• 3-minute read
  • 12th March 2019

What Is Vancouver Referencing?

Vancouver is the most populous city in the Canadian province of British Columbia. It is ethnically diverse, known for its high quality of life, and nicknamed “Hollywood North” for its connections to the Canadian film industry. It is also the home of Vancouver referencing. Well, sort of.

In this post, we’ll look at the basics of Vancouver referencing. This will include how to cite sources, reference lists and bibliographies, and why it is called “Vancouver” referencing in the first place.

What Is Vancouver Referencing?

Vancouver referencing is so called because of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, who met in Vancouver to agree on a referencing style for all biomedical journals.

They decided on an “author–number” system. This uses numbered citations to point to entries in a reference list, where the author and text are named.

However, Vancouver is not a “system” in the strict sense. Instead, it is a reference style with several variations (e.g., style of punctuation and use of italics). As such, if your school or publisher suggests using Vancouver referencing, make sure to check your style guide carefully.

Citations in Vancouver

As mentioned above, Vancouver uses numbers to point to an entry in the reference list. The exact format for citing a source can vary, but this usually involves parentheses (1), square brackets [2], or superscript numbers.3 If the author is named in the text, the citation usually comes after their name. If not, the citation goes at the end of the relevant passage. For instance:

According to Smith (1), X is Y. However, some studies disagree (2).

Each number refers to a different source, with sources numbered in the order they are first cited. If you then cite the same source again, simply repeat the number you used the first time.

Advanced Citations

As well as basic citations, you can cite more than one source at a time by including more than one number. And if you quote a source, you should also include page numbers:

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If X truly is Y (1, 3-5), then “Y must also be X” (6: p. 24).

For example, with the first citation above, the author is citing sources 1, 3, 4, and 5 from their reference list. With the second citation, they are citing page 24 of the sixth source in the list.

The Reference List

Like with citations, the format of a Vancouver reference list will depend on the version of the system used. However, they all have two things in common:

  1. Sources are listed in the order they are first cited in your document.
  2. All references should include enough information for the reader to find the source used.

A reference for a book, for example, might look like this:

(1) Smith A. X and Y: A Study of Similarity. New York: PI Publications; 2012.

The number at the start matches the citation in the main text. After that, we have the author’s name, the title of the book, and the publication details. This level of detail will usually suffice.

Reference List or Bibliography?

Some versions of Vancouver distinguish between a “reference list” and a “bibliography.” Usually, the reference list is only cited sources, while a bibliography may include additional reading.

This terminology can vary, though, and which you need will depend on the version of Vancouver used. This, again, makes it wise to check your style guide if you’re unsure how to proceed. But as long as you’re clear and consistent in how you cite sources in your work, you’ll be on the right track! And if you’d  like someone to check the referencing in your work, let us know.

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