Principles of referencing your paper

Make sure you have cited references to support all statements of fact or where you report other people’s opinions. Do not ignore work that does not agree with your findings or hypothesis: present a balanced argument.

In the list of references, include all details necessary to find them in a database or on the internet. Include a persistent identifier, e.g. a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), if available. Avoid citing inaccessible or irrelevant references.

If your research is based on an existing dataset, or you reference datasets within your paper, ensure you have appropriately cited the source. Refer to the FORCE11 Joint Declaration of Data Citation Principles for detailed guidance on the use and citation of data within scholarly literature.

Several reference styles are widely used in academic journals. The choice of a reference style often depends on the academic discipline and the specific guidelines of a journal or publication. Some of the most popular ones are shown below.

  • Check whether there is a limit to the number of references and check published papers in the target journal to see whether any flexibility is allowed, then keep close to the advised limit.
  • For non-English publications, give the original title, transliterated according to English rules if necessary, followed by its translation into English in square brackets.
  • Preprints may be cited as references and should be identified as such. Some journals also identify them in the main text.
  • When citing web-based material, provide the URL and the date accessed, e.g., 23 August 2023.
  • Footnotes, with references or information at the bottom of each page, are used in some disciplines. Check your target journal.
  • Do not include unpublished work in the list of references: if required, describe the work in the main body of the article and obtain permission from the producer of the work to cite (e.g. personal communication, Yateendra Joshi, 2023).

Journals specify which style guide you should use to format your references in their instructions for authors. As you can see from the below examples, the differences between citation styles are minor, but important.

While commonly referred to as citation styles, they also encompass general writing principles. Among others, they address the perennial question of whether to employ active or passive voice. Despite the conventional scientific inclination towards passive voice, prominent styles like APA, Chicago, ACS and IEEE advocate using the active voice whenever feasible. The active voice tends to result in writing that is clearer and more concise, so the readers comprehend it more quickly.

To streamline the reference management process, we highly recommend utilising reference management software. There are various programs available, but two popular and free options are Zotero and Mendeley, covering an extensive collection of citation styles. These tools not only assist in organising, sharing and citing literature but also enable you to save pertinent materials directly from your web browser.

These programs seamlessly integrate with text processors like MS Word and Google Documents, allowing you to cite in-text effortlessly. With just a click, you can switch
between different referencing styles. However, while these tools automate much of the process, the ultimate responsibility for ensuring an accurate literature list lies with
you. Be sure to proofread your references carefully.

Many journals permit submitting supplementary materials, ranging from datasets and computer code to extensive tables, figures/photos, videos, animations or sound.
These supplementary materials should be appropriately cited in the main manuscript following the guidelines set by the journal.

However, for a more efficient and accessible approach, consider storing such materials in digital repositories like Zenodo, Figshare, Open Science Framework (OSF). This option is particularly advantageous because the deposited materials receive DOI identifiers (at different levels of hierarchy if needed), allowing them to be cited from the main manuscript just like any other publication. This ensures facilitates proper attribution and broader accessibility to the supplementary content, thereby increasing reproducibility and perhaps even increasing your citation rate.