Vancouver Style of Reference | quick guide

Thesis during MD/DNB training is a integral part of curriculum. However if not completed timely or systematically, it can add to significant stress. National Board of examination seems quite particular regarding the entire process of successful thesis submission and timeline. In fact its one of the important criteria for final theory exam.

When I started my thesis during DNB training, I had multiple queries like.

  1. How do I start at all?
  2. How should I cite references
  3. Should I mention references or bibliography as a heading
  4. Even things like what should be my overall font size, line spacing etc.

Reference section is one of the important building block of a good thesis. This post focuses on how to use Vancouver style of referencing / Citation in medical thesis or dissertation with examples from my own thesis.

What is a referencing

It is a way to demonstrate that you have done a thorough reading on the topic and you acknowledge the use of written by other authors in your own work.

There are two parts of referencing

  1. Citing the reference
  2. Reference list

How to Cite a reference in text?

There are two ways you can do this

Superscript Format

eg. Incidence of acute diarrhoea in children age of 5 year is 223

Bracket Format

eg. Incidence of acute diarrhoea in children under age of 5 year is 22 (3)

Citing More Than One Reference at a Time

When citing more than one source at a time, the preferred method is to list each reference number separately with a comma without spaces between each reference.

Incidence of acute diarrhoea in children under age of 5 year is 223,12,90
Incidence of acute diarrhoea in children under age of 5 year is 22 (3,12,90)

The Reference list or Bibliography list

Reference vs Bibliography : which word to use in medical thesis?

References are the source of information which are cited in the thesis while bibliography contains all sources of information irrespective of whether they are cited or not.

I will recommend using the word references in your thesis.

The order of reference list should be arranged in the order of citation in the text of thesis and not in alphabetical order. Citations are numbered consecutively in text like 1 then 2 and so on. Therefore the 1st citation will be 1st in the reference list. Once a source has been cited, the same number is used in all subsequent references in the text even if it comes repeatedly.

The following examples demonstrate the format for a various types of references, like books, Journals, online sources etc. Most of them are borrowed from my own thesis.

Referencing Journal articles

If you are using a paper copy of Journal, use following way for referencing

Standard format

Author of article A, Author of article B. Title of article. Abbreviated Title of Journal. year; volume (issue): page number(s).

citing reference from Journal
Citing reference from Journal


Mention all authors if less than 6. If more than 6 authors, list the first six authors followed by et al. Its a common mistake to write a single name of author followed by et al.

The titles of journals should be abbreviated as they appear in Medline index. To indicate a page range use 123-9 or 126-34 or 111-222. If you refer to a single page, use only 111.

Write issue and suppl of journal wherever applicable.


Less than 6 authors

  1. Sonia Puri, Vikas Bhatia, Amarjeet Singh, HM Swami, Amrit Kaur. Uptake of newer vaccines in Chandigarh. Indian J Pediatr. 2007; 74: 47-50
  2. Bandyopadhyay S, Banerjee K, Sharma RS. Practices of preparation of oral rehydration solution among mothers reporting to the drug distribution centers in Delhi. J Diarrhoeal Dis Res. 1993;11(4):249-251.

More than six authors

Example -Lebenthal E, Heitlinger L, Lee PC, Nord KS, Hodge C, Brooks SP et al. Corn syrup sugars: in vitro and in vivo digestibility and clinical tolerance in acute diarrhea of infancy. J Pediatr. 1983; 103(1): 29-34.

et al after writing names of six authors only if more than six authors.

Bulletin in Journal

Example - Birger C Forsberg. Diarrhoea case management in low and middle income countries Bulletin of the World Health Organization: January 2007, 85 (1) 42-48.

Volume with supplement

Example -Geraud G, Spierings EL, Keywood C. Tolerability and safety of frovatriptan with short and long term use for treatment of migraine and in comparison with sumatriptan. Headache. 2002;42 Suppl 2:S93-9.

If no author mentioned in Journal

Example -21st century heart solution may have a sting in the tail. BMJ. 2002; 325(7537):184.

E-Journals Referencing

Journal article accessed from online database.

Standard format

Author A, Author B. Title of article. Abbreviated Title of Journal. Year [cited year abbreviated month day]; vol(no):page numbers. Available from: URL (Include [Date of access]) or DOI (if available)


  1. Jha N, Singh R, Baral D. Knowledge, attitude and practices of mothers regarding home management of acute diarrhoea in Sunsari, Nepal. Nepal Med Coll J. 2006; 8(1): 27-30.
    Available from PMID: 16827086. [Accessed 20th January 2010]
  2. Thamer Kadum Yousif Al Hilfy. Mother’s knowledge and attitude regarding childhood survival. MEJFM (abstract). 2007; 5(1): 9-26.
    Available from http: // / journal/ Jan2007/ MEJFM_ Jan2007.pdf
Abstract citations can be included in a reference list if the abstract is substantial or if the full-text of the article could not be accessed.

How to reference books?

If editors and authors are same

If the editors of a book are also the authors of all of all chapters like Ghai textbook of pediatrics or Park PSM then it should be cited as


Author/editor. Title: subtitle. Edition. Vol. Place of publication: Publisher; Year. p. page number(s).

citing reference from book
Citing reference from book


  1. Park K. Park’s Textbook of Preventive Medicine. 19th edition. Jabalpur: m/s Banarsidas Bhanot; 2007. p. 183-188. (chapter name not included,)
  2. Ghai O.P. Ghai Essential Pediatrics: Diseases of gastrointestinal tract and liver. 7th edition. Delhi-92; CSB Publ: 2009. p. 260-269. (vol not applicable here)
    Vancouver style of reference explained with example
    Books: Multiple authors or editors

When the chapters in a book have individual author/s and the book is edited by others.


