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CSE/CBE Referencing Style

The CSE/CBE Citation Style: Citing Sources In-Text (Name and Year System)

A large number of chemists, biologists, and other scholars in various fields of science use the CSE/CBE referencing style when creating scientific and other academic papers. This system is used to show the informational sources a writer uses in their texts and in end-of-paper bibliographies. Citations in the name/year system are shown within the main body text in parenthesis.

Rule One: All citations should precede the last punctuation mark in any sentence where there is a reference.

Each in-text citation contains a few items of basic information such as the surname of the author and the year the work was published, with name and year separated by a space. Fictional example of citation: This particular phenomenon is still the subject of discussion among modern scientists (Byrne 1941).

Rule Two: You need only include the publication year in parentheses when an author or authors’ surnames appear in sentences. Fictional example: Byrne offers a long description of this particular phenomenon (1941).

Rule Three: Where there are two authors for a particular work, both of these should be named with an “and” separating their names. Fictional example: Proof of this particular phenomenon has been provided (Rai and Patel 2010).

Rule Four: Where there are three authors or more for a particular work, the name of just the first author should be given followed by the term “et al.” Fictional example: Logical reasoning has been used to explain this unusual behavior (Jones-Hayes et al. 2010).

Rule Five: If it is necessary to cite two texts from an identical year by authors who have the same surname, the authors and works should be distinguished by using each author’s first name initials. Please note that periods or commas should not be used in names and a space should not be used to separate initials. Fictional example: (Brown AJ 2010) (Jones CD 2011).

Rule Six: Where it is necessary to cite two works or more from the same year by one author, these works should be distinguished by adding a letter (in lowercase) to the publication year. For instance, the paper that was published first should be denoted by “a,” the second by “b,” the third by “c,” and so on. The dates of publication in the Works Cited list should also be annotated in this manner. Fictional example: (Jones 1971a) (Jones 1971b).

Rule Seven: Where a work has been authored by an agency, government body or corporate organization, the initials (abbreviated version) of the organization or agency’s name should be used to create a short version of that entity’s name. Where an abbreviated version of an agency or organization’s name is well-known, you may use that as the short version. The corresponding citation in the Works Cited page should begin with the agency’s or organization’s initials encased in square brackets. Fictional example of in-text reference (NATO 1980) and of a Works Cited reference entry [NATO] North Atlantic Treaty Organization (US). 1980. Use of lethal weapons in war zones; report on research undertaken by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. New York (NY): National Military Academy.

Rule Eight: Where there is no known author for a particular work, use the first one or few words of the work’s title for an in-text citation and put an ellipsis (…) where the name of the author would normally be. Only use the number of words that are necessary to distinguish this work from other cited works. Fictional example: (War Library … 2010).

Rule Nine: Where there is no known date of publication for a particular work, the copyright date can be used with a lowercase “c” immediately preceding it to show its type. Where no publication or copyright date can be found, the date the work was last modified, updated, or revised can be used. An appropriate expression encased in square brackets to indicate the status e.g. “mod,” “updated,” or “rev” and a space should precede the date. In all such cases, dates should be indicated in the same way in the Works Cited list. It is permissible to use the term “[date unknown]” in lieu of a date. Fictional examples: (Jones c1999) (White [rev 2000]) (Brown [date unknown]).

Rule Ten: When using the name/year method, it is acceptable to include several works in one citation. Where these works were authored by different people, the reference should be presented in chronological order with each entry separated by semi-colons and within single parentheses. Where several citations involve the works of one author, add the author’s name just once and present the publication years in chronological order with commas separating them. Fictional examples: Several works authored by different people: (Jones 1988; White 1990; Hinds 1997) More than one work authored by the same person: (Williams 1991, 2001).

Using the CSE/CBE Referencing Style for Printed Sources Using the Name/Year System

The following are some fictional examples of print source citations, as they should be shown in a Works Cited list using the name/year system. These examples are purely for illustration purposes and they do not cover every potential scenario. In the event you are not sure how to cite specific source types or do not know how to deal with certain situations, you can consult a librarian at your college or an expert at Please note when using the CSE/CBE style, periodical titles such as those from magazines, journals and newspapers should be presented in capitals as they usually are. The titles of articles and/or books should show the first word of the article or book title only (and the same with any applicable subtitles), in addition to capitalized proper nouns. It should also be noted that commas are not used to separate an author’s surname from their initials and spaces are not used to separate first and middle name initials. In addition, generally, initials are not followed by periods. Examples:

Book Title (see details) Bailey AC. 1970. Polar Bears of the Artic: Life with the cubs. Brooklyn (NY): Manhattan Press. 211 p. Edited Book (see detail) Blake-Brown PA, Taylor CD, Taylor OP, editors. 2010. Deforestation III: Learning about and protecting the planet’s resources. Dallas (TX): Green-Seed Press. 409 p. Chapter of a book (see detail) Wynn TC. 1999. Measles (Symptoms and Cures). In: Wise DE, Platt JM, Carr BJ, editors. Infectious disease in humans. 3rd ed. Austin (TX): Texas Medical Press. P 81-99. Article in an Academic Journal (see detail)

Please note that in citations in the CSE/CBE style, the titles of journals should be abbreviated. The rules that apply to journal-type abbreviations are quite complicated and the right abbreviations are sometimes not obvious. Lists with journal names and their abbreviated forms can be obtained from various websites. Additionally, other resources related to journal abbreviations according to discipline are available from different scientific sources. The following fictional examples use the abbreviated version of a journal by the title Environmental Conservation.

Doyle P, White SA. 1999. Preserving lands that are home to large populations of rare birds. Env Conserv. 110(2): 153-165. Article from a weekly magazine (see detail)

Where an abbreviated version exists for the title of a magazine writers should use this.

Moore BJ. 1997 Apr. Pond Life: The Tale of a Frog. Sci Biz. 174(2): 53-61. Article taken from a US Newspaper (see detail) Spinner AJ. 2010 Nov 18. Prospects for bears improve with DNA breakthrough. Miami Herald. Sect G:12 (col. 3).                           

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