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WHSL Citing the Medical Literature: Citing e-Journals

How to cite print and electronic books and journals using Vancouver or Harvard styles for use in the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand (GEMP 1 BMCS, MTP1, MTP2)

General Rules for Citing e-Journal Articles

Citing e-journals still follow the conventions used for citing print journals. You must include all of the components below:

  • Author/s (Surname, Firstname, Initial/s)
    • You need to cite all authors, even if there are several, in your list of references. You may also cite the first three authors, followed by et al. Follow the same styles used in citing print journals with regard to the use of the ampersand (&), and remember the brevity rule of thumb used in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
  • Date of publication of the journal
  • Title of the article
  • Title of the journal (in italics)
  • Volume number of the journal (sometimes this is in bold type)
  • Issue number of the journal (if available), enclosed in brackets
  • Page numbers of the article

Example of an e-Journal Article Citation with a URL

This PDF document may take some time to open - please be patient.

"Et Al"

Et al (always shown in italics) is Latin for "and others". This indicates that there are more than the six authors shown in the citation example above. Formerly, the convention was to use et al if there were more than three authors. This has now changed. Et al is used after

  • Six authors using Vancouver Style
  • Four authors using Harvard Style

In Harvard Style, you can only use et al in the text - all authors are shown in the list of references. Vancouver Style permits the use of et al in the list of references as well, if there are more than six authors, as shown in the example above.

Your lecturers and tutors may be used to the old convention of et al being used for more than three authors. Please refer them to this guide or WHSL in case of dispute.

DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers)

A DOI is a unique ID number that publishers are using increasingly to identify electronic articles (as opposed to e-journals which have an ISSN [International Standard Serial Number]). So the DOI identifies the unique article; the ISSN identifies the unique journal.

Examples of an e-journal citations with a DOI:

1. Strachan, M.W., Price, J.F. & Frier, B.M. Diabetes, cognitive impairment, and dementia. BMJ. 2008;336(7634):6. doi: 10.1136/bmj.39386.664016.BE [Accessed 10.01.11]

2. Strachan, M.W., Price, J.F. & Frier, B.M. Diabetes, cognitive impairment, and dementia. BMJ. 2008;336(7634):6. doi: 10.1136/bmj.39386.664016.BE

Note: If there is a DOI, you do not need to give the URL. If there is no DOI, the URL must be given.

Important: Even if you use a DOI, you still have to cite the entire reference plus the DOI.


How to Cite or Link Using a DOI

A DOI will never change - it is a permanent link to an electronic article or document.

To find a document using a DOI:

  • Copy the DOI of the article you want to open, eg. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61422-5
  • Go to
  • Enter the entire DOI citation in the text box provided, then click on Go
  • This is called "resolving a DOI"

If you are publishing electronically, you can also cite the reference as:

This will allow the reader to click through directly to your source from your list of references.

Using DOIs or URLs

You will notice from these examples that using a DOI is neater than using a URL in an e-journal citation. You should therefore always try to use the DOI whenever possible.