Author of Chapter. Title of chapter. In: Editor A, Editor B, editors. Title of Book. Edition (if not the first). Place of publication: Publisher; Year. page numbers.


  1. Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta. Acute Gastroenteritis in Children. In: Kliegman, Behrman, Jenson, editors, Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th edition vol.2 New Delhi: Elsevier; 2008. p. 1605-1618.
  2. Ashiok K. Patwari. Diseases of Gastrointestinal System and Liver: Diarrheal Diseases. In: A Parthsarathy, editor, IAP Textbook of Pediatrics, 4th edition vol.2. New Delhi: Jaypee; 2009. p. 602-608.

Citing a reference from textbook with no author


The Oxford concise medical dictionary. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2003. p. 26.
Multiple volumes.

Citing reference from E-Books

When you cite an electronic source, try to describe it in the same way you would describe a similar printed publication. If DOI is available use the DOI, otherwise state 'Available from' and use the URL of the home page of the book or report.


Author A, Author B. Title of e-book. Place: Publisher; Date of original publication. Available from : Source. URL [ and date of access]. or DOI


David Werner. Questioning The Solution - The Politics of Primary Health Care and Child Survival . Palo Alto CA: Healthwrights publication; 1997 p. 33-71. Available from: [Accessed 20th January 2010].


David Werner. Questioning The Solution - The Politics of Primary Health Care and Child Survival . Palo Alto CA: Healthwrights publication; 1997 p. 33-71. doi:

Referencing publications form Government and non-government Organisation like WHO, UNICEF


Assessment of risk & risk management for water related infectious disease. WHO/UNICEF: Global water supply & sanitation assessment report 2000; chapter 1: p. 1-5

NFHS-2 (1998-1999) National Family Health Survey India. International Institute of Population Science, Deonar, Mumbai, 2000.

Using reference from guidelines


If you are using paper version, you can write reference similar to books as mentioned above. If you are using online version use methods similar to E journals. Take a look ate following example

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Tuberculosis: NICE Guideline
[NG33]. 2016. Available from:
tuberculosis-1837390683589 [Accessed 27th May 2017].

How to cite from News paper


Schwartz, J. Obesity affects economic, social status. The Washington Post 1993 sept 30, p A1.

How to write a Reference List? - Example

The title 'References' should be either left justified or centered on the page. The reference entries should appear as a numerical sequence in the order that the source is cited in the text of thesis.

  1. Ibrahim MM, Aden AS, Omar HM, Wall S, Persson LA. Diarrhoea among children in rural Somalia. Maternal perceptions, management and mortality. Ann Trop Paediatr. 1994; 14(3): 215-222. (this is first reference
  2. Gutierrez G, Tapia-Conyer R, Guiscafre H, Reyes H, Martinez H, Kumate J. Impact of oral rehydration and selected public health interventions on reduction of mortality from childhood diarrhoeal diseases in Mexico. Bull World Health Organ. 1996; 74(2):189-97.
  3. Jha N, Singh R, Baral D. Knowledge, attitude and practices of mothers regarding home management of acute diarrhoea in Sunsari, Nepal. Nepal Med Coll J. 2006; 8(1): 27-30.Available from PMID: 16827086
  4. WHO: Readings on diarrhea- student’s manual, programme for control of diarrhoeal diseases. WHO. 1994, Geneva. p. 3-5.
  5. Ghosh S, Sengupta PG, Mandal SK, Manna B, Sikder SN, Sirkar BK et al. Maternal behaviour and feeding practices as determinants of childhood diarrhoea: some observations amongst rural Bengalee mothers. Indian J Public Health. 1994; 38(2): 77-80.
  6. WHO/UNICEF. Assessment of risk and risk management for water related infectious disease. Global water supply and sanitation assessment report 2000. p.1-5.
  7. Esrey SA, Potash JB, Roberts L, Shiff C. Effects of improved water supply and sanitation on ascariasis, diarrhoea, dracunculiasis, hookworm infection, schistosomiasis, and trachoma. Bull World Health Organ. 1991; 69(5): 609-21.

Abbreviations used in referencing

Standard abbreviations may be used in your reference list.

  1. Ed for Edition
  2. et al for and others
  3. No for number (series)
  4. p for page/pages
  5. Suppl for Supplement
  6. Vol for volume (book)

For more information on DNB thesis, here is Module for thesis by National Board of Examination, New Delhi

Vancouver style is not the only type of referencing method, the others are Harvard referencing, MLA, APA etc.

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Sources for further reading

  1. Reference management - Imperial college, London.
  2. Citing and referencing: Vancouver
  3. Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers [Internet]. 2nd edition. (free to access)
  4. Vancouver System - Wikipedia


about authors

Ajay Agade | DNB(Pediatrics), FNB(Pediatric Intensive Care), Fellowship in Pediatric pulmonology and LTV

Ajay is a Paediatric Intensivist, currently working in Pediatric Pulmonology & LTV at Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS, London

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