Wilkes University

Vancouver Referencing Guide: Definitions

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

Some Common Terms Used in Referencing

Abstract
is a short, purely descriptive, summary of the essential content of a book, article, report, or document that gives the principal ideas in the same order as the original work.  Abstracts usually use the same level of technical language and expertise as the original.  They are not evaluative/critical.  They are often found at the beginning of scholarly journal articles or in periodical indexes.  Abstracts are typically 150-300 words and often also follow set patterns of format.

Annotation
is a descriptive or explanatory summary of a work; it reveals the author's point of view, his main points. It may be critical / evaluative or simply descriptive.

Bibliography
is a list of source materials consulted in the research process for developing a new work (but not necessarily cited).  A bibliography can also be a comprehensive list of works on a specific subject, for example, The Bibliography of Bioethics. When researching a topic it is a good idea to prepare a bibliography for your own use, even if you need to cite only some of these items in a Works cited or References list.

Descriptive elements
are the necessary parts of a reference. Examples of these elements are: author, title, edition, date of publication, URL, etc.

Electronic
is a generic term used to describe documents available from the Internet or from databases or collections published in a digitized format.

In-Text citation
in its narrowest sense, a representation (numeric or alphanumeric) that is embedded in the body of a new work that denotes an entry in the Reference List  to acknowledge that the words or ideas being discussed at the spot where the citation appears are not your own.  Enough information is given in the in-text citation so the reader can locate the full reference in the Works cited or References list. Generally the combination of the in-body citation and the bibliographic reference are thought of as “a citation.”

Reference
a description of a book, article, or other material that contains all the “publication” information necessary to identify and locate the work.

Referencing (or Citation) style
is the method used to format your citations. Some commonly used formats are MLA, Chicago, APA, and Vancouver.

Reference List (also called Works Cited List)
a list of all of the sources actually referred to/cited (quoted, summarized or paraphrased) in a new work. It is placed at the end of the work and is formatted and organized according to the particular style being used.

Style Guide
a publication which specifies details of the writing style required by a particular publisher or professional organization, including such matters as punctuation, capitalization, and rules for formatting references. Some familiar style guides are those of the American Psychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association (MLA), etc.