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WHSL Introduction to the Medical Literature: Searching for Journal Titles and their Abbreviations

This guide will show you the basics of how to find information in print and online at the Witwatersrand Health Sciences Library

How to Find Journal Titles and their Abbreviations

Searching for the Full Journal Title from the Abbreviation

You will find the full title is South African Medical Journal. It is not necessary to use the Afrikaans title (Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Geneeskunde). The title is never abbreviated in any language other than English, so you will never refer to this journal as the SATG).

Notice that there is an NLM Title Abbreviation, which is S Afr Med J (no full stops after the abbreviations). This is the style usually preferred at Wits, if you do not use the more common verbal abbreviation of SAMJ.

Searching for the Abbreviation from the Full Journal Title

You will find the abbreviation is Arch Fam Med. Once again you should use the NLM Title Abbreviation (no full stops), as this is the style preferred at Wits.

Not Every Journal Title is Abbreviated

Note that not every journal title has an abreviation. If the title consists of one word, or short words, then the abbreviation is usually the same as the full journal title, eg. the abbreviation of the full journal title Circulation is still Circulation. However, the abbreviated title of Heart, Lung & Circulation is Heart Lung Circ.


Here are some examples with which you you can practise:

Find the abbreviations for:

  • Annals of Family Medicine
  • Archives of Internal Medicine
  • Journal of  Cancer
  • Hypertension

 Find the full titles of the following journal title abbreviations:

  • Int J Vasc Med
  • Curr Pediatr Rev
  • JOG
  • Stroke

Advanced Search Instructions for Journal Title Abbreviations

  1. Go to
  2. Click on the Advanced search hyperlink (below the search bar)
  3. In Builder change the drop down menu to Journal from All Fields
  4. Type in the full journal title, eg. Archives of Family Medicine
  5. Click on Search

The official NLM title abbreviation (as used at Wits) will appear together with the ISO title abbreviation.


The more you use the journals, the more familiar you will find the journal titles and their abbreviations. It is important for you to become familiar with journal titles and their abbreviations as soon as possible, otherwise you will struggle with the language of the literature, just as you would with medical terminology.

Note in the example on the left, the abbreviation for the South African Medical Journal can be either SAMJ or S Afr Med J. If you are unsure which to use, ask your librarians or your tutors, or use the full journal title until you become accustomed to which abbreviation to use.

The more you practise using the journals, the quicker you will become familiar with journal titles and journal title abbreviations. There are some conventions which you can learn right now.

Journal in the title is usually abbreviated to J; International is generally IntAnnals generally becomes Ann; Archives is generally abbreviated to Arch; while Medicine is generally Med.

Very Important: Journal title spelling is extremely important, so note that Paediatrics can also be spelled Pediatrics, Gynaecology as Gynecology, etc. The spelling will alert you to whether the journal is a British, European or American publication, as sometimes journals have the same or similar titles, but are published by different publishers from different countries.