Proper acknowledgement of your sources in a scientific paper is a necessity. Failure to cite your sources is plagiarism. In the humanities and the social sciences, footnotes are commonly used but in the natural sciences, in-text citations are typical. Different journals and book presses have different styles; the diversity of citation styles can be bewildering. For the Biology Department, we have adopted the style described in this document, based on standards provided by the Council of Biology Editors.
In text-citations:

You have two ways to cite an author or authors. You might use a particular paper as the subject of a sentence:

Stander (1992) found that king cobras . . .

A more common way is to cite the author(s) and source(s) at the end of a sentence referencing those sources.

King cobras may live to be 20 years old (Stander, 1992).

If you have multiple sources, you should list them in chronological order first and then alphabetically if the years are the same.

The barnacle Semibalanus balanoides releases larvae in March (Connell, 1961; Bertness, 1983; Wethey, 1983).

Note that a comma should separate the author(s)’ name(s) from the date and that citations should be separated with a semi-colon.

For multi-authored works, give the names of both authors for two-authored papers and use et al. [Latin for “and others”] for sources authored by three or more people.

James and McIntyre (2012) found that DNA replication was . . .

Golden orb weavers (Argiope aurantia) prey primarily on moths, flies and wasps (Jenkins, 1999; Mazzilli and Chen, 2012).

Mikkelsen et al. (2012) presented an alternative argument . . .

Species diversity of insects in pastures is far less than the diversity in undisturbed grasslands (Lamaroux et al., 2010; Peterson and Fujola, 2011; O’Reilly, 2013)

Literature Cited

At the end of your paper, you must provide complete bibliographic citations for journal articles, books, web pages and any other sources you used in your paper and cited in the body of your paper. The citations should be arranged first alphabetically by author(s) and then chronologically.

Journal articles

Here are examples of journal article citations with different numbers of authors:

Stander, P. E. 1992. Cooperative hunting in lions: the role of the individual. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 29:445-454.

Jones, I. J. and B. J. Green. 1963. Inhibitory agents in walnut trees. Plant Physiology 70:101-152.

Creel, S. N., Winnie, J. A., Maxwell, B. F., Hamlin, K. F. and M. A. Creel. 2005. Elk alter habitat selection as an antipredator response to wolves. Ecology 86:3387-3397.

Note 1: The name of the last author in a multi-authored paper is formatted differently from all the other authors (initials first and then last name).

Note 2: Citations are conventionally formatted using hanging indentation (all but the first line indented). A keyboard shortcut (Command-t on the Mac) makes this formatting easy. Just put your cursor somewhere in your citation (or select all your citations) and type Command-t.

NB: WordPress does not allow the use of tabs to create a paragraph with a hanging indent.  We are looking for find a work-around so that the example citations are formatted properly!  To see examples of properly formatted references, click here.

Note 3: Many journal articles are now available online. Regardless of the format (paper or electronic), these articles are still considered journal articles and should be cited as such. DO NOT cite electronic journal articles as though they were websites!

Book citations

The general format is similar to a journal article. Capitalize the title of the book and give the publisher, city and state.

MacArthur, R.H. and E.O. Wilson. 1967. The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.


The general format is as follows:

Webpage name. Online. Webpage author. Available: webpage address. Updated date [accessed date].

Here’s an example:

GenBank. Online, National Institutes of Health. Available: Updated April 1, 2013 [accessed October 3, 2014].