Vancouver (Numbering)

The Vancouver System or Numbering System is commonly used in the medical and scientific disciplines. References are numbered in the text, either in line with the text within brackets (1) or using superscript¹ , in the order in which they appear. A reference which is cited more than once is given the same number. The references are then listed at the end of the text in numerical order.

These links explain how to reference using the Vancouver system. See below for a brief introduction to using Vancouver.

For help and support with referencing or other academic skills, contact the Academic Skills Centre. Researchers should contact the Research Skills team.

For detailed help with referencing examples, please also use the University-subscribed Cite them right online, published by Macmillan International and developed from the authoritative Cite them right by Pears and Shields.  Other useful resources, in particular from the National Library of Medicine (USA), are given at the end of this page. 

Quick guide to Vancouver referencing

This is an introductory guide to citing and referencing using the Vancouver system. See the A to Z for detailed guidance on citing different types of resources. Alternatively, Cite Them Right Online is an external website that offers guidance on a number of different referencing systems, including Vancouver.

Citing in text

Vancouver uses numeric references in the text, either numbers in brackets (1) or superscript.1 These in‐text numbers are matched to full, numbered references for each publication in a reference list. The reference list is arranged in numerical order i.e. the publications are listed in the order they appeared in the text, and not alphabetically by author(s) or editor (s) name.

Using numbers in text

  • When citing two or more sources at once, write a number for each separated by a comma e.g. (1, 2) or (6, 12)
  • When citing more than two sources which are numbered consecutively, use a hyphen instead of a comma e.g. (3-5)
  • If you need to cite a particular work more than once, you can use the same reference number for each citation
  • Numbers should be in brackets and placed after punctuation marks such as full stops or commas, but before colons and semi-colons
  • Page numbers.  It is recommended that page numbers should be included in in-text citations where this is necessary to indicate a specific part of the text, for example with a direct quote or paraphrase, eg (2, p. 20) or (2, p. 20)

Reference list

  • The reference list should only include sources you have cited in your text. List any sources you read, but did not cite in your work, in a separate bibliography
  • A reference gives the full details of the brief citation you have referred to in text and is shown at the end of your essay. A reference will include authors, titles, editions, publisher details and journal details

Key things to note about references

  • When referencing journals the title must be abbreviated. For a list of journal abbreviations please see the NCBI NLM catalog.
  • Many science publications are the result of collaborative work, resulting in multiple authors who require citation. If the work has six authors or fewer, list all of them. If there are more than six authors, list the first six authors followed by et al. 

Example list of references

  1. Martin EA, editor. Concise medical dictionary. 8th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2010 
  2. Parkinson J. An essay on the shaking palsy. London: Whittingham and Rowland; 1817
  3. Mayo R, Stern P, Williams TW. An estimate of the prevalence of dementia in idiopathic Parkinson's disease. Arch Neurol 1988; 45: 260‐263
  4. Brown RG, Robinson PJ. The level of depression in Parkinson's disease. Am J Psychiatry 1987; 149: 122‐129
  5. Meakin CJ, King DA, White J, Scott JM, Handley H, Griffiths A, et al. Screening for depression in the medically ill. J Nerv Ment Dis 1991; 12: 45‐53

Referencing books

Author/editor. Title (capitalise only the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns), Edition (only include the edition number if it is not the first edition). Place of publication: publisher; Year of publication, Series and volume number (where relevant).

One to six authors (list all of them)

  1. Guy J. The view across the river: Harriette Colenso and the Zulu struggle against imperialism. Charlottesville, Virginia: University Press of Virginia; 2001.

More than six authors (list the first six followed by et al.)

  1. Meakin CJ, King DA, White J, Scott JM, Handley H, Griffiths A, et al. Screening for depression in the medically ill. J Nerv Ment Dis 1991; 12: 45‐53

Edited book

  1. Al-Sabbagh M, editor. Complications in implant dentistry. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Elsevier; 2015. Dental Clinics of North America series, v. 59, no. 1.

Chapter in a book

  1. Sparkes V. Function of the spine. In Everett T, Kell C, editors. Human movement: an introductory text. 6th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingston Elsevier; 2010. p. 191‐ 209.


  1. Wear A. Knowledge and practice in English medicine [internet]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2000 [cited 2015 June 17]. Available from: http://


Journal (Print)

Author(s), Title of article, Title of journal (capitalise all initial letters and use journal abbreviation), Date of publication as year month day, [cited year month day]; Volume (issue): Page numbers (not preceded by p.).

  1. Knapik JJ, Cosio-Lima LM, Reynolds KL. Efficacy of functional movement screening for predicting injuries in coast guard cadets. J Strength Cond Res 2015; 29 (5): 1157‐1162.

Journal (Electronic)

Remember to add [internet], date cited and URL or DOI (digital object identifier).

  1. Knapik JJ, Cosio-Lima LM, Reynolds KL. Efficacy of functional movement screening for predicting injuries in coast guard cadets. J Strength Cond Res [internet]. 2015 [cited 2015 June 23]; 29(5): 1157‐1162. Available from:


The bibliography is a separate list of works you consulted but did not reference. It should also be located at the end of your work. 

Sample Bibliography

Crime Commission. Prosecution appeals (Law Com No 567, Cm 8906). London: The Stationery Office; 2012.

Jameson A. ‘International queries’, British business schools librarians group discussion list (2014 Mar 13). Available email:

Jones D. ‘Developing big business’, Large firms policy and research conference (University of Birmingham, 1999 Dec 18-19). Leeds: Institute for Large Businesses; 1999.

Lucas G. The wonders of the Universe. 2nd ed. Jones F, Smith J, Bradley, T, editors. London: Smiths; 2004.

Whittingham D. Zulu Warriors. University of Birmingham: unpublished handout; 2015.

Other useful resources for Vancouver referencing





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