Citing your sources in the text

In the paper, especially in the introduction and discussion, you need to describe what other people have written about what you have studied, or about studies or observations that are close to the study you have done. The majority should come from international, peer-reviewed journals. In addition, sources of methods, experimental organisms, experimental material etc. should always be stated. The citations should be stated in the text. Different journals use different standards (Harvard, Oxford, Vancouver, APA, and American Chemical Society (ACS)). The instructions of each assignment should define which type of reference to use.

The citations should be at the end of the sentence where the text being referenced is located. It often means the first sentence of a paragraph. If it is evident that it comes from the same work, a more detailed presentation can follow afterwards without having to cite again. If you have more than one citation in the same sentence and need to separate the information on what comes from which citation, it is appropriate to specify the citation in each part of the sentence. This means that you should not write an entire paragraph and place citations at the end of the paragraph.

Citations should be done in one of the following two ways. Either they are numbered in the text (1, 2, 3 etc.), in the order they are referred to in the text, in parentheses (1) or using superscript1. In the reference list, the citations are written in numerical order. Alternatively, they can be cited in the text by the first author followed by et al, which means "and others", and year (Sadée et al 2013, Svensson et al 2011). Only write the first author and do not write initials. Then, write the citations in alphabetical order in the reference list. Note, however, that in the reference list (see below) you write all author names. If there are only two authors, write both names in both the text and the reference list (Pond and Tozer, 1984). Please note that websites that are used should also be referred to.

Sometimes you only have an oral citation available. Instead of year, write (Göran Sahlén, personal communication). This is the only occasion where you write the entire name in a text citation. Your own or other unpublished data may also be cited as (K. Johansson, unpublished observations). Make sure you understand the information correctly and that the person you are quoting is really willing to be cited. You must have the cited person's permission to cite their data. Oral references should only be used when writing is not available, they cannot replace original citations. They should also not be included in the reference list.

When referring, for example, to a dissertation, you must remember to quote only the results obtained in the work, not background information, for example from the introduction.

Only dependable web sources (higher education institutions, authorities and similar) may be cited. Cite them in the same way as other sources (name + year) or with a number.

List web addresses to databases and software directly in the text

If you have you used a software (not standard software such as Word), which is common in for example bioinformatics, cite them as if they were books. A person, company or organisation might own the rights of the software (which corresponds to an author), and you should write the name of the organisation (if any) behind the it, the location and the URL of the software’s website. See below for examples. You often find reference information on the website.

Reference management software

Uppsala University Library recommends Zotero, which you can download free of charge and is free to use. The library at BMC can help you if you need assistance. You can also attend courses through the BMC library, but it is so easy to use that most people do not need it. You will find a good introduction at:

Compiling the reference list: examples and tips

If you use reference management software to add citations it will make sure your citations look right, both in the text and in the reference list, and that the numbering and sorting of the references are updated as you change, remove or add citations. You need to learn how to import citations (Zotero has a browser plugin that makes this easy), how to insert citations into your text (Zotero has plugins for Word, OpenOffice, LibreOffice and Google Docs to do this), and how to choose which style you want to use for your citations (for example, the style determines whether the references should be displayed as author name and year or as numbers in the text). Zotero have several different pre-installed styles, but many others can be installed via Zotero's settings.

Much of the following text describes things that reference handlers arrange automatically, based on which style you choose for your citations, but which you have to arrange yourself if you do not use reference management software. Keep in mind, though, that even if you use reference management software, errors can occur, so check your reference list to make sure that everything is formatted correctly.

In the reference list, list all the published publicly available works you cite, neither more nor fewer. Oral citations are not included. For the same author, chronological order is used on the articles. If you want to cite your sources with numbers instead of names + years, number them in the same order they appear in the text. If you have written the author names in parentheses, the reference list should be in alphabetical order by author. There are also different systems for how the information is arranged. You can choose another format for individual works than the one below, if it is more common in journals in your area, as long as all the information below is included. For articles, include all authors, publication year, and the title of the work, the journal where it was published, volume, and pages. For books, include all authors, publication year, title, edition, publisher, and printing place. For individual chapters in anthologies, also include editors, the title of the anthology, and the pages of the cited chapter.

