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Everything you Need to Know About Vancouver Referencing

Published by at January 30th, 2023 , Revised On March 20, 2024

What is Vancouver Referencing?

Vancouver referencing is a citation format, just like there is MLA, APA, etc. It’s academically named as ‘Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals,’ or ICMJE Recommendations for short. This referencing format was designed in 1978, Vancouver, by a couple of editors belonging to medical journals.

Since then, over 1,000 medical journals have used this referencing style in their academic writing. including journals affiliated with ICMJE, like BMJ, NEJM, JAMA and CMAJ. It’s important to note that some institutions might have some changes here and there for referencing different items in Vancouver. If that is the case, one’s institutional guide on referencing should be consulted.

Vancouver vs APA/MLA Referencing

Rather than the common author name-followed-by-year format in brackets, Vancouver referencing style uses numbers to cite in-text references. The numbers correspond to source entries on the references list. For instance, “Burroway argues the importance of images and imagination in creative writing [1]…”

Square or round brackets can be used, but be consistent throughout the manuscript.

General Rules About Vancouver in-text Citations

Some basic rules to keep in mind are:

  1. Placing citations:
  • Numbers written in parentheses after citation.
  • After or before a period (consistently).
  1. Numbering references:
  • Numbered according to the order in which they appear in the manuscript.
  • Tables/text/figures/images/legends also numbered.
  • Original reference number used if the same reference is repeated.

General Rules About Vancouver Reference List

  1. Reference list: References follow single-spacing in the same reference, but double-spacing in between different references.
  2. Order:
  • The references are arranged according to numbers, not alphabetically.
  • Every reference is listed only once.
  1. Referencing authors:
  • The author’s surname, followed by a space and author’s initials without periods or commas.
  • A comma and space exist between authors.
  • A period after the last author’s name.
  • If there are more than 6 authors, write the names of the first 6 followed by et al (meaning and the rest/others).
  • In the case of edited books, the editors’ names are written in place of the author’s. The last editor’s name is followed by a comma and the word editor (or editors).
  • In the case of edited books with chapters, each written by individual authors, the author names of the chapters are written first, followed by the title of the chapter, followed by “In:”, the editors’ names and finally the title of the book.
  1. Titles: Capitalize the first letter of the first word in the title is capitalised, without bold, underlining, or italicisation. The remainder of the title is in lower case, except for proper names. In the case of editions of a book, the edition number is written after the book’s title, abbreviated as ed and followed by a period (4th ed. for instance).
  2. Information about published books:
  • Title (and edition, is available) is followed by a period, space and city name.
  • If the city name isn’t available, the postal abbreviation for the state (U.S.) or province (Canada), or the country of publication is written, with a colon after it.
  • The name of the publisher is written with a semicolon after it.
  • If the author and publisher are the same, part of the author’s name is written as the publisher’s name, e.g., The Association for the publisher if the author is Canadian Medical Association.
  • The year of publication is written with a period after it.
  • If the date of publication is unavailable but the date of copyright is available, write the latter with c mentioned before it, for instance, c2021.
  1. information about published journals:

Journals are cited in this format in Vancouver referencing: Abbreviation of the journal title, period and space, year, (abbreviated month and day if available), semi-colon, volume, issue number in parentheses, colon, page range which has been cited in-text followed by a period.

  1. Pages:
  • To reference journals, the entire page range of article(s) is/are given rather than a single page. The format for mentioning pages in the Vancouver reference list is with dashes in between numbers, for instance, 130-9, meaning the page range is from 130 to 139.
  1. Information of online sources: Vancouver referencing for online sources follows the same format for print material, with retrieval date mentioned alongside. This allows readers to access the online source. Include the following components while referencing online sources in Vancouver style:
  • The title of the book or journal abbreviation followed by the word Internet in square brackets.
  • The word is cited in square brackets followed by the date of retrieval.
  • Write the URL cited. No punctuation is included after the URL ends. If it ends with a slash (/), a period is included.
  • In the case of a DOI, adding it is optional. It comes after the retrieval of information.
  • In case of information needing special access to the URL, it’s Included in a short note after the URL.


Following are some common items and how they are cited in a reference list using Vancouver style referencing:


  1. Journal article with 1 author: (Reference number). Author surname initials. Title of journal/abbreviation: subtitle (if any). ed. Place of publication: Publisher; Year of Publication.

Example: (2) Heracleous L, Fernandes O. Challenges in Coding Qualitative Data. 2021.

Note: In all the proceeding examples, reference number hasn’t been mentioned in the examples nor in the general format to keep things simple. But referencing always begins with (Reference number), like shown in the above example, in Vancouver style.

  1. The organisation as author: Organisation name. Title of journal/abbreviation: subtitle (if any). ed. Place of publication: Publisher; Year of Publication.

Example: Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Hypertension, insulin, and proinsulin in participants with impaired glucose tolerance. Hypertension. 2002;40(5):679-86.

  1. No author: Title of article. Title of journal/abbreviation: subtitle (if any). ed. Place of publication: Publisher; Year of Publication.

