Styles of handling references vary considerably, and many different formats exist. Some companies create their own internal conventions that may deviate from commonly used journal styles (see also 5.6, Company-Internal Conventions of Style and Format). Whatever reference style is followed, consistency throughout the manuscript (report, journal article, or book) is important.
An effort has been made to harmonize reference formats across journals and other documents to minimize citation errors and facilitate retrieval of quoted material. A small group of editors of general medical journals met informally in 1978 in Vancouver, British Columbia, to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979.
Subsequently, the Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) which meets annually. The ICMJE has gradually broadened its concerns to include other aspects of scientific reporting, e.g., ethical principles related to publication in biomedical journals (see also 5.5, The "House Style" of Journals). Meanwhile, the ICMJE has produced multiple editions of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals, and the guideline is updated regularly. When consulting this important document, please use the current version (available from http://www.icmje.org).
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