For journals that do not have a print edition, indicate the volume and e-page or DOI number (DOI = digital object identifier), but the name of the journal must still be included. The example in the next section provides more details on how to cite an article you have read on the web.

For web sources that are not journal articles, include the name of the person or organisation responsible for the website, a title of the work, the last modified page (if any), and the date when you downloaded the information.

Citations – examples

Journal articles

Principle: Surname initial(s) for all authors. Article title. Journal where it was published. Volume: pages (year of publication).

  • Gillespie U, Alassaad A, Henrohn D, Garmo H, Hammarlund-Udenaes M, Toss H, Kettis-Lindblad A, Melhus H, and Mörlin C. A comprehensive pharmacist intervention to reduce morbidity in patients 80 years or older: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med 169:894-900 (2009).
  • Abbott NJ, Patabendige AA, Dolman DE, Yusof SR, and Begley DJ. Structure and function of the blood-brain barrier. Neurobiol Disease 37:13-25 (2010).
  • Rowland M, Peck C, and Tucker G. Physiologically-based pharmacokinetics in drug development and regulatory science. Ann Rev Pharmacol Toxicol 51:45-73 (2011).

Journal without volume and page numbers (e-journal)

  • Wilmers CC, Getz WM. 2005. Gray wolves as climate change buffers in Yellowstone. PLOS Biology, DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.0030092.


Principle: Surname initial(s). Book’s title. Edition. Publisher: Place of publication, Year published.

  • Rowland M., Tozer T. N. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, Concepts and Applications. 3rd ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (1995)
  • Begon M, Harper JL, Townsend CR. Ecology. Individuals, populations and communities. 3rd ed. Blackwell Science, Oxford. (1996)

Chapters from books

Principle: Surname and initial of chapter author. Chapter title. I: Editor’s Surname, Editor’s Initial, editor(s). Book’s title. Place of publication: Publisher; p. page number (Year of publication).

  • Reidenberg M. M. Therapeutics as a Science. van Boxtel C. J., Santoso B., Edwards I. R. (Eds). Drug Benefits and Risks, International Textbook of Clinical Pharmacology. John Wiley & Sons Ltd: Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK. 1st ed. p 15–25 (2001).

Doctoral theses, reports etc.

  • Johansson A. 2003. Ph.D. Thesis. Design and Synthesis of Hepatitis C Virus NS3 Protease Inhibitors. Uppsala University.
  • Sandström B. Title of report. Technical report; Number; Publisher: Place of publication, date, pages
  • Medical Products Agency Sweden. Läkemedelsbehandling för glukoskontroll vid typ 2-diabetes – behandlingsrekommendation. Information from the Medical Products Agency. 2017;28(4):29–48.
  • The National Swedish Board of Health and Welfare. Nationella riktlinjer för hjärtsjukvård – Stöd för styrning och ledning. Article number: 2018-6-28. 2018. Available from:


  • R Core Teams. 2013. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. URL:

Web addresses

  • Medical Products Agency Sweden. Interchangeable drugs.
  • [2018/07/02], downloaded 2019/06/10.
  • Mendeley Ltd. 2019. Harvard Format Citation Guide., downloaded 2019/08/16.

Be consistent and use the exact same format for your citations. Here are some details to consider:

  • Check carefully where to use full stops, commas and colons.
  • Either use the abbreviated or use the complete journal names, do not use a mix. Journal names are shortened according to a standard (see PubMed or Scifinder). If you do not know the standard abbreviation of a journal, write the complete name.
  • For journals, do not write the word “volume” and do not indicate the issue number. Write “11: 115–121” (not ”volume 11 (2): 115–121”).
  • According some reference formats, journal names and book titles are in italics and volumes are indicated in bold. If you choose such a format, make sure to be consistent.
  • The reference list should use the same language as the rest of the paper. However, the title of the work must be stated in the original language. For example, in English "unpublished report from Uppsala University" and in Swedish you write "opublicerad rapport från Uppsala universitet".

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Last modified: 2022-07-12