In,” “Presented at”)

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