The references section is the very last section of a journal article or research proposal. For a poster, you can choose to insert an abbreviated reference directly into the text (instead of a citation) or you can have a references section. This poster section can fall at the end of the introduction (if that is the only place that you need to cite others’ work) or at the end/bottom of your poster.


Like when formatting citations, the most important thing to do when creating your reference list is to be consistent.

  • If you used the author-date citation format, your references should be listed in alphabetical order (by the last name of the first author of the paper).
  • If you used a number format, your references should be listed in numerical order.

Most disciplines have a preferred format, and each journal will use a particular style. If your professor does not specify which style you should use, choose one that is used in a journal in your discipline and use it consistently throughout your paper.


Because there are so many possible types, this site will not describe exactly how to format your references section. Our best recommendation is to always use a citation tool such as Zotero, which will automatically format all of your citations and references for you in the style you specify. Using such a tool may seem tedious at first, but it will save you hours of work when its time to construct your references page.

To find more details on how exactly to format your references, check a style guide in your discipline. You can find some of these guides on our external resources page.


Reference formatting possibilities for a journal article or research proposal are given in the box below. There is never one, universally accepted style for a given discipline, so these are only provided as examples of possible formats you could use.


Some possible reference styles and examples

Author 1; Author 2; Author 3; etc. Title of article. Journal Abbreviation. Year, Volume, Inclusive pagination.

Bodnar, A. G.; Ouellette, M.; Lichsteiner, S.; Wright, W. E. Extension of life-span by introduction of telomerase into normal human cells. Science. 1998, 279, 348-352.

Author 1, Author 2, Author 3, etc. (Year). Title of article. Journal Abbreviation Volume, Inclusive pagination.

Vidal BV, Mello MLS (1995). Re-evaluating the AgNOR staining response in Triton X-100-treated liver cells by image analysis. Anal Cell Pathol 9, 39-43.

Author 1, Author 2, Author 3, etc. [up to 6 authors] (Year). Title of article. Journal Abbreviation Volume: Inclusive pagination.

Chourey K, Jansson JK, VerBerkmoes N, Shah M, Chavarria KL, Tom LM et al. (2010). Direct cellular lysis/protein extraction protocol for soil metaproteomics. J Proteome Res 9: 6615-6622.

Author 1, Author 2, Author 3, etc., Year. Title of article. Journal Title Volume, Inclusive pagination.

Rowley, D.B., 1996. Age of initiation of collision between India and Asia: a review of stratigraphic data. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 145, 1-13.

Author 1, Author 2, Author 3, etc. [up to 5 authors]. Journal Abbreviation Year;Volume:First page.

Lambert JM, Ajayan PM, Bernier P, Planeix JM, Brotons V et al. Chem Phys Lett 1994;226:364.

Author 1, Author 2, Author 3, etc. Title of Article. Journal Abbreviation. Volume, Inclusive pagination (Year).

Parkinson, C. L. & Comiso, J.C. On the 2012 record low Arctic sea ice cover: Combined impact of preconditioning and an August storm. Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 1356-1361 (2013).

Author 1, Author 2, Author 3, etc.: Journal Abbreviation Volume, First page (Year)

H. Ruhl, Y. Sentoku, K. Mima, K.A. Tanaka, R. Kodama: Phys. Rev. Lett. 82, 743 (1999)



So, what are the actual differences among these and other styles? The boxes below outline the similarities and differences among all of the styles above (which, remember, is not nearly an exhaustive list of all the styles that could be used).


Differences among these reference styles
  • Order of title, year, journal title, volume, and/or page number(s)
  • If the article’s title is included
  • If the journal article name is abbreviated
  • What type of punctuation (period, comma, colon, semicolon, parentheses), if any, is used to separate items
  • If the reference ends with a period
  • Whether the authors’ initials or last name is given first
  • If periods follow the authors’ initials
  • What type of font (bold, italic, or regular) is used for the journal title, year, volume, and page(s)
  • Whether the inclusive pagination is given or only the first page number of the article
  • If the next word after a colon in the article title is capitalized
  • How many authors are listed before “et al.” is written instead of the remaining authors’ names
  • If “et al.” is italicized
  • Where spaces are allowed between words or numbers


In addition, many styles differ in type of indentation (not shown) and whether or not the word “and,” the symbol “&,” or only a space is used to separate the last author’s name from the previous authors’.


Similarities among these reference styles
  • Authors’ names, year, journal article, volume, and at least the first page are always given.
  • The authors names are given first.
  • Authors’ last names and at least their first initial are given.
  • The volume number precedes the page number(s).
  • The article name, if given, precedes the journal title, volume, and page number(s).
  • The article title is written in sentence case (i.e. all lower-case except for the first letter of the sentence and of proper nouns and for scientifically capitalized words like Ni or RNA).*
  • The journal title is written in title case.
  • Inclusive page numbers are separated by a hyphen.
  • Page numbers ≥1000 are written without a comma.

*Note that although most styles require sentence case, some do ask for title case.


Each journal also has its own standard abbreviation, to prevent confusion between similar titles. The Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) provides an exhaustive list of these standard abbreviations, which can be accessed here thanks to the University of Leeds (UK).


For a poster, references should generally adopt condensed versions of what is shown above. For example, a reference could look like:

Chourney, K et al. (2010). J Proteome Res 9: 6615-6622.

leaving out the title and replacing all but one author with “et al.”


We said it at the beginning of this section but it’s worth repeating: the key is consistency. Consult a style guide for your journal of choice to determine exactly how you would like to format your references; but in all cases within a work, format the references in the same way!