Home Page > Referencing > Preparing a List of References


The following descriptions and examples cover the most common types of references. As you read through them, take careful note of the indentation, punctuation, capitalization, and use of quotation marks and italicization. Also note that journal titles and conference names are usually abbreviated to save space. If you are unsure of the appropriate abbreviation, use full titles in your reference list.

You should also familiarize yourself with the following conventions to ensure that you know what information to record while you have access to a particular reference source. You will save a lot of time and effort if you incorporate the reference into your text and if you add the reference to your reference list when you are initially using the material. Few things are more frustrating than being required to go back and retrieve a source several weeks or months after using it. Also note that the convention for the following examples is common in the Sciences and Applied Sciences, but is not used consistently. Variations in referencing conventions are discussed at the end of this section.

Journal Articles
Author(s). [last name first for first author listed followed by initials]. Date.
        [Month and Year]. Title. [Capitalize only the first word of the title].
        Name of the Journal. [italicized]. Volume, page numbers. [end with a period].


Brady, P. T. September 1969a. A technique for investigating on-off patterns of
        speech. Bell Syst. Tech. J. Vol. 48, 2445-2471.


-----. December 1969b. A model for generating on-off speech patterns in two way
        conversation. Bell Syst. Tech. J. Vol. 49, 3001-3049.


Osborne, W. P. and M. B. Luntz. August 1974. Coherent and non-coherent
        detection of CPFSK. IEEE Trans. Commun. Vol. COM-22, 1032-1036.


Note the second example above. If you list the same author or authors for more than one entry, replace the name(s) on subsequent entries with five unspaced hyphens. Also note the third example above. Put the last name before the initials only for the first author if more than one author is listed.

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Articles in Collections Other than Journals
Author(s). Date. Title. Title of Publication. Names of editors [if appropriate].
        Publishing information [place of publication: publisher or place of conference
        if publishing information not provided], page numbers. [Note the colon
        between place of publication and publisher.]


Batcher, K. E. 1968. Sorting networks and their applications. Proc. AFIPS 1968
        Spring Joint Comput. Conf
. Montvale, NJ: AFIPS Press, Vol. 32, 307-314.


Burg, J. P. 1967. Maximum entropy spectral analysis. Proc. 37th Meet. Soc. Explor.
. Oklahoma City, OK.


Cappello, P. R. and K. Steiglitz. 1981. Digital signal processing applications of
        systolic algorithms. CMU Conference on VLSI Systems and Computations.
        H. T. Kung, B. Sproull, and G. Steel, Eds. Rockville, MD: Computer Science

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Unpublished Conference Papers
Author(s). Date. "Title," presented at Conference name, Place.


Divsalar, D. and J. K. Omura. June 1979. Performance of mismatched Viterbi
        receiver on satellite channels. Presented at Int. Conf. Commun., Boston, MA.

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Unpublished Theses or Dissertations

Author. Date. Title. [Italicized with major words capitalized]. Degree, University,


Haavik, S. J. 1966. The Conversion of the Zeros of Noise. M.Sc. thesis, Univ.
        Rochester, Rochester, NY.

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Author(s). Date. Title [Italicized with major words capitalized]. Volume (if
        applicable), edition if other than first (i.e., 2nd ed.). Place of publication:
        publisher. [Note the period before publishing information and the colon after
        place of publication].


Weinstock, R. 1952. Calculus of Variations with Applications to Physics and
. New York: McGraw-Hill.


A sample reference list following author-date system is provided in the figure below. Note that you single space the individual items, but double space between them.





Note that underlining is sometimes used to indicate italics. Underlining is a holdover from the time when typewriters were common and specialized fonts were rare. It represents a convention for telling the typesetter to set the underlined text in italics when the document was destined for formal publication. Underlining is becoming increasingly rare because it cuts off the descenders on lower case letters, and, in any case, support for italicized fonts by word processors and printers have eliminated the need for this use of underlining.

