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In-text referencing and compiling

reference lists: A guide for chemists

Natalie Schembri Institute of Linguistics

This presentation covers the basic rules governing in-text referencing and the compilation of reference lists according to The ACS Style Guide

It is based on Chapter 14 of The ACS Style Guide

The Guide allows a choice of three referencing styles. We will focus on the system based on superscript numbers, which is the one used by journals with the highest impact factors in Chemistry (cf. also p. 288 of the Guide).


In-text referencing

To get a clear idea of what a journal article using the superscript referencing system looks like, it is advisable to download an article using this

system from a Chemistry journal.


In-text referencing

As opposed to research in the more discursive disciplines, scientific articles and other documents tend to follow an ethos whereby prominence is given to research, not researchers.

Author’s names are therefore rarely found in-text, although it is possible to include them (cf. p.289).

As a rule, superscripts are inserted at the end of a sentence after the full stop, and a corresponding entry which includes all the details of the source is written into the reference list at the end of the document.


In-text referencing

It is also possible to insert a superscript in mid- sentence for the sake of disambiguation.

Number your references consecutively, starting

with 1 and moving on throughout your

document to include references in non-text components such as figures or tables.

You will sometimes need to cite more than one

reference at a time, like this:

and electrochromic devices 1-4

homogeneous nucleation 14,15


In-text referencing






In such cases, list numbers in ascending order using commas to separate a series and dashes to indicate a range of 3 or more.

Note that no spaces are used in superscripts.

Play about with a document in Word to find out which is the best way to insert superscripts and

corresponding references in a reference list at

the end of the document.


Compiling reference lists

Entries in reference lists are numbered in order of appearance in the text.

In-text references and entries in reference lists must

correspond numerically.

Entries for most source types usually start with the author’s name, unless the author is unidentified, as is sometimes the case for online sources. The date comes towards the end, followed by page numbers and a full stop where needed.

Punctuation, caps, italics and bold face are important and must be used meticulously.


Entries for journal articles

Entries for journal articles should look like this:

31 Masdarolomoor, F.; Innis, P. C.; Ashraf, S.; Kaner, R. B.;

Wallace, G. G. Nanocomposites of polyaniline/poly(2-

methoxyaniline-5-sulfonic acid). Macromol. Rapid Commun. 2006, 27, 19952000.

32 Tseng, R. J.; Huang, J. X.; Ouyang, J.; Kaner, R. B.; Yang, Y. Polyaniline nanofiber/gold nanoparticle nonvolatile memory. Nano Lett. 2005, 5, 10771080.


Entries for books

Entries for books should look like this:




Chandrasekhar, P. Conducting Polymers, Fundamentals and Applications: A Practical

Approach; Kluwer Academic Publishers: Boston, MA,


Le Couteur, P.; Burreson, J. Napoleon’s Buttons:

How 17 Molecules Changed History; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam: New York, 2003; pp 32-47.

Almlof, J.; Gropen, O. Relativistic Effects in

Chemistry. In Reviews in Computational Chemistry;

Lipkowitz, KB, Boyd, D. B., Eds.; VCH: New York, 1996; Vol. 8, pp 206-210.


Electronic Sources

In the case of electronic sources, the guiding principles are:

“present enough documentation with enough clarity to establish the identity and authority of the source and direction for locating the reference” (p. 316).

If the format of an internet source is based on that of a traditional print-based source (e.g. a web-based journal article or book), the reference should follow the guidelines for the print-based source and provide additional information about its online location and date of access.

Generally, try not to split URLs across two lines, but if you

must, follow the guidelines on pp 156-157.

Make sure URLs work.


Electronic Sources

Here are some examples of electronic sources whose format follows that of a traditional print-based source:

1 Fine, L. Einstein Revisited. J. Chem. Educ. [Online] 2005,

82, 1601 ff.

/abs1601.html (accessed Oct 15, 2005).

2 Tour, J. M. Molecular Electronics: Commercial Insights, Chemistry, Devices, Architecture and Programming [Online]; World Scientific: River Edge, NJ, 2003; pp 177-

180. =91422&piclist=19799,20141,20153 (accessed Nov 7,



Electronic Sources

In the case of general websites, the recommended format is the following:

Author (if identifiable). Title of Site. URL

(accessed Month Day, Year), other identifying information, if any.

Note: See p. 320 of the Guide for examples.


Please feel free to access the ACS Style Guide online to widen your knowledge. The preface to the third (and latest) edition notes:

“Because of the desire on the part of the publisher to increase the use of the third edition of The ACS Style Guide, it is being made available on the World Wide

Web. It is expected that periodic updates will be

made to the electronic edition, which would not be

feasible for the printed version.”