Making Your Career through Publishing Original Papers


All Editors-in-Chief are usually aware that the section in which the greatest numbers of errors occur in any paper is the References section. Therefore you should pay special attention to this section.

Furthermore, while editors of medical papers will willingly spend a lot of energy and time in improving your paper, it is quite frankly a total waste of their time to check up on whether the format of the references are correct, and whether this is according to the style of the journal. Although this site does not endorse any commercial products, I know that many authors have been very happy with using programs such as EndNote to properly administer all the data on papers they might cite. As long as you are completely accurate when you put in the data information of the citation, it will remain in the memory of EndNote or whatever system you use, and you can easily generate it in the various forms required by the different journals. This will save you much time, and it is well worth your time as it ensures that your list of references is correct.

In fact the birth of the movement that started in the early 1970s that ended up creating the Uniform Requirements, now known as Uniform Recommendations of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, was started because a certain secretary was tired of having to retype the references in different formats every time her superior’s papers were rejected. And she wrote a letter of inquiry to a certain journal, asking if it were not possible to have a common format for references. This eventually gave rise to the movement to have a consistent policy on medical writing. Unfortunately however, we still do not yet have a single style of references almost 50 years after that initial inquiry.

If possible, making your list of the references, refer only to original papers, not to citations of papers which may themselves be citations of citations. This is one process by which mistakes enter the references section of a paper. You should use as references only materials that are available as full papers, and not just as books of abstracts of international journals. This is because it is almost impossible to obtain books of abstracts of conferences unless it is a large organization and keeps them on record. As mentioned previously, if a paper has been accepted for publication, it can be referred to as a citation listed in the references section as “in press” or “forthcoming”, but if it has not been accepted, for example, if it is only under consideration for acceptance, it cannot be included in the list of references and must be referred to in the text as “unpublished data” or “unpublished observations”. As mentioned before, if you are going to cite a personal communication, you should first obtain, in writing, permission from the person involved to include that statement in your paper, giving the exact form in which you will present that person’s opinion or statement. These and other documents must be kept in a safe place in case of any investigation into the veracity of your data or the paper as a whole. Compiling references is extremely time-absorbing, so use whatever electronic communications means are at your disposal to keep your own file of papers that you might cite in the future. In the same way, you would develop your own check list for submission.

Style of the references should be based on the ICMJE Recommendations style, which in turn is based on the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) of the US National Library of Medicine.

Please refer to

However if your target journal has its own style of references, for example, in alphabetical order, or listed by year of publication in the main text, you must follow exactly the specific instructions of the target journal. To ignore those instructions is rude and counterproductive. If you do not follow the style of the journal, it will be assumed that you have either not read the journal, or have submitted it to another journal and have been rejected and are only now submitting to the present journal. In either case, the impression will be very negative on the reviewers who are very sensitive to small details like style of references, number of keywords, number of words in the abstract, etc. The style of the ANSI is to number each consecutively as references to them appear in the text, and to list them consecutively in that order in the text and in the list of References, specifying them by Arabic numerals. References cited in the text should be numbered in the text in the order in which they appear in the text. This can be difficult if you are not sure how the final paper is going to look and will require your vigilance when reviewing galley proofs for final approval before publication.

The style of abbreviations of journal titles
Follow the style indicated in the Index Medicus. For electronic references, please follow the Instructions to Authors, and if you have any questions, please inquire of the journal office before your submission. Doing so will probably save both you and the journal extra time.

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