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Although there seems to be a different method to prepare a bibliography for every English class ever given, there is fortunately a standardized method to prepare a bibliography in medical writing. This method is used by the National Library of Medicine and has been incorporated into the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals and published in Citing Medicine1-3; it has been used widely since the 1970s in both journals and other medical writing. This method will be presented here.

References in the bibliography are placed in the order they are first cited in the text of a document, and each reference is assigned a consecutive Arabic number. Those cited only in tables or figures are numbered according to the place the table or figure is identified in the text. References are not listed multiple times in the bibliography, if they are cited more than once in the text of the document. Instead, subsequent citations to the same reference use the original reference number. It should also be noted that Ibid is not used. The reference number in the text will be the Arabic number in parenthesis or, commonly, superscript. This number is often cited after the sentence that contains the fact being referenced. If there are several references used to prepare a specific sentence, they may be listed at the end of the sentence or throughout the sentence. Also, if the sentence is a lead-in to an abstract, the authors’ names are commonly listed followed by the reference number. See the sentences below for examples.

  • Drug X has been shown to cause green rash with purple spots.2,3

  • Drug Y is useful in the treatment of hypertension,4 congestive heart failure,5 and arrhythmias.6

  • Smith and Jones7 studied the effects of …

  • Brown et al.9 treated … (please notice on this example, al. is followed by a period since it is an abbreviation, whereas et is a full Latin word, and there is no need for a comma after the first author’s name)

  • Brown and associates9 treated … (this is used the same way as the previous example, but is preferred by some people over the use of et al.)

Before getting into the method for listing references and examples, it should be mentioned that there are a number of general rules to be followed:

  • Citations are often not found in conclusions of documents. The conclusions are based on the information presented, and cited, earlier in the article.

  • Avoid using abstracts as references, if at all possible. Sometimes the information is only published as an abstract, so it is necessary to cite the abstract in this situation.

  • Avoid using unpublished observations or personal communications as references. In the latter case, it is proper to insert references to written, but not oral, communications in parentheses in the text ...

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