A question about references...

mrjono's picture


I'm working on a project at the moment that features a lot of references. However, I'm really restricted on space and I was hoping to save as much of it as possible.

There are a few references that are repeated, so I was wondering what the rules are for using the same reference indicator throughout for the same reference. It seems logical and fine to me, but I never know if I'm breaking some age-old cardinal sin by doing such things.

For example the text would look like this (references are in parenthesis as I can't get superscript in web forms like this):

Tony Blair said on the 25th February 2003 that “The purpose in our acting is disarmament”(8) when justifying the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war. Since then it has become clear from leaked memos (which can be found on government websites) and evidence given to the Chilcott inquiry that Tony Blair’s real reason for the invasion was regime change,(9) which is illegal under international law. If Tony Blair took the UK to war knowing that the reason behind his decision was regime change in allegiance with the USA then he is an architect of an illegal war that has seen 100’000 Iraqi civilians dead as well as 179 British troops killed there since 2003.(8)

Is that ok or should I keep the indicators progressing and repeat the references in the list at the end?

Any help on this would be gratefully received as always.



(all text copyright Jono Lewarne 2009!)

Theunis de Jong's picture

All references should only appear once in the list. Your numbering scheme is fine, not odd or anything. It's clear to a casual reader you are referring to the same source again.

mrjono's picture

That's great to hear, thanks very much Theunis.

Merry Christmas!

kentlew's picture

Most publishers have style guides specifying how to handle reference notes and citations. You should follow these. If you are publishing yourself, then you might choose to make use of a respected general style guide.

In the U.S., the Chicago Manual of Style is often followed. Not sure what the equivalent is in the U.K.

CMoS, 15th ed., gives this guidance: "§16.33 Multiple citation. A note that applies to more than one location should be cross-referenced; a note number cannot reappear out of sequence."

mrjono's picture

Thanks Kentlew.

I'm not sure what it means by cross referencing. Does that mean the reference is listed more than once in the list at the end, or they simply say see reference 3, for example?

Merry Christmas

kentlew's picture

The example given in CMoS is:

"18. See note 3 above."

dtw's picture

Writing as someone working for a UK academic journals publisher, my two-cents'-worth is that we acquired some journals that did that "18. See note 3 above" thing, and hated it. It's a waste of space in the reference list, and looks dumb. If that work is cited twenty times, do we want nineteen identical references all saying refer to item 3? Yuck. For all our other journals (at least those using some variant of Vancouver references, rather than Harvard), we'd just repeat the ‘3' cue number at each citation, as Theunis says. But then, being non-US, we don't have to jump when Chicago says jump. ;-)

Kent, I guess the nearest UK equivalent would be something like the Oxford Guide to Style (or New Hart's Rules, which is much the same thing); they're my usual first port of call on style issues.

Hm, wonder why the <sup> tag isn't allowed here...?
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Theunis de Jong's picture

I do note (a pun!) a possible source for the confusion between the two standard lists at the end of a journal article.

Jono describes a reference from a full reference list, which may be referred to in any number of ways (de Jong, 2009). Or [1]. Or (2), which, by the way, may be confused with (1) an inline, (2) enumerated, (3) list of statements. But as he said, there seems to be a lack of space and an abundance of references, which leads to another possible way of referring.²

This ought not be confused with endnotes. Endnotes should always appear consecutively, in their logical order. It is possible to put references into endnotes, but then you are bound by their nature.

From his wording, I understood Jono to have a regular references list at the end of each article, enumerated rather than called upon by name, and if so, there is no harm in repeating and out-of-order numbers. However, as usually superscript numbers denote notes, it might be confusing for the reader, and I'd personally advise against these and use square brackets.

eliason's picture

Writing as someone working for a UK academic journals publisher, my two-cents’-worth is that we acquired some journals that did that “18. See note 3 above” thing, and hated it. It’s a waste of space in the reference list, and looks dumb. If that work is cited twenty times, do we want nineteen identical references all saying refer to item 3?

It has its disadvantages, but also its advantages in some texts. For example, if I'm writing an article referencing another article I might want to cite a note in that article by number. Or if I'm discussing a text with students, it would be handy to be able to refer to citations by unique number.
In the academic writing with which I'm most familiar, most notes will include specific page numbers (or additional information) which won't likely be the same for every reference made by the text.
Additionally, though I acknowledge the reptition may seem wasteful, it can be handy to get a sense of the proportion of reliance on a given source for information backing up an argument, which would be less obvious if references kept directing back to a single note.

I won't necessarily go to the mat defending all US academic formatting practices - there is a much about them that is annoying or illogical - but in this case I appreciate the usefulness of consecutively numbered references.

EDIT: I wrote all that before I carefully read Theunis's post, which makes a helpful distinction.

dtw's picture

If Jono's extract reflects the actual subject matter of the project in question, I'd certainly second what Theunis said about "any number of ways (de Jong, 2009)" – which would end with references listed alphabetically by author (the Harvard style); it does make it easier to cite specific pages, notes etc (Williams, 2009: 18–20; de Jong, 2009: n3), and is popular in social-science subjects (we certainly use it on our politics titles).

Indeed the numbered Vancouver style does mean you have to be very careful with reference marks if there are to be both references and notes. (Not sure about "usually superscript numbers denote notes", but I can only speak from the publications I actually see day-to-day of course...)

So assuming Jono's project is entirely style-it-yourself (rather than needing to conform to someone else's pre-set style), the practical answer is to use whatever best suits the length of the document, number of references, number of multiple citations, number of other-note-types, and space constraints, so long as it's obvious to the reader what's going on.
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mrjono's picture

Hi guys,

Seems I've started quite a debate here. What I should have said is that this is not an academic project referencing journals etc, and that it is indeed style-it-yourself. However, it will be entered into an ISTD competition so I want it to be spot on typographically. I'm mostly referencing online news stories and newspaper articles so quoting the authors name and year in brackets wouldn't really work as a fair few of the articles are written anonymously on news websites.

I think I'm going to go with superscripted numbers in consecutive order as it looks neatest and seems to be quite conventional. There are only a couple of references that are repeated so using a system where it was 'See 3' for repeated references doesn't look bad at all, it just uses a little more space than usual, but I've found a way around that now anyway so it's all good.

Thanks for your help on this guys.

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