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The AMA (Citation Style) and You

Students of biology and medical majors find themselves frequently required to use AMA citation guidelines in the preparation of their course assignments. The AMA citation guidelines are used primarily in the medical and biological fields and are very similar to the MLA citation guidelines with several specific exceptions.

AMA Citation Standards

With the AMA guidelines covering virtually every possible major reference source, it is important to note the most glaring difference between them and other citation styles. In AMA citations, name notations do not use no periods between initials. The student should only use initials for first and middle name with the last name is noted first. Also, no comma is used separating the first name from the initials.


The citation of books under AMA is familiar to anyone who knows almost any other major citation style:
Name – Title – Edition – Location – Publisher – Date

For books with editors instead of authors, such as article and reference anthologies, the name of the editor(s) is used with the ending notation of “eds.”

When citing a specific chapter or article within a given book, there are a couple of unique requirements:
Name – Title – Edition – Editors – Location – Publisher – Date – Pages

In the case of articles that leap pages (i.e. “Continued on page 203”) then list only the first page with a plus sign trailing (i.e. “pp 25+).

Journal Articles

Building citations for journal articles and resources is even easier:
Name – Article Title – Publication Title – Date – Volume – Pages

One problem frequently encountered in journal articles is that a great many people might have helped in its authorship. All authors, up to six, should be included in the citation. When there are more than six, name only the first three authors and note the presence of additional authors with the Latin phrase “et al,” meaning “and others.”

One phenomenon related to journal articles but seldom encountered outside of medical and biological writing is that of the “monographic series.” A monographic series is a group of publications on a single topic or, on occasion, by a single author or group that is printed once a year (or less frequently) with each volume written as a stand-alone book. It is possible within monographic series for the entire series or a portion thereof to actually be a “serial” of books or continuations of prior titles in the series. Each volume is still written as a stand-alone book.

The citation for monographic series is similar to citing any book, but with a notable ending:
Name – Title – Location – Publisher – Date – Series Name – Volume Number

Online Resources

The development of the Internet over the past two decades has added an entirely new form of possible information resources, online journals. These materials are cited in a manner that dramatically shifts from the pattern of other AMA citations:
Name – Title – Journal Name [serial online] – Date – Volume – Pages – Publisher – Location – Accessed on Date

In the case of citing a website (other than online journals), use the following format:
Site Name – Publisher – Located at URL – Accessed on Date

For an individual article on a non-journal website, use:
Author – Title – Site Name – Publisher/Host – Date – Located at URL – Accessed on Date

Online databases are another source for research materials and also have unique citation requirements:
Author – Title – Source – Date – Database Name – Document ID

Final Thoughts

The practice and requirement of citations has a couple major reasons behind it. First, properly citing a document gives credit to the source for their hard work in researching and preparing the information you have used. Second, proper citations give those who come behind you an informational path to follow, assisting them in understanding the basis of your work and setting the stage for future research. Additionally, showing the origins of the information goes a long way in establishing your credibility and the authenticity of your work.

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