Listen to Audio Tutorial (transcript below):

Tutorial for preparing the references for the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

This is by your managing editor, a recovering schoolmarm, who will be immensely grateful to you for following these instructions carefully and asking questions if you have any. You may want to listen to this while looking at references from an article we have previously published. I really don’t want to have to send your paper back to you to be done over. It will delay publication as well as causing a lot of headaches.

Every scientific journal has its specifications for completing the references. This is a tedious process that often seems arbitrary, but is important to be meticulous and consistent. Our journal in general follows the AMA style, with one important exception that I will highlight when we get to it.

The AMA Style Manual is quite a thick book, and there are many pages devoted to some of the newer types of references that we are seeing. I often have to consult this book, and sometimes end up making arbitrary decisions, with an attempt to be as internally consistent as possible. If you have a question, you might look through past issues, all of which are available online at

Please make every effort to do it right the first time. It is really much easier to do it right when you are typing than to spend hours going back over it to correct it.

Given our staff limitations, we may have to return the article to you for correction before it can be published.

We recommend that you use the endnote feature in Word, particularly if you have a large number of references. Go to the menu at the top called “References.” Click on that, and it will lead you to a dropdown menu that includes endnotes.

We do not use footnotes in our publication. Commentary that another journal might put in a footnote must be incorporated into the text. The only thing that goes in the endnotes is references. They are numbered in the order in which they are cited. Each reference gets one and only one number. We do not use things like “ibid.” to refer to citations of the same reference, but just cite that reference number again. If you want to refer to a specific page, that page number will go in the text next to the reference number, e.g. [1, p 15].

If you enter an endnote, Word will helpfully put that number in a superscript and then take you directly to the endnote at the end where you can type in the details. When you hover over that superscript, Word will helpfully show you what you have typed in for that reference.

The reason for using this feature is that in the event that you add something, delete something, or rearrange something, the software will renumber the references for you. It’s supposed to have a cross reference feature for additional citations to the same reference, but at least in my version it doesn’t seem to work, so these will have to be entered by hand.

After the superscript, what I will do in the editing stage is put the reference number on the line in square brackets, e.g. [12], or [12,13], or [12-16]. When you get your copyedited version back, it will have apparently redundant superscripts and numbers on the line in square brackets, e.g. 1 [1]. The reason for this is that it enables the typesetter and me to find these again. The printer’s software is going to strip out those endnotes, and then the compositor will put in a superscript. Please do not do the superscripts yourself. You might as well save the trouble because they will be stripped out along with other formatting codes. If you want to give a page number on a reference that is cited multiple times it would be [1, p x]. For a cross reference, put that in a square bracket on the line too.

If you have a question, please call or email [email protected] rather than guessing.

Now we come to the format of the references.

The first element is the authors. Please count the number of authors. If there are five or fewer, all of them will be listed. If there are six or more, only three will be listed, and the rest bundled together under et al. The last name of the author, space, first initial, second initial, comma if there is another author, and period if there is not. If there is a suffix such as Jr. it would be, for example: “Brown AB Jr,” if there is another author, or Brown AB Jr.” if there is not. Please do not put in additional commas and periods and spaces. These are only used to separate the elements like one author from another, or a space between last name and initials. Do not put an “and” before the last author, just list all the authors and when you don’t have any more, put a period in and go on to the next element.

Next is the title of the article. If this is an article in a journal, or a chapter in a book, the only words that are capitalized are the first one and any proper nouns or adjectives. The first word after a colon that sets off a subtitle is generally not capitalized. After this title you put a period.

If it is a chapter in a book, you follow the period by “In:” Now we put the author or the editor: last name, first initial, second initial, comma, space, last name, first initial, second initial, and if these are editors as they generally are in this situation, it would be comma, “ed.” if there is only one, or “eds.” if there are more than one.

Next comes the title of a book or journal. If it is a book, you capitalize the first word and all of the important words. This could be somewhat a matter of judgment, but in general, unimportant words include article adjectives; coordinating conjunctions such as “and,” “but,” “or”; and prepositions. Verbs, even tiny verbs like “is” and “be” are always capitalized.

If you are citing a whole book rather than a chapter, the title of the book comes next after the author(s).

