• 4-minute read
  • 2nd December 2017

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.

Other nicknames include ‘Rain City’ and ‘No Fun City’, but they sound less exciting.

It is also the home of Vancouver referencing. Well, sort of.

What Is Vancouver Referencing?

Vancouver referencing is an ‘author-number’ system, which uses numbers in the main text to point to a list of authors at the end of a document. It is widely used in medicine and the sciences.

The style became known as ‘Vancouver referencing’ after the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors met in Vancouver and agreed to use it across all biomedical journals.

However, while all versions of Vancouver use a basic ‘author-number’ system, they often differ in the minor details (e.g. punctuation and use of italics). As such, if your university recommends Vancouver referencing, you’ll need to check your style guide for advice.

How Do Citations Work?

As mentioned above, Vancouver uses numbers to point to an entry in the reference list. But since there is no definitive version of this system, the exact format for citing a source can vary.

Generally, citations are indicated using parentheses (1), square brackets [2], superscript numbers3, or some combination of the above.[4] 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 Partridge (1), X is Y. However, this has not been backed up by other studies (2).

Each number refers to a different source. When you cite a new source, give a new number in the citation. If you then cite the same source again, simply repeat the number you used the first time.

Advanced Citations

In addition to basic citations, you can cite more than one source at a time by including more than one number in brackets. And if you’re quoting a source, you should also include page numbers:

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

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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.

As with any referencing system, using a consistent style throughout your document is vital.

The Reference List

The format of a Vancouver reference list will depend on the version of the system you’re using. However, they should all have two things in common.

One is that sources are listed in the order they appear in your document. The other is that all references should include enough information for the reader to find the source used.

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

(1) Partridge A. X and Y: A Study of Local Radio. Norwich: Alpha Papa Publications; 2012.

The number at the start corresponds to 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 includes additional reading.

This terminology can vary, though, and which one you need to include depends on the version of Vancouver. 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!

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