Referencing is a critical part of academic papers. Often, journals reject manuscripts for lack of proper referencing. Referencing is also a valuable tool for readers who get other source materials while reading an article and allows options to deep-dive into related aspects of one’s work.

Here are some important tips on how to write proper references in scientific papers.

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What is referencing?

A reference in an article is essentially a detailed list of other articles or academic papers cited in one’s work or the basis on which one’s own scientific paper is developed upon. Often, new authors confuse references and bibliographical references. Bibliography refers to a list of source material or base material relevant to the subject and been consulted by the author, but has not been cited in the article. The key differentiator, in this case, is the citation in the content itself.

References are reported at the end of the article in the chronological order in which they appear in the article, while the bibliography is listed alphabetically at the end of the article.

Types of referencing

Usually, two standard templates of referencing are followed for scientific papers; the style recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Vancouver system, most predominantly used for scientific papers.

Both systems are pretty intuitive once you get a hang of it, and both focus on the accuracy of the information and an easy compact way of conveying that information.

APA style: Also referred to as in-text referencing, this style uses an author–date citation system, in which a brief in-text citation directs the readers to a full reference list entry at the end of the article. The in-text citation appears within the body of the paper (or in a table, figure, footnote, or appendix) and briefly identifies the cited work by its author and date of publication.

APA referencing is done in 2 possible styles: parenthetical or narrative referencing. In parenthetical referencing, the cited content follows with the reference in the format (Author Name, Year). In Narrative style, the text start in the form “ Author (Year) noted that….”

Do note that the article has to have a detailed reference list with the authors and years replicated as in the text, and details of the articles then spelled out.

Vancouver Style: In Vancouver style referencing, a simple number in parentheses is used like (1), (2) where the numbers denote the sequential list of references at the end. If multiple articles are referred to, you can use numbers separated by comma (1,3,7).

Do note, whichever style you like to adopt, you have to maintain consistency in the style and cannot use mixed style referencing. The style is often suggested by the journal and you have to adhere to it. In both cases, a detailed reference list at the end is a must.