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CBE citation style guide


Before providing any detailed explanations, it is important to indicate a clear CBE format definition. The Scientific Style and Format, which is a publication of CBE (Council of Biology Editors), introduces an appropriate documentation style intended for writers and authors in a lot of scientific fields. One of the main places among such scientific fields is taken by the biological sciences. As usual, CBE writing format presents two opposite documentation systems: C-S (Citation-Sequence System) and N-Y (Name-Year System).

C-S documentation system is considered as the more efficient one out of two. According to the given CBE documentation style, one provides complete bibliographic information in the "References" section. In-text citations are arranged in a numerical way, and the numbers, in their turn, are organized sequentially within the body of the text. The given numbers point out corresponding entries in the list of references at the end of the paper. One of the main advantages of the C-S system lies in conserving paper and space. According to CBE citation guide, the disadvantages are as follows:

  1. readers should exert best efforts to find out which sources are referents for numeric citations;
  2. it may turn out to be difficult to remove or add some sources during the late stages of writing;
  3. authors and writers are less recognizable since their names are not mentioned throughout the body of the text.

N-Y documentation system is considered to be more elaborate and descriptive. Here, in compliance with the CBE style manual, complete bibliographic information is provided in the references, and in-text citations comprise the name(s) of the author(s) and date(s), which correspond to the reference list entries in alphabetical order. The advantages of N-Y documentation system are:

  1. referring to dates and names is able to provide some minimal context for readers as opposed to C-S system;
  2. it is a simple task to remove or add various sources and information during late stages of writing.

The disadvantages lie in the fact that numerous citations that are intrinsic to the given system may turn out to be distracting. The reference list entries are thought to be more complicated in comparison with the C-S system.

CBE Style Guide for In-text Citations in the C-S System

In every case when you refer to a particular source, put a superscript number directly after the cited piece of information; frequently, it is similar to the endnote or footnote numbers:

In his lengthy text, Gilman 1 provides a complete discussion of this phenomenon.

In this situation, the number 1 makes reference to the reference list entry, which possesses the same number. When one is going to cite this source several times in the text, every time the number 1 should be applied. At the same time, it is required to number all citations sequentially, and the reference list entries should appear in the order of their first citation within the body of the text.

When citing several sources at once, enumerate all numbers of citations in superscript and place commas between the latter. When you enumerate a consecution of three entries and more, cite only the first and last numbers, putting a dash between them.

CBE format example:

Just as different individuals produced different estimates, so did different groups; this happened both under the conditions already described 14, 15, 16, 18-21 and also when subjects were tested in small groups right from the start.

Referring to a “second-hand” source (which is cited in one of the sources you are using), add the “cited in” word combination to the superscript citation.

A dry mouth and throat are obvious cues to thirst, but it is necessary to as well consider some delicate chemical processes within the body. 18 (cited in 19)

There can appear situations in which superscript text may be unavailable. At that moment, CBE reference style guide recommends putting citation number(s) in parentheses. Although it can be necessary to differentiate between numbers of citations and many other numerical notes.

For example:

The sample group (12 participants) produced the results that were initially expected (6).

CBE Writing Style for In-text Citations in N-Y System

N-Y documentation system highlights publication year and the surname of an author, with numbers of pages being pointed out only if a direct quote is used. The given system cooperates with the reference list because each reference to an author’s name within the text should correspond to a particular entry in the reference list.

When you refer to sources within the body of your paper, it is important to know the surname(s) of the author(s), publication date, and, in the majority of cases, pages where the cited information is located.

While citing to the entire work (not a separate part of it), it is necessary to put in the author’s surname and the date of publication. It is not compulsory to indicate page numbers when referring to the entire source. The way of citing may vary depending on the sentence, in case the author’s name was mentioned there.

In the case when a source is not referring to the name of the author in a sentence, both the publication year and the author’s surname have to be cited; it is necessary to place such citation in parentheses. In case you put a citation at the end of a sentence, it must precede the period.

For example:

In a recent study (Johnson 2006)…

When you put the name of the author in a sentence, add an in-text citation after the name. Also, you can add the date of publication and a page number separated by a comma (if a particular piece of information is paraphrased or quoted by you).

For example:

Brown (2001) pointed out that…

If you do not mention the author’s name near the citation of this or that source, it is important to place three elements – name of author, publication year, and numbers of pages – in parentheses, following the material referred to. In case you place a citation at the end of the sentence, it should precede the period. There has to be one comma that separates publication year and pagination abbreviated as ‘p’ with no period after it.

CBE paper format example:

In one similar study (Johnson 2006, p 48)…

CBE Reference Format

You can name the list of references either as “References" or "Cited References." The given list covers all source entries you have already referred to in the body of the paper. In case you want to enumerate some other sources used for your thinking or writing procedures (but not cited to in the text), it will be better to add such entries to a separate list of the additional references. According to the given format, the reference list is placed at the end of the body.

CBE Bibliography Format

Placement (N-Y and C-S): the list of references is put after the body of the text, following the last written part directly (the list is not written on a separate page).

Title (N-Y and C-S): Your reference list title (as usual, “Literature Cited” or “References”) has to be flush left. In some cases, the title can be underlined or set in bold, or it may emerge in uppercase characters.

Spacing (N-Y and C-S): all entries have to be single-spaced.

