1. Identify what the source is, where it’s from, and who it’s by.
Is it a book? A journal article? An interview? Did you access it online? How many authors does it have? The source’s characteristics influence how to reference it.
Say for instance you need to reference a journal article that you found online, such as the one below. The screenshot below shows the information that is at the top of the first page of the article. This information tells you that it is an article from the journal BMC Medicine, and that it has 10 authors.
2. Find a matching example in your style guide.
The aim is to find the closest example possible in your chosen Vancouver style guide. For the following examples, we’re using the Monash guide to Vancouver referencing.
In the style guide, you can find examples for a journal article that is written by more than six authors.
Author AA, Author BB, Author CC, Author DD, Author EE, Author FF, et al . Title of article. Abbreviated title of journal. Date of publication YYYY Mon DD;volume number(issue number):page numbers.
Hallal AH, Amortegui JD, Jeroukhimov IM, Casillas J, Schulman CI, Manning RJ, et al. Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography accurately detects common bile duct stones in resolving gallstone pancreatitis. J Am Coll Surg. 2005 Jun;200(6):869-75.
3. Write out the reference following the style guide examples.
Your aim at this point is to make the information that you have match the order and formatting of the information from the style guide. This includes the details such as punctuation. If you’re ever unsure, remember that your markers care most of all about consistency and having enough information to be able to locate the source themselves. Check over your references to make sure they’re following the same principles and formatting.
First, you need to identify the first six authors’ surnames (also known as their last name, or family name). Then, you need to work out the authors’ initials for their first names, and write the initials after each of the six authors’ surname. After the sixth author, write ‘et al.’ to show that there are more than six authors. For example:
Banks E, Joshy G, Weber MR, Liu B, Grenfell R, Egger S, et al.
Article and journal title
Then comes the article title and the journal name.
Banks E, Joshy G, Weber MR, Liu B, Grenfell R, Egger S, et al. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC Medicine.
After that, you need the year of publication, the volume number and, if available, the issue number. You will also need the page range. Sometimes you may need to look elsewhere in the article or on the journal’s website to find out these details.
Finally, if you found the article online, you have a couple of options. Look to see if the article has a DOI—a Digital Object Identifier. This is like a stable URL. If so, then you will put the DOI after the page range. The Monash guide to Vancouver referencing has examples to show this. If there is no DOI, follow the guide’s examples to provide the URL.
A finished reference
Following the above steps, this is what your reference list entry will look like:
Banks E, Joshy G, Weber MR, Liu B, Grenfell R, Egger S, et al. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC Medicine. 2015; 13(38): 1-10. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12916-015-0281-z
Note that in Vancouver style, each source is numbered according to when they first appear in your work. In the reference list, the first source that appeared in your work is labelled (1), the second source (2) and so on. To see an example reference list, check out the Monash guide to Vancouver’s introduction to Vancouver.
When you use Vancouver, you use parenthetical citations in the body of your work to show where the information comes from. Note that in the Vancouver style, each source is numbered according to when they first appear in your work. In the reference list, the first source that appeared in your work is labelled (1), the second source (2) and so on.
For example, your in-text references might look like this:
According to one study (3), a different solution is available for the problem that King’s research describes (4). Following the publication of (3), other researches have verified the solution (5), (6), (7).
Check your guide
Always remember to have your chosen style guide open while you are referencing—even if you use referencing software. It’s useful to look out for inconsistencies, and to make sure that you have all the right information in the correct order and format. Check out the style guides listed above.