Vancouver (Numbered) System


In the Vancouver Style, a number is assigned to each reference as it is used. Even if the author is named in your text, a number must still be used. The original number assigned to the reference is used each time that reference is cited in the text. The first reference you cite will be numbered 1 in the text, and the second reference you cite will be numbered 2, and so on. If you cite reference number 1 again later in the text, you will cite it using the number 1.

References are listed in numerical order in a bibliography at the end of your essay. The references in the bibliography must follow a set format: there are examples of this below.

The number can be placed outside the text punctuation to avoid disruption to the flow of the text, or be placed inside the text punctuation. The latter is preferred at Leicester.

The titles of journals should be abbreviated according the style used in Medline. Abbreviated titles can be found in the PubMed Journals Database

An example of the Vancouver Style

Extract from: Ernst A, Feller-Kopman D, Becker HD, Mehta AC. Central airway obstruction. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004;169:1278-97.

Obstruction of the central airways, the trachea and mainstem bronchi, can result from a variety of disease processes and is the cause of significant morbidity and mortality. Although the actual incidence and prevalence of central airway obstruction (CAO) are unknown, the epidemiology of lung cancer would suggest an increasing number of patients develop complications of proximal endobronchial disease (1). An estimated 20-30% of patients with lung cancer will develop complications associated with airway obstruction (atelectasis, pneumonia, dyspnea, etc.) ... (2)

1. Ayers ML, Beamis JF Jr. Rigid bronchoscopy in the twenty-first century. Clin Chest Med. 2001;22:355-64.

2. Ginsberg RJ, Vokes EE, Ruben A. Non-small cell lung cancer. In: DeVita VT, Hellman S, Rosenberg SA, editors. Cancer: principles and practice of oncology, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven; 1997. p. 858-911.

Remember that a reference to journal article will need:

  • The year when the journal was published.
  • The volume number. There may be one volume or more, per year.
  • Perhaps a part number . Volumes may be published in several parts. Generally in the Vancouver style you can omit the part number unless each part of the journal starts numbering pages at page 1 or the reference is from a supplement.
  • The page numbers of the article itself. If the article is on pages 11-15, in the Vancouver style you can abbreviate this to 11-5.

Here are the rules for formatting references in a bibliography according to the Vancouver Style.

1. Journal articles

1.1 Personal authors
Stannard W, Rutman A, Wallis C, O'Callaghan C. Central microtubular agenesis causing primary ciliary dyskinesia. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004;169:634-7.

2004 is the year of publication, 169 the volume number and 634-7 the page numbers, that is, pages 634-637. The journal title is abbreviated using the abbreviation used in Medline, and this abbreviation is followed by a full stop.

List all authors - you may find that in older texts using the Vancouver style, only the first six authors are listed.

1.2 Corporate authors
The Royal Marsden Hospital Bone-Marrow Transplantation Team. Failure of syngeneic bone-marrow graft without preconditioning in post-hepatitis marrow aplasia. Lancet. 1977;2:242-4.

1.3 No author given
Anonymous. Coffee drinking and cancer of the pancreas (Editorial). Br Med J. 1981;283:628

If you read the article online, then you need to cite the online version: see Online sources below.

2. Books and other monographs

2.1 Personal author(s)
O'Callaghan C, Stephenson T. Pocket paediatrics. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2004.

2.2 Editor, compiler
Silverman M, editor. Childhood asthma and other wheezing disorders. 2nd ed. London: Arnold; 2002.

2.3 A chapter in a book
Armstrong WF. Echocardiography. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, editors. Braunwald's heart disease: a textbook of cardiovascular disease. 7th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2005. p. 187-270.

3. Online sources

If the source is on the web, include the date when you accessed it (as [cited ...)

3.1 Online journals
Williams FM, Cherkas LF, Spector TD, MacGregor AJ. A common genetic factor underlies hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders. BMC Cardiovasc Disord [Internet]. 2004;4:20 [cited 2009 Mar 23]. Available from:

3.2 Websites
Medecins sans Frontieres [Internet]. [updateed 2006 Jul 8; cited 2009 Mar 23]; Available from:

3.3 The British National Formulary online
Otitis media. In: Joint Formulary Committee. British National Formulary. [49] ed. London: British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; [March 2005]. [cited 2005 Mar 24]. Available from

4. Conferences

4.1 A whole conference
Kimura J, Shibasaki H, editors. Recent advances in clinical neurophysiology. Proceedings of the 10th International Congress of EMG and Clinical Neurophysiology; 1995 Oct 15-19; Kyoto, Japan. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 1996.

4.2 A conference paper
Bengtsson S, Solheim BG. Enforcement of data protection, privacy and security in medical informatics. In: Lun KC, Degoulet P, Piemme TE, Reinhoff O, editors. MEDINFO 92. Proceedings of the 7th World Congress on Medical Informatics; 1992 Sep 6-10; Geneva, Switzerland. Amsterdam: North-Holland; 1992. p.1561-5.

5. Newspaper articles

Lawrence F. School meal spending: aces and dunces. The Guardian. 2005 Mar 24: 6.

6. Videos and CD-ROM

Gastrointestinal tract: Physical examination for medical students. [Videocassette]. Leicester: Leicester University Audio Visual Services; 1995.

Perkin GD, Hochberg FH, Miller DC. Atlas of clinical neurology [CD-ROM]. 2nd ed. Version 1.1. London: Mosby; 1996.

Where to get more help

  • A printed guide is available which summaries this page
  • You can use EndNote or RefWorks to format bibliographies and to keep a record of publications.

The official guide to the Vancouver style, with plentiful examples of the things included on this website, and things not included is the NLM publication Citing Medicine. If Citing Medicine and this University of Leicester webpage disagree, please accept Citing Medicine as the correct version, and please contact us.

The Vancouver Style was devised by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, as part of their Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals

If you are writing for publication you should check the instructions to authors for the journal that you are submitting to. Some journals use their own variation of the Vancouver Style, and some do not use it at all. There are online compilations of instructions to authors available, from the Mulford Health Science Library, University of Toledo and by Akademisyen.

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