Wrangling references

lassoThe task of formatting references is often dreaded by writers and editors alike because it’s mechanical but highly detailed work. Yet, correctly formatted references are particularly important in digital communications, where links between documents affect journal impact factors and, consequently, a publication’s visibility in the field.
Elsevier, publisher of Dragonfly Editorial client European Urology, recently announced upcoming changes to simplify reference formatting for authors submitting papers to Elsevier journals. Based on a survey, Elsevier determined six reference formats that readers found easy to follow. According to Elsevier, reference styles will be standardized on these formats in coming months:

  • Numbered. Appreciated by our readers for displaying all author names. Once all deviations are removed, this style will be used by 335 Elsevier-owned titles. The style is popular in Physical Sciences.
  • Harvard. Primarily used in Humanities and Social Sciences. Our readers liked the name/date format, which displays basic information without the need to visit the last article page. It will be used by more than 400 journals.
  • Vancouver Numbered. The Vancouver Embellished format will be incorporated into this style and the result will be used by more than 242 journals–popular in Medical Sciences.
  • Vancouver Name/Date. A version for communities that prefer citations to feature the authors’ names in parentheses.
  • American Psychological Association (APA). The only style presenting full journal titles, an option preferred by 35% of the readers we spoke to. Almost 200 of our journals will follow this style, especially within Social and Economic Sciences.
  • American Medical Association (AMA). This style is used in more than 150 medical journals, especially popular amongst Societies.

Elsevier’s journals can also opt into a program whereby authors will be invited to submit their complete and consistent references in any style, and the final journal style will be applied as part of the production process. Elsevier hopes that this change will appeal to authors by allowing them to focus on content and hopefully reduce opportunities for error.
Reference formatting often falls to copyeditors, and we’re professionally and temperamentally suited to such tasks. Dragonfly Editorial’s medical copyeditors already work regularly with a variety of reference styles including AMA, APA, Chicago Manual of Style, and customized formats for specific clients. We’ll continue to work with authors and editors to create correct, complete reference lists that serve readers and publishers alike.
Jeni Crockett-Holme is a Dragonfly project manager and senior medical editor.

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