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BSCI 1510L Literature and Stats Guide: 2.1 Literature Cited

Introduction to Biological Sciences lab, first semester

2.1 Literature Cited

Science does not happen in a vacuum.  Research is based upon and influenced by previous work done by others.  In scientific writing, it is required that the work and ideas of others be referenced.  This serves not only of an acknowledgement of the work that was done, but also allows subsequent researchers to find out the details of how previous experiments were carried out. 

The last section of every paper is the Reference section, which is sometimes called Literature Cited.  This is actually one of the most important sections of a paper.  Many a neophyte student researcher has been chastised by his or her mentor for photocopying a paper and leaving off the reference section - don't make this mistake! 

Depending on the journal format, the references may be listed alphabetically by author, or be a numbered list in the order that the citations occurred in the text.  Most biomedical journals use the latter method.  However, the former method makes editing easier, so in this class we will follow that method.  We will use the format of the journal, Ecology, as shown in these examples:


  • Journal example:

Parmesan, C. 2007. Influences of species, latitudes and methodologies on estimates of phenological response to global warming. Global Change Biology 13:1860-1872.

  • Journal article with multiple authors:

Weber, D. J., W. A. Rutala, and E. E. Sickbert-Bennett. 2007. Outbreaks associated with contaminated antiseptics and disinfectants. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy 51:4217-4224.

  • Book example:

Darwin, C. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or, The preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. John Murray, London, England.

  • Article in a book:

Werner, P.A. 1979. Competition and coexistence of similar species. Pages 287-310. in O.T. Solbrig, S. Jain, G. B. Johnson and P. Raven, editors. Topics in plant population biology. Columbia University Press, New York, New York, USA.

  • Thesis or dissertation:

Calvo, R. N. 1990. Pollinator limitation, cost of reproduction, and fitness in plants: a demographic approach.  Dissertation. University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, USA.

  • Technical report:

Heinselman, M. L. 1981. Fire intensity and frequency as factors in the distribution and structure of northern ecosystems. Pages 7-57 in H. Mooney, I. M. Bonnicksen, N. L. Christensen, J. E. Loten, and W. A. Reiners, editors. Fire regimes and ecosystem properties. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report WO-26.


 1. Some reference formats abbreviate the journal titles, but for this class write out the complete journal name.

 2. All authors must be named in the Literature Cited; use "et al." only with the text.

 3. No reference is listed in the Reference section unless it was cited somewhere in the text.

 4. The DOI (digital object identifier) must be listed following the citation if one has been assigned to the article or book.  See Section 2.2.1 for more information about DOIs.

 5. It is generally not acceptable to cite web pages as references because they are subject to change at any time and their URLs are generally unstable.  However, if you MUST cite a web source that is not a peer reviewed article or which does not have an assigned DOI, use the following format:

Author, A. A. and B. B. Author.  Title of Document.  Retrieved from on YYYY-MM-DD. 

For example:

Manola, F. and E. Miller. RDF Primer. Retrieved from on 2013-05-07.

6. There is variation among journals in the exact format used in references.  Sometimes journal titles are italicized.  (Article titles are never italicized.)  Journal titles are sometimes abbreviated using standardized abbreviations.  We will not use abbreviated journal titles.

7. Volume and page numbers are always listed in the format: volume number, a colon, and the range of page numbers that include the article (e.g. 23:57-89 not "vol. 23, pg. 57-89").  The issue number is sometimes given in parentheses after the volume, but is often omitted unless the journal does not number pages serially throughout the volume (very rare for scientific journals).

Note: it is acceptable to use tools such as a citation generator (e.g. to create the Literature Cited.  However, it is your responsibility to make sure that the tool actually did it correctly.  For example, the generator might not add the DOI to the end of the reference listing, and you might need to do it manually.