Font (N-Y and C-S): According to CBE style in paper arrangement, references are usually set in smaller type size in comparison to the rest of the text.

Order of Entries (N-Y): Here, all entries are enumerated alphabetically (not numerically) by surnames of authors; these names are references of citations in the body.

Order of Entries (C-S): Here, all entries are enumerated numerically (not alphabetically); the numbers refer to numbered citations in the body of the paper.

Indentation (N-Y): Usually, the first line of every single entry is set to flush left.

Indentation (C-S): In this case, the indentation policy can vary from publication to publication. One should keep in mind three options:

  1. all entry lines are set flush left;
  2. numbers that designate the order of entries are set flush left; all actual lines are indented slightly;
  3. the first lines from each entry together with a number are indented, and all subsequent lines are set to flush left.

At the same time, when your task is to produce an annotated bibliography paper (and you are not sure how to do it correctly), it is better to find CBE annotated bibliography example on the web. Procedural arrangements regarding the given task are nearly the same as in the case of simple reference. Although, after the reference, it is necessary to introduce a short overview of a source.

CBE Style Bibliography Quick Guide

General Format for Books

The elements of bibliography, their spacing, sequence, and punctuation for most book references can be as follows:

N-Y: Author (s) [or editor (s)]. Date of publication. Title. Publication place: name of the publisher. Pagination.

C-S: Author (s) [or editor (s)]. Title. Publication place: name of publisher; Date of publication. Number of pages.

Examples of CBE Style Citation

1. Books with one author

N-Y: Freidson E. 1972. The profession of medicine. New York: Dodd-Mead. 802p.

C-S: Freidson E. The profession of medicine. New York: Dodd-Mead; 1972. 802p.

2. Books with two or more authors

N-Y: Stalberg E. Trontelj JV. 1994. Single fiber electromyography: studies in healthy and diseased muscle. New-York: Raven. 291p.

C-S: Stalberg E. Trontelj JV. Single fiber electromyography: studies in healthy and diseased muscle. New-York: Raven; 1994. 291p.

3. Organization as an Author

N-Y: [WHO] World Health Organization. 1994. World health statistics annual: 1993. Geneva: WHO. 824p.

C-S: World Health Organization. World health statistics annual: 1993. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1994. 824p.

4. Books with editors

N-Y: Berge ZL, Collins MP, editors. 1995. Computer-mediated communication and the online classroom. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Pr. 230p.

C-S: Berge ZL, Collins MP, editors. Computer-mediated communication and the online classroom. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Pr; 1995. 230p.

Journal Articles

N-Y: Author. Date. Article’s Name. Volume number (issue number): page numbers.

C-S: Author. Article’s Name. Year month; volume number (issue number): page numbers.


Article from Journal (Printed Version)

N-Y: You CH, Lee KY, Menguy R. 1980. Electrogastrographic study of patients with unexplained nausea, bloating and vomiting. Gastroenterology 79: 311-4.

C-S: You CH, Lee KY, Menguy R. Electrogastrographic study of patients with unexplained nausea, bloating and vomiting. Gastroenterology 1980 Aug; 79 (2) 311-4.

Magazine and Newspaper Articles General Format

In accordance with the CBE guide, magazines and newspapers’ references cover the similar information in comparison with article-journal references but make references to some particular details of magazine or newspaper format and style.

N-Y: Author. Date of Publication. Article’s Title. Magazine’s Title: pagination.

N-Y: Author. Date of Publication. Article’s Title. Newspaper’s Title; designator of the section: pagination (column number).

C-S: Author. Article’s Title. The title of magazine and publication year: pagination.

C-S: Author. Article’s Title. Newspaper’s Title and year of publication; designator of the section: number of pages (column number).


N-Y: Jackson R. 1995 Mar. Arachnomania. Natural History: 28-31.

N-Y: Christopher T. 1995 Feb 19. Crafting: playing Dr. Frankenstein in the garden. New York

C-S: Jackson R. Arachnomania. Natural History 1995 Mar: 28-31.

C-S: Christopher T. Crafting: playing Dr. Frankenstein in the garden. New York Times 1995 Feb 19; Sec Y: 21 (col 1).

Electronic Publications General Format

N-Y: Author. Publication date. Article’s Title. Journal’s Title [Internet]. [cited Date]; volume number (issue number): pagination. Available from: URL

C-S: Author. Article’s Title. Journal’s Title [Internet] publication year; volume number (issue number): pagination. Available from: URL. [Accession Date].

E-Journal Articles (CBE format for Citations)

N-Y: Hong P, Wong W. 2005. Gene Notes: a novel information management software for biologists. BMC Bioinformatics [Internet]. [cited 2007 July 24]; 6:20. Available from:

C-S: Hong P. Wong W. Gene Notes: a novel information management software for biologists. BMC Bioinformatics [Internet]. 2005; 6:20. Available from: [Accessed at July 24, 2007].

CBE Format for Website

N-Y: Homepage title [Internet]. Date of publication. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher Name [updated date; cited date]. Available from: URL address.

S-C: Webpage title [Internet]. Publication place: Publisher’s Name; date [date updated; cited date]. Available from: URL


N-Y: PDR Health [Internet]. c2010. Montvale, NJ: PDRHealth; [cited 2011 Jan 24]. Available from:

S-C: ACS Green Chemistry Institute [Internet]. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; c2010 [cited 2010 Oct 27]. Available from:

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