Wilkes University

Vancouver Referencing Guide: Places, Publishers, and Dates for Books and Websites

A guide to the Vancouver referencing style commonly used in the biomedical sciences

Place of Publication

The Place of Publication is defined as the city in which the individual or the organization issuing the publication resides.

The place of publication is generally the location of the publisher, as indicated on the title page or the back of the title page.
If more than one place of publication is found, use the first one or the one set in the largest type or in bold type.

In the case of the Internet, the place would be the location of the Web site.  This information is usually found at the bottom of a homepage, but may also be at the top of the first screen or at the end of a document. If it is not in one of these locations, it may be obtained from a linkage within the site, usually under a “contact us” or similar link.

There are two options if the place cannot be determined:

(1) if the city can be reasonably inferred, the city is placed in brackets (for example, Bethesda as the place of publication of a report issued by the National Cancer Institute because that's where the NCI is located)

(2) if it is not possible to infer the city, the words “place unknown” are put in brackets.  

Follow the city by the two-letter state abbreviation in parentheses if necessary, such as Scranton (PA). Foreign places are cited in the manner of Frankfurt (Germany) or Frankfurt (DE), the latter using the International Standard Organization two-character country code. State or country information is generally omitted if the place is very well known; thus it is “New York” not “New York (NY)” and “Paris” not “Paris (FR).”

Format of Place of Publication

  • If a US or Canadian city is obvious, it is not necessary to give the state or province
  • When giving lesser known cities OR when cities in different locations have the same name, follow the city with the two-letter state or province abbreviation (in parentheses) to avoid confusion
  • Follow cities in other countries with the name of the country written out or the the International Standard Organization two-character country code in parentheses
  • If the place of publication cannot be determined, put “place unknown” in square brackets
  • If there is more than one place listed, use the first named

    Palm Springs (FL)
    Palm Springs (CA)
    Washington (IN)
    New York
    Mississauga (ON)
    London (England)
    Munich (Germany)
    Nairobi (Kenya)


Dates of Publication and Cited Dates


If there is more than one copyright date listed in a book, use the latest.

If no year of publication is found in the book but it can be determined from some other source, place brackets around it, e.g., [1988].  If no date can be determined, put “date unknown” in brackets.


Unfortunately, the dates of publication and the dates of any updates or revisions are often absent from webpages and other electronic sites, making the date you actually saw the source (called the date of citation) very important. If a revision/update date is given, place the date of citation after it, and enclose both in brackets; for example “[updated 2010 Feb 4; cited 2012 Nov 4].”

Dates should be expressed in the format of Year Month Day, with the year in four digits and the month abbreviated to three spaces; for example 1776 Jul 4.

Some webpages clearly state the date that the site was placed on the Internet, using such phrases as "first published," "created," and "began." When they do not:

  • Look for the date at the top, bottom, or sidebar of the first screen or the bottom of the homepage.
  • Look for the date accompanying a copyright statement. (For example: copyright 2006 by the American Chemical Society;  © 2006 American Medical Association; c2006 Medical College of Wisconsin; c2000-2007 National Rural Health Association).
  • Look for a date in the text of a link labeled "About this site," "History," or similar wording.
  • If neither a date of publication nor a date of copyright can be found, use the date of update/revision and/or the date cited.  Examples:

Publishers' Names

The publisher is a firm or organization responsible for issuing the publication or website.

For book, the publisher
is generally a publisher which prints or otherwise reproduces textual or graphic material for sale or distribution to the public. The name of the publisher (and place of publication) is usually found on the back of the title page.

In Internet terms a publisher is defined as the individual or organization which produces or sponsors the website. This information is usually found at the bottom of a homepage, at the top or on a sidebar of the first screen, or the end of a document. The publisher may also be identified by looking for the organization named after a copyright statement, e.g., copyright 1997 by the American Chemical Society or in the “contact us” information. If wording such as “this site is maintained by XYZ Corporation for ABC Organization” appears, ABC Organization is considered the publisher and XYZ the distributor. A publisher name is generally given in a citation as it appears on the screen, with whatever capitalization and punctuation is used.

General rules for publishers:

  • If a division or other part of the organization appears, it is listed with the organization in hierarchical order from highest to lowest; e.g., “Duke University, Department of Biology” OR “National Institutes of Health, National Heart and Lung Institute.”
  • A commercial publisher’s name may be given in shortened form such as “Wiley” for “John Wiley & Sons.”
  • Common words such as “Company” and “University” may be omitted.
  • If the organization is both author and publisher, or is the title of a homepage, the name used for the publisher may be abbreviated; e.g., “The University” OR “The Association.”
  • If no publisher can be identified, put “publisher unknown” in square brackets.


  • Newbury Park (CA): Sage
  • Clevedon (England): Channel View Publications
  • London: Taylor & Francis
  • [place unknown]: HealthWorld Online, Inc.
  • New York:  The Society  [e.g., where the American Geriatrics Society has already been listed as the author]