Example: 21st-century heart solution may have a sting in the tail. BMJ. 2002;325(7357):184.

Books and Other Monographs

  1. Books with 1 author: Author surname initials. Title of chapter. In: title of the book in which chapter appears. City. Publisher. Year. p. -.

Example: Burroway J. Image. In: Imaginative Writing. New York. Pearson. p. 12-9.

  1. Editor(s) or compiler(s) as author: Editor(s)/compiler(s) name(s), followed by the word editor or compiler (whichever is appropriate). Publisher. ed. City. Year.

Example: Gilstrap LC 3rd, Cunningham FG, VanDorsten JP, editors. Operative obstetrics. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2002.

  1. Chapter in a book: Author surname initials. Chapter title. In: Book title, editors. City of publication: Publisher; Year. p. -.

Example: Meltzer PS, Kallioniemi A, Trent JM. Chromosome alterations in human solid tumors. In: Vogelstein B, Kinzler KW, editors. The genetic basis of human cancer. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2002. p. 93-113.

  1. Conference paper: Name(s) of paper presenters. Paper title. In: Journal name (or its abbreviation). Conference initiation year: Title of the conference; year Month dates; City, Country. Sponsor Country: Sponsor name; year. p. -.

Example: Christensen S, Oppacher F. An analysis of Koza’s computational effort statistic for genetic programming. In: Foster JA, Lutton E, Miller J, Ryan C, Tettamanzi AG, editors. Genetic programming. EuroGP 2002: Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on Genetic Programming; 2002 Apr 3-5; Kinsdale, Ireland. Berlin: Springer; 2002. p. 182-91.

  1. Dissertation: Author surname initials. Title of dissertation [dissertation]. City (state abbreviation). University; Year.

Example: Borkowski MM. Infant sleep and feeding: a telephone survey of Hispanic Americans [dissertation]. Mount Pleasant (MI): Central Michigan University; 2002.

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Other Online Published Sources

  1. Online newspaper article: Author surname initials. Article title. Newspaper title. Year Month date;Sect. (col.).

Example: Tynan T. Medical improvements lower homicide rate: study sees drop in assault rate. The Washington Post. 2002 Aug 12;Sect. A:2 (col. 4).

  1. Dictionary or similar sources: Dictionary title: ed. Location: Publisher; Year. Word entry; p.

Example: Dorland’s illustrated medical dictionary. 29th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 2000. Filamin; p. 675.

  1. Table/figure/image: while referencing any of these in Vancouver style, the same format as that of a journal article is followed, after which the table/figure/image/number of the source, title of table/figure/image/; p. (page number) the table/figure/image/ is present on the source.

Important to note: Every reference in the list for a different table/figure/image has to be included in a different entry, even if the document the table/figure/image has been taken from is the same.

Example: Smith J, Lipsitch M, Almond JW. Vaccine production, distribution, access, and uptake. Lancet 2011;378(9789):428‐438. Table 1, Examples of vaccine classes and associated industrial challenges; p. 429.

Electronic Media

  1. Website: Name of homepage/website [Internet]. City of publication: Publisher name; publication/copyright date [cited Year Month date]. Available from: URL.

Example: eatright.org [Internet]. Chicago: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; c2016 [cited 2016 Dec 27]. Available from: https://www.eatright.org/.

  1. Blog: Author surname initials. Title of Blog [Internet]. City of publication: Publisher name. Year. Publication/copyright date [cited Year Month date]. Available from: URL.

Example: Holt M. The Health Care Blog [Internet]. San Francisco: Matthew Holt. 2003 Oct – [cited 2009 Feb 13]. Available from: http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/category/matthew-holt/.

  1. Software: Publisher is a place of publication is not required. What’s needed is an ‘Available from: note with a URL’ or a doi: xxxxxxx note. Other useful notes come after the URL, such as the System Requirements note.

Publisher surname initials. Software develops company name:Software name. Version [software]. Year Month date of publication/copyright. Available from: URL.

Example: Hayes B, Tesar B, Zurow K. OTSoft: Optimality Theory Software. Version 2.3.2 [software]. 2013 Jan 14 [cited 2015 Feb 14]. Available from: https://linguistics.ucla.edu/people/hayes/otsoft/.

  1. YouTube content: Uploader surname initials/username. Title of Video [Video]. Year of upload. Available from: URL [Accessed date].

Example: Hasudungan A. COVID-19 (SARS Coronavirus 2) – timeline, pathophysiology (ARDS), coronavirus life cycle, treatment. [Video]. 2020. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnnVUq1P5Yo [Accessed 16 July 2021].

Tip: Natural Library of Medicine (NIH) has compiled a list of 44 different types of sources that might be referenced in the Vancouver format. This list is a very useful guiding format for anyone writing a medical manuscript in Vancouver style.

Frequently Asked Questions

Vancouver Referencing is a citation style commonly used in scientific and medical fields. It uses numbered in-text citations and a corresponding reference list, providing a concise way to acknowledge sources in academic writing.

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