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Vancouver Referencing

Basic instructions on how to reference using the Vancouver system

Useful Cite them Right sections

Choose the Vancouver referencing style from Cite them Right when you log in.  This will give you examples of setting out quotations, paraphrasing and summarising, as well as an overview of the Vancouver referencing system, and a wide range of example references.

Use Cite them Right to prevent any mistakes!

We have highlighted the most common mistakes that students make in Vancouver referencing below.  Many of these can be avoided by using Cite them Right for guidance.  Use the Virtual tour in the Introduction section for help using Cite them Right.

1. Using 'et al'. incorrectly

et al. is not used in the citation part of Vancouver referencing.  It is used in the citation part of Harvard referencing, which is another referencing system commonly used at SGUL.  It is, however, used in the reference part of Vancouver, if the source has more than six authors.  See the References section of this guide for an example.  Make sure you always stick to the referencing system you have been told to use for your assignment or project.

2. Using author names in in-text citations

The Vancouver style uses numbers as in-text citations which correspond to a numbered reference list.  You should never include author names as part of the numbered citation in your work, though you may mention them as an integral part of your sentence.

3. Forgetting to include page numbers in citations

We’ve often found that there is some confusion over where and when to include page numbers within in-text citations. 

There is no specific convention regarding the use of page numbers with in-text citations in the Vancouver style (1, p.248). It is, however, good practice to use page numbers where you have paraphrased or quoted from a specific page.

How you set out your citation depends on the flow of your writing or the idea you are trying to communicate.  Log in to Cite them Right, choose Vancouver as your referencing style and you will find examples of quoting, paraphrasing and summarising in your text, using the Vancouver style.

4. Using footnotes

You should ensure that all of your citations appear as numbers in round brackets in the body of your written work and that your references are listed in numbered order on a separate page at the end of your assignment. If you are having trouble succinctly paraphrasing or synthesizing information in your work, have a chat with the Academic Success Centre advisors who can help you develop your academic writing.

5. Missing/incorrect details from the sources you want to reference

Websites are probably the most common references we see that are missing their vital bibliographic details.  If you find that lots of your sources are missing dates, ask yourself if you might be able to find a better, more reliable source for your work. eBooks are just as good, if not better than, websites for background information and have the benefit of including all the necessary bibliographic information at the beginning of the book.

Information on how to manage missing details such as author or date can be found in the Websites and web pages section of this guide.  You can apply this information to other sources beyond websites if they are also missing date or author.

Remember: You should avoid using websites for academic work which have no obvious author, title and date.  In general, using sources with missing bibliographic information is not recommended.

6. Chapters in edited books

The key to successfully referencing a chapter in an edited book is to ensure you are recording both the author(s) and title of the chapter you have read as well as the editor(s) and title of the book as a whole.  A common mistake we see usually involves including only one or the other.

There is an example of how to reference a chapter in an edited book in the Books and eBooks section of this guide. You can search for guidance in Cite them Right.  As ever, you can also email us at

7. Pesky Punctuation

Arguably the trickiest – and most tiresome – thing about any kind of referencing is ensuring your references are formatted correctly, with all the necessary punctuation in the right places. If you’ve got an errant full-stop, or a missing comma, you may be marked down.

Your numbered citation should normally be in round brackets (1) and the same size and font as your text (2).
You should not use superscript unless you are required to do so under very specific circumstances, for example, if you are publishing your work in a journal that requires you to use superscript.

How do I make sure my formatting is correct?

Attention to detail is key: following the exact layout of the examples provided in Cite them Right - whatever the source - will help you achieve referencing perfection.  We have highlighted the most useful sections of Cite them Right in this guide, as well as giving you a range of examples. 

Giving yourself time is also important!   Leaving referencing to the very last minute often means forsaking accuracy in an effort to turn your assignments in by the deadline. Marks for correct referencing are easy to earn and easy to lose, so give yourself the best chance and try to reference as you go and keep track of the bibliographic information of your sources too.