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Variations in Reference Lists

As mentioned earlier, referencing conventions are far from standardized and vary greatly among disciplines, fields, publications, and companies. However, certain trends are worth noting, including general stylistic differences between pure, applied, and social sciences on the one hand and the arts and humanities on the other. These differences are presented in the following tables:


For example, compare the two versions of the following entry:

Wise, Penelope. "Money Today: Two Cents for a Dollar." No Profit Review 2 (1987): 123-42.

Wise, P. 1987. Money today. No Profit Rev. 2:123-42.

Of course, the shorter entry represents the science-oriented style you will most often use. However, knowing something about the other style is useful when writing papers for humanities courses and when working on interdisciplinary projects. Also note that the version of the science style above is a middle-of-the-road option. You could use a somewhat longer or an even shorter entry:


Wise, P. 1987. Money Today: Two cents for a dollar. No Profit Rev. 2:123-42.

Wise, P. 1987. No Profit Rev. 2:123-42.

What variation of the style you use may be a matter of the style adopted by a publisher or an instructor, but when you have a choice, it should be governed by your reader's needs and expectations. The longer version above provides more information for the reader by providing a subtitle that provides more indication of the content of the article. The shorter version provides just enough information for the reader to find the source, which may be all some readers require. Whatever variation you choose, be consistent throughout a document.

At the beginning of this section on referencing conventions, we mentioned the IEEE style. While the author-date system is more common across fields, systems using numbers as references are standard in some fields such as electrical and electronics engineering. The variation in this general approach is between numbering sources according to the order in which they are cited (IEEE format) and numbers assigned sources based on alphabetical order. An example reference list using the IEEE style follows.

[1] B. Oakley, II, "HyperCard courseware for introduction to circuit analysis," in Proc. ASEE Annu. Meet., 1991, pp. 496-500.

[2] Microsoft Video for Windows, Microsoft Corp., 232-100-901, 1994.

[3] K. L. Conway, "Putting technology in its place: the classroom," Institute for academic Technology, Spring 1991, p. 5.

[4] P. R. Keller and M. M. Keller, Visual Cues, Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society Press, 1993.

Did you examine the style of entries closely enough to notice that like the humanities style, IEEE format uses quotation marks for articles and puts dates at the end? If so, you may also have noticed that only the first word of titles are capitalized as expected for a science-based style. Also note that unlike either generalized style, items are separated by commas and page
numbers are indicated by p. for a single page and pp. for two or more pages.

We draw your attention to IEEE conventions to emphasize a point. Referencing conventions vary widely. Even within the IEEE, conventions vary slightly from one society to the next. And so, whenever your situation changes or you are asked to publish, take a careful look at examples of appropriate referencing conventions.

For a little practice, study the following reference list representing the American Society for Engineering Education style and note the similarities to and differences from the IEEE example above:


1. Tonso, K. L., "Becoming Engineers While Working Collaboratively: Knowledge and Gender in a Non-Traditional Engineering Course," Part of Margaret Eisenhart's Final Report to the Spencer Foundation entitled "The Construction of Scientific Knowledge Outside School," 1993.

2. Lunsford, A., Ede L., "Why Write...Together: A Research Update," Rhetoric Review, 5, 1986, pp. 71-76.

3. Gere, A. R., Writing Groups: History, Theory, and Implications, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, Illinois, 1987, pp. 55-76.

4. "Learning Together Makes a Difference," The Teaching Professor, June/July, 1994, p. 5.

As you have surely noted, the format is different, but did you also notice that the last name comes first for second (and subsequent) authors, that all the major words in a title are capitalized, and that subtitles are provided? And did you note the shared use of commas to separate entries and p. and pp. before page numbers? An eye for detail is extremely useful when the time comes to prepare a reference list, but note that style sheets are often available, providing both instructions and examples to follow.


Finally, keep in mind that what may seem to be needlessly fastidious detail has a purpose: following the conventions of a given group right down to the way it cites sources and prepares reference lists helps establish your identity as a member of that group. Conventions of style, format, and organization change from group to group, and the ability to appreciate the differences is part of your education and preparation for an increasingly interdisciplinary profession.

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