After the title of the book comes a period. Then comes the place of publication if you can find it. Increasingly, I have not been able to find the city and state (or country) even though I’m pretty sure the book has to be printed somewhere on planet earth. The convention is city, state--use the abbreviation for the state if there is a standard one, not the ZIP code. Write it out if there is no abbreviation, such as Ohio. Then you have a period after the abbreviation if there is one, then colon, space, name of the publisher, semicolon, date of publication (which is most often just a year). And then a period, as at the end of all references.

If this bigger work is a journal, you will use the abbreviated name of the journal. By the way, both book titles and journal titles are set in italics.

There is a huge list of standardized abbreviations somewhere. I used to go through this whole ream of paper until I have learned most of the common ones and the rules that seem to govern the rest of them. Probably the most commonly cited ones would be the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is JAMA, the New England Journal of Medicine, which is N Engl J Med, or Annals of Internal Medicine which is Ann Intern Med. You don’t put periods after the abbreviations here. If the title is one word, that is not abbreviated. Watch out for abbreviations that could stand for more than one thing, such as psych, which could be for psychiatry or psychology. Psychiatry may be abbreviated “psychiatr,” and psychology as “psychol.” Actually a lot of abbreviations end in “ol” such as “endocrinol” or “oncol.” You can always check to see how the article is cited elsewhere, as on, to see what abbreviation is used.

Now we come to the difference between JAMA and our style. We do not put a period after the name of the journal, even though JAMA does and maybe that makes more sense, but we proceed right to the year. We do put a period after the name of a book.

An example of a journal: JAMA 2009;313:1371-1372. Year, volume number, inclusive page numbers. Use the full final page number, not something like 1371-2. If you need to have an issue number, that goes in parentheses right after the volume number. In general, if the volume is numbered sequentially from start to finish rather than starting at page one with each issue, the issue number is not necessary. If you’re not sure, put it in. It might be a number, or it might be a month which would be abbreviated with three letters, or it might be a supplement so you would have to say S whatever. But there are not spaces between all of these things.

It is increasingly common to see a doi number. Although this is often cited in caps, it is our style and JAMA’s to have it all lower case even though it starts after a period. So right after the page number, it would be “. doi: 10.xxxxxxxx.” And then there’s a period at the end of the reference.

The abbreviation for our journal is J Am Phys Surg.

After the period at the end of the citation, you may want to give a URL, which is often convenient for your readers: “Available at: www.xxxxxxxx.” Since it comes after a period, “Available” starts with a capital letter. After the URL put a period. Then: “Accessed Mon day, year.” And then another period. If whatever comes next starts with a capital letter, then that’s a clue that there needed to be a period. And conversely if there is a period, there is generally a capital letter, except for “doi.”

Please take note of the convention for giving dates. If you give just the month and the year, you write the month out and there is no comma afterwards. It would be, for example, “March 2004.” If you want to give the day of the month, however, you always abbreviate the month, and that is treated like a symbol, not an abbreviation (it is not followed by a period). So it would be “Mar 4, 2004.”

Note that things have a tendency to disappear from the internet, so it is a very good idea to keep a hard copy of anything you’re citing from the internet in case a question arises later. This is especially important if the material is likely to be controversial.

If you are citing something like a popular magazine or newspaper, then you give the name of the publication, often abbreviated, followed by a comma and then the date of the issue. If you wish to give a specific page number after the date, you put a colon and then the page number.

How do you know whether to put a space after the colon or not? If what’s before the colon is a number, I would say generally not. If it’s a word, then generally a space comes after the semicolon or colon.

It is not acceptable to use simply a URL for the reference. Go to the URL, find the author if there is one – sometimes it’s an association or a publication or sometimes it’s anonymous (Anon.), and give the specific title.

It is not acceptable to put unpublished things as a reference. If you wish to include unpublished observations or a personal communication, this goes in the text. For example, (White AB, personal communication or unpublished observation, date).

Inadvertently including duplicate references is the most common reason for having to do renumbering. Every time this happens one must be very thankful if one has used endnotes. As a precaution, it might be a good idea to write a temporary number on something that you have referenced and put it in a special pile, so you can easily see that you have already referred to it.

I am told that there are software programs that will put the references in the proper style for whatever journal you are using. If you end up submitting to another journal after a paper is rejected, this will automatically change the format of your references. I am also told that these are far from perfect. I doubt that our journal would be included in such a piece of software, but JAMA is the closest thing to us if you want to try this.