The Vancouver system, commonly referred to as simply Vancouver, is formally known as the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, or the ICMJE Recommendations. It was developed in 1978 in – you guessed it, Vancouver – by a variety of editors of medical journals. Vancouver is often used in the sciences and medicine, and is used by both MEDLINE and PubMed, as well as over a thousand medical journals.

Vancouver is a bit different than other formatting styles because it’s not exactly a formatting style as much as it is a system. For instance, AMA uses Vancouver formatting (in a broad sense) in its reference formatting because it uses an author-number style, albeit with some variations in formatting.

While the minutiae of reference formatting (like italicizing and bracketing) might change, any referencing system that uses author-number is broadly considered Vancouver – not to be confused with the author-date system known as Harvard-style.

We're always happy to assist you with formatting trouble, but here are some quick facts about Vancouver.

Fast Facts

References are numbered in the order in which they appear in-text. If the same reference is used again later in the text, the original number is used.

When using citation numbers in-text, they should be placed after the associated part of the text. They can be placed before or after punctuation; the most important thing is to remain consistent.

Personal communication should not be used as a reference, unless it’s absolutely necessary – and even then, this is not to be placed in the reference list. This is cited only as a parenthetical citation, using the name of the person and date of communication.

References are single-spaced and double-spaced between each reference.


ICMJE Recommendations

University of Western Australia: Vancouver citation examples

Citing Medicine

Because the Vancouver system is often used in conjunction with another formatting style – as well as any idiosyncratic style preferences from a school or program, it’s no wonder formatting can be so formidable for so many students. Let us help! Our editors are well-versed in a variety of formatting styles and systems, and can ensure that your paper is formatted properly. Contact us today to see how we can be of assistance!

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