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WHSL Citing the Medical Literature: What is a Citation?

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)

Citations or References

A citation is also called a reference.

Citations tell your readers that certain material you have used in your work came from another source. It also gives readers the information necessary to find that source again, including:

  • the name/s of the author/s
  • the title of the work
  • the name and location of the company that published the source
  • the date your copy was published
  • the page numbers of the material you used

Why should you cite sources?

Giving credit to the original author by citing sources is the only way to use other people's work without plagiarising. Other reasons to cite sources include:

  • citations are extremely helpful to anyone who wants to find out more about your ideas and where they came from
  • not all sources are good or correct - your own ideas may often be more accurate or interesting 
  • proper citation will keep you from being accused of using incorrect information, and if you make a good argument as to why you think these ideas are bad, you may get higher marks for your work
  • citing sources shows the amount of research you've done
  • citing good sources strengthens your work by lending outside support to your ideas

Doesn't citing sources make your work seem less original?

Citing sources actually helps readers distinguish your ideas from those of your sources. This emphasises the originality of your own work.

When do you need to cite?

Whenever you borrow words or ideas, you need to acknowledge their source. The following situations always require citation:

  • when you use quotes (inverted commas)
  • when you paraphrase
  • when you use an idea that someone else has already expressed
  • when you make specific reference to the work of another author
  • when someone else's work has been critical in developing your own ideas
Based on information from in the interests of disseminating information on this topic as widely as possible, grants all reprint and usage requests without the need to obtain any further permission as long as the URL of the original article/information is cited.