Nonuniform references style: A fundamental reason for citation error : Annals of Thoracic Medicine

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Nonuniform references style

A fundamental reason for citation error

Singhal, Sanjay; Motghare, Abhilasha1; Verma, Mrinalini2

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Annals of Thoracic Medicine 18(3):p 165-166, Jul–Sep 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/atm.atm_94_23
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A quality research publication requires years of meticulous planning, hard work, analysis, and human/financial resources. Worldwide, research publication is an essential indicator of academic performance for evaluating researchers during their appointment and promotion. In India, National Medical Commission also mandates the number of publications in indexed journals as one of the criteria for the career progression of medical teachers besides the duration of service.

When we plan to submit a manuscript, we are invited to follow the author’s guidelines (unique requirements of that particular journal). This usually has information about how to submit, the length of the manuscript (word count), titles, languages, abbreviations, bibliography, referencing styles, etc.[1] Many journals have made an effort to formulate these guidelines in detail. The authors usually follow these guidelines and submit the manuscript in accordance. However, if, for some reason, the same manuscript is to be rewritten or resubmitted to another journal, then it needs much reformatting due to a lack of uniformity among the guideline for authors of journals, especially in the reference style. Many of the authors are occupied with other academic, teaching, clinical as well as administrative activities, and the resubmission takes a backseat. This causes a waste of time, and the submission is often delayed. Nonuniform requirements of various journals can be considered a common reason for the delay in submission. However, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors set uniform requirements for submitting manuscripts to biomedical journals.[2] The main recommendation is regarding the uniformity of references style based on the National Information Standards Organization adopted by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for its databases.[2] However, regardless of these recommendations, reference styles among various international peer-reviewed biomedical journals are pretty variable. This is one of the main reasons for citation errors and delayed manuscript submission.

We collected the list of journals from the Journal Citation Report 2021.[3] Out of these, we selected 223 journals related to pulmonology, critical care medicine, and oncology fields. We noted the instruction to the authors of these selected journals and restricted our analysis to the referencing style of these journals. The observed findings are as per Table 1. Most journals (97.7%) used the number of references in the order of text citation as adopted by the NLM catalog and did not alphabetize. However, the requirement regarding the number of authors ranging from single to all is quite variable. All these journals required a somewhat different style, especially for the journal abbreviated as per MEDLINE, referencing format (placing the year of publication after the author’s name, volume, and then page range), and current requirement of DOI (digital object identifier).

Table 1:
Variation of reference styles among 223 biomedical journals

Using inaccurate references can lead to the dissemination of incorrect information. Various studies on referencing accuracy demonstrated an error rate ranging from 25% to 54% in various scientific journals.[4] Hence, it is essential to provide accurate references, and part of this can be made easy and achievable by a uniform requirement of referencing style among peer-reviewed international medical journals. This will also reduce the wastage of time and delayed submission other than reducing errors.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


We would like to thank Mr. Chirag Darji BSc, Miss. Daya Radadiya GNM, Mrs. Deepika Rawat MSc, and Mr. Umesh Kumar BSc.


1. Salvagno GL, Lippi G, Montagnana M, Guidi GC. Standards of practice and uniformity in references style. Clin Chem Lab Med 2008;46:437–8
2. Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals Updated;May 2022. Available from: [Last accessed on 2023 Mar 28]
3. Available from: [Last Updated on 29 Nov 2022]
4. Rivkin A. Manuscript referencing errors and their impact on shaping current evidence. Am J Pharm Educ 2020;84:ajpe7846
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