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Vancouver referencing guide (Online): Basics

Mae’r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

The Swansea University Library Guide to the Vancouver Style

The Swansea University Library Guide to the Vancouver Style is based on Citing medicine: the NLM style guide for authors, editors & publishers.[1] Citing Medicine is the official guide to the Vancouver style. You may find other guides to Vancouver or see variations of the style in different journals. In particular, secondary citations may be handled differently. Journals will also differ as to whether numbers in the text should be inside or outside of punctuation marks. Follow the guidance below and consult Citing Medicine or contact the Library for further advice.

The Vancouver style is a numeric system. It was developed at a meeting of editors of biomedical journals in 1978 and has been widely adopted by journals in many disciplines, particularly in the physical sciences.

Each reference is given an (Arabic) number as it first appears in the text. The number given becomes the unique identifier for that reference, and so if it is cited again later in the text, it will still have the same number. The first reference cited will always be number 1 and numbers are allocated sequentially

The Foundation of a Reference

It is possible that some of your material, especially newer formats, will not yet have been allocated a specific referencing style.  In cases such as these it is best to look at a number of similar formats and then chose the format that better identify your reference.  The basic format of a Vancouver reference looks like this:



Place of Publication:


Year of Publication.

If electronic include

Title [format eg lecture notes, internet]

[cited year month day i.e. when you looked at the material]

Available from

The In-text citation

The reference number may be written in parentheses (1), square brackets [1] or superscript1.  If you use Endnote bibliographic software to manage your references you will see that the Endnote Vancouver style defaults to parentheses.


Example of reference list

Brookfield S. Understanding and facilitating adult learning: a comprehensive analysis of principles and effective practices. Buckingham: Open University Press; 1998.


1. Patrias, K. Citing medicine: the NLM style guide for authors, editors and publishers [Internet]. 2nd ed. Wendling, DL, technical editor. Bethesda (MD): National Library of 1. Medicine (US); 2007 – [updated 2015 Oct 2; cited 2018 May 31]. Available from:

2.British Standards Institution. BS 5605. Recommendations for citing and referencing published material. London: BSI; 1990.

3. University of Birmingham Library. Vancouver Referencing Handbook [Internet]. Birmingham: Birmingham University Library; 2016 [cited 2018 April 27]. Available from: