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Medical Scholarship: AMA Style Tips

A handy guide for your medical scholarship adventures

This guide offers general guidelines and select examples of AMA citing and reference style. It is NOT a substitute for the AMA Manual.  It is strongly recommended that you use EndNote, or other citation management tool to aid in organizing and citing references. 

Citation vs. Reference

What is the difference between a citation and a reference?

  • Citations are a way of disclosing within the main body of a work, that the quote, idea, image, chart, statistics, etc. are taken from an outside source. 
  • References are usually a list which contains all the sources which have been cited while writing or composing the work.

What does a cited reference look like?

Different publication styles call for citation and reference information to be written in a very a specific order, and can have differing rules regarding capitalization, and punctuation. In general the minimum information needed for a cited reference is an: 

  • Author or Creator
  • Title
  • Source (e.g., Journal or magazine, website, edited book)
  • Date of creation or publication
  • Publisher

Citing Within Text in AMA Style

  • References in text should be numbered consecutively with superscript numerals (1,2,3…) in the order in which they are cited in the text.
  • If a reference is used multiple times in one document, use the same number throughout the document.
  • Put a comma (no space in front) between the numbers for multiple citations.
    • Example: The data were as follows 3,4
  • Join a closed series with a hyphen.
    • Example: As previously reported, 11‐14,25
  • Reference numbers appear outside periods and commas, and inside colons and semi-colons
  • DO NOT include citations, references, or URLs in the abstract of your work.
  • Author names imay be used in the body of your work, as long as these mentions are accompanied by numbered citations. For materials with one or two authors, include both names. For materials with 3 or more authors, include the first author's name and then et al.   

See section 3.6 Citation for more information and specific examples

Selecting Reference Type

Deciding how to cite an item can be difficult. Is this a website or a journal article, or is it government publication?  When in doubt how to cite an item ask yourself these questions:

  • Who produced or wrote it? 
  • Can it stand alone or is part of a larger document or website?
  • Does it have a unique identifier or accession number? 
  • Is this something that exist only online or does it have a print version? 

Consult section 3.0 References of the AMA Manual and try to see where the item best fits.  If you are still unsure consult with your professor or contact a librarian for help.  

The Reference List in AMA Style

  • Some resources and databases, including PubMed, have a cite option or button that will display a reference or citation in select publication styles.  AMA style may not be one of the options, but Look for this option or button when doing research. 
  • List references in numerical order of use in the text, at the end of the document. 
  • In the Reference List abbreviate journal title using National Library of Medicine (NLM) abbreviations
  • Use authors’ last name followed by initials for first and middle names.  No period after or between initials, separate names with commas.  If there are one to six authors, list all authors. If there are seven or more authors, list the first three and then abbreviate with “et al”.  Organizations, institutions, and companies are not considered authors in AMA styles and should be treated as publishers.  In AMA style only human beings can be authors. 
  • Editors follow the same rules as authors. After the list of editor names, include “ed.” (if one editor) or “eds.” (for two or more).
  • Items without authors or editors begin the reference with the title of the item.
  • For journal article titles and web page titles capitalize the first letter of the first word only (Sentence case).  Capitalize the first letter or each word, omitting articles, for book and journal titles (Title case).  Book and journal titles are italicized.  
  • Include the DOI in your reference to articles, if there is no DOI include the URL to the web page where you accessed the article, along with the access date. If you include a DOI you do not need to include an access date or a URL.

See section 3.2 Reference List for more information

Cite Original Sources

Cite original, or primary, sources. For example, A website makes reference to an article published in a medical journal, and you want to include the article's conclusions in your work. You must retrieve and cite the medical article in your work.  You can’t cite the article’s conclusions as coming from the website. You need to give credit to the original author(s) and source.

See section 3.0 References for more information.