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Vancouver Style Guide: Introduction

This guide explains how to use the Vancouver Style. It includes a short interactive tutorial.

Vancouver Style - what is it?

Academic writing requires the author to support their arguments with reference to other published work or experimental results/findings.

A reference system will perform three essential tasks:

  • Enable you to acknowledge other authors ideas (avoid plagiarism).
  • Enable a reader to quickly locate the source of the material you refer to so they can consult it if they wish.
  • Indicate to the reader the scope and depth of your research.

The Vancouver system is a widely used referencing system to help you achieve these objectives. It is a style popular in healthcare disciplines.

This guide has based the reference examples on the title "Citing medicine: the NLM style guide for authors, editors, and publishers." Access from our Recommended Read box on the right.

Vancouver Style - how do I use it?

The Vancouver style places full details of references at the end of a paper in the form of a numbers list.

Superscript numbers (like this: ¹) are used for In-Text-Citation. These numbers are placed in your text at the point where you refer to your source of information.

A consecutive number is allocated to each source as it is referred to for the first time. This number becomes the unique identifier of that source and is reused each time that particular reference is cited in the text.

The list of references should appear at the end of your paper in the order which they were cited in your paper.

Vancouver Style - what does it look like?

Here is an extract showing what In-Text-Citations look like in the Vancouver Style

More recently the assumption that targeting those with low serum levels of HDL-C will prevent events such as myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke or death, has been questioned.1 The research upon which these assumptions were made was conducted over fifty years ago, and there has been some questioning about both the experimental design and the samples sizes generalised from.2, 3 Due to this, and the huge variation in responses to treatment, under the same conditions, pharmacogenomics have been identified as possible way forward to cardiac care.4

Here is an example of what a Reference List looks like in the Vancouver Style

1. Toth PP, Barylski M, Nikolic D, Rizzo M, Montalto G, Banach M. Should low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) be treated? Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014;28(3):353-68.

2. Marks D, Wonderling D, Thorogood M, Lambert H, Humphries SE, Neil HA. Screening for hypercholesterolaemia versus case finding for familial hypercholesterolaemia: a systematic review and cost-effectiveness analysis. Health Technol Assess. 2000;4(29):1-123.

3. Taksler GB, Keshner M, Fagerlin A, Hajizadeh N, Braithwaite RS. Personalized estimates of benefit from preventive care guidelines: a proof of concept. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(3):161-8.

4. Yip VL, Pirmohamed M. Expanding role of pharmacogenomics in the management of cardiovascular disorders. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2013;13(3):151-62.

Vancouver Style - quotations

Short quotations – less than 40 words

The Vancouver Style advises that when using another's exact words, then those words must be placed in double inverted commas/quotation marks (e.g. ""). This is called a direct quotation and should be followed by the superscript reference number and page number where the direct quotation came from.  A full reference should then appear in your reference list.

If unsure, always check with your lecturer or tutor.

Short quotations are held to be less than 40 words in the Vancouver Style. An example of a short direct quotation would be

Cooper notes that “longitudinal and cross-sectional studies suggests an association between increasing n-3 PUFA intake and cognitive function.” 4(p.1)


Long quotations - 40 words or more

Long quotations in the Vancouver Style are held to have 40 words or more. These are laid out in a separate paragraph of text and indented clearly from the left margin. No inverted commas/quotation marks are included. A full reference is to be included in your reference list. An example of a long quotation would be

Cooper concludes that

In conclusion we have found no evidence of an effect of n-3 PUFA supplementation on cognitive performance in the general population or in those with ADHD and related disorders. There was suggestive evidence of improvements in those with low n-3 PUFA status. In order to provide a more conclusive picture future trials should employ larger sample sizes and should focus on supplementation of those who are n-3 PUFA deficient. It is suggested that regulators and producers of omega-3 products should consider this evidence when promoting their products.5(p.9)

Vancouver Style - printable version

Interactive tutorial - Vancouver

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Don't know a citation from a reference? Try our short tutorial.

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