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Vancouver Referencing Style @ UCT: Reference List guidelines

Vancouver Referencing Style is extensively used in the biomedical and health sciences.

Reference list guidelines



There is a difference between a reference list and a bibliography.

  • A bibliography is a list of everything that you have consulted when reading for your paper, it doesn't matter whether you have cited these in the body of your paper or not. 

  • A reference list is a list of only references that you have cited in the body of your paper. For university writing you are often required to use the latter.
  • The list of references is always given at the end of your paper and must be started on a new page.
  • In Vancouver style this list of references is arranged numerically, i.e. a reference that was cited first in your body will be listed first in your reference list.
  • Depending on the convention prefered by your lecturer, you may indent the second and subsequent lines of each entry, e.g.

                        1. Barrett KE, Barman SM, Boitano S, Brooks HL. Ganong's review of medical psychology. 24th ed.
                                       New York: McGraw Hill; 2012.

  • Mention up to six authors in your reference list. If there are more than six authors, enter only the first six followed by et al OR and others. Separate the authors by commas, e.g.

                          2. Zweigenthal V, Puoane T, Reynolds L, London L, Coetzee D, Alperstein M, et al. 

  •  Always list the authors in the order that they appeared in the source.
  • Capitalize only the first word of the title (as well as words that would normally begin with a capital letter, such as names of places and people, etc).
  • If there is no author or editor mentioned, enter the reference by the title of the book, journal article or website document.
  • Unlike other styles, Vancouver system never abbreviates the word "editor", e.g.

                        3. Neville C, editor NOT Nevile C, ed.

  •  If a book is an edition other than the first, always use abbreviation "ed" for "edition", e.g.

                        4. Clinical gynaecology. 4th ed. NOT Clinical gynaecology. 4th edition.

  • Names of organisations are often spelt out, not abbreviated, e.g.

                        5. World Health Organization NOT WHO

  • Publication cities that are not well known must be qualified by the country name, e.g.

                        6. Claremont (South Africa): 

  • If the author of the book or document is an organisation and it starts with initial article such as The, omit the initial article, e.g. 

                        7. The Medical Oncology Centre of Rosebank becomes Medical Oncology Centre of Rosebank

  • Where a division or part of the whole organisation is given in the publication, list them in chronological order and seperate them by commas, e.g.

                        8. University of Cape Town, Health Sciences Faculty, Department of Medicine.

  • If there are more than one publication cities listed in the book, cite the city that is printed first, or the one that is printed in large font or the one in bold.
  • For books where a publisher is unkown, use the words "publisher unknown" and enclose them in square brackets, e.g.

                        9. Wilson HS. Research in nursing. Redwood City (California): [publisher unknown]; 

  • If neither the date of publication nor the date of copyright cannot be found nor estimated, use the words "date unknown", e.g.

                        10. Van den Berg RN. The nationalisation of health services in South Africa. Windhoek: John Meinert; [date unknown]. 

  • Do not underline or italicise titles.

                         11. South African Medical Journal (full title)
                               S Afr Med J (MEDLINE abbreviation)