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A guide to research resources for biology

Citing Sources

The primary reasons for citing sources in a research paper are to give credit to the authors whose work you have drawn upon and to allow readers to track down your sources, should they wish to do so.

Citation format for biology

The main guide for proper citation format in biology is Scientific style and format : the CSE manual for authors, editors, and publishers / Style Manual Committee, Council of Science Editors.  It is located in the Science Reference Collection at T 11 .S386 2006. See Chapter 29 | References (pages 490-575). Unfortunately the guide is not available in electronic format. The following general format for citing an article from a print journal is adapted from page 519.

Author(s). Year. Article Title. Journal Title {abbreviated form}.Volume(Issue):pages.

Flynt AS, Lai EC. 2011. RNAi in Xenopus: look before you leap. Genes Dev. 25(11):1105-1108.

Journal title abbreviations can be found at the National Library of Medicine Catalog: Journals Referenced.

If you are preparing an article for publication, use the citation style preferred by the journal to which you are submitting the paper.  Check the  journal web site for a section of instructions for authors.

If you are preparing a paper for a class assignment, check with your professor for the preferred formatting style.  The Library has a list of the most common styles with links to online versions (when available) on the Manage Bibliographies & Citations page. Click on the tab for Citation Guides. 

Citing Electronic Sources

Citation formats for sources from the internet are not as standardized as citation formats for print sources.  One of the purposes of the citation is to allow the reader to locate the resource.  Keeping this purpose in mind will help in creating good citations.

If you are citing for a journal publication, use the instructions for authors on the journal's website.  If you are citing for a class assignment, check with your professor about the acceptable format.

The following format for citing articles from electronic journals is adapted from the Council of Science Editors recommendations (Scientific Style and Format pages 558 and 563).

Author(s). Year. Article title. Journal Title {abbreviated} [Internet]. [date cited]; Volume(issue):pages. Available from:URL  doi {if given}  

Boehm JS, Hahn WC. 2011. Toward systematic functional characterization of cancer genomes. Nat Rev Genet [Internet]. [cited 2011 July 8]; 12(7):487-498. Available from:  doi:10.1038/nrg3013

Not all electronic journals use issue numbers.  Not all electronic journals use page numbers, but most will have some sort of identifying desigation for each paper.  Substitute that number for the pages (retain volume and issue number if they are present).

Svenson U, Nordfjäll K, Baird D, Roger L, Osterman P, et al. 2011. Blood cell telomere length Is a dynamic feature. PLoS One [Internet]. [cited 2011 July 8]: 6(6): e21485. Available from: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021485

Journal title abbreviations can be found at the National Library of Medicine Catalog: Journals Referenced.

See the box to the right for simpler formats for journal articles and for information on how to cite other internet resources.

Other formats for citing electronic sources

APA, MLA, the Chicago Manual of Style, and Turabian all use formats that are simpler than those of the Council of Science Editors. 

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