AHRQ Publishing and Communications Guidelines

Section 1: Publishing Style

Table of Contents


Requirements for Document Production and Publication
   Printing and Duplication
   Coordination With the AHRQ Website
   Audiovisual Products
   Use of AHRQ Branding Design and Logos
   Proprietary Software
Disclaimers and Disclosures
     General Disclaimer
     Disclaimer for Multimedia Products
     Disclaimer of Conflicts of Interest
     Funding Statement
     Public Domain Notice
Copyright, Licensing Agreements, Trademarks, and Related Intellectual Property Requirements
   Assigning Copyright
       Federal Employees
   Reprinting Copyrighted Materials
     Fair Use
     Excerpting Content
     Tables, Graphs, and Figures
     Web Content
     Copyright Notices
  Additional Protections for Materials Published by HHS and its Agencies
    Documenting and Filing Permissions
    Trademarks and Trade Names
    Additional Information
Authorship and Credit
   Listing Authors With Their Affiliations
   Listing Credentials After an Author's Name
Editorial Style, Usage, and Punctuation
     Style Manuals
   Quick Tips on Usage and Style
     General Usage and Stylistic Considerations
     Statistical Usage
     Medical Usage
     Titles of Reports
     General Punctuation
     Bulleted Lists
     Hyphenated Prefixes
     Compound Words
     Acronyms and Abbreviations
Citations, Reference List, Footnotes, and Bibliography
   Citation Style
   Citing Sources
   Citing Journals
   Citing Database Reviews and Other Public Health Publications
   Citing Books
   Citing a Chapter in a Book or an Article in a Compendium
   Citing Scientific and Technical Reports From Government Agencies
   Citing Grant or Contract Reports
   Citing Dissertations and Theses
   Citing Conference Proceedings
   Citing a Publication With No Listed Author
   Citing Nonprint Data, Including Web Citations
Type Specifications for Print or Web Manuscripts
   Front Matter
   Report Body
   Tables and Figures
   Back Matter
Type Specifications for Desktop-Published Products
Samples for Print or Web Documents
   Sample Headings
   Inside Front Cover for a Final Report
   Title Page for a Final Report
   Back of Title Page
Submitting Documents to AHRQ
Additional Information

Appendix 1-A. Copyright: Permission Forms and Licensing Agreement
Appendix 1-B. Trademarks
Appendix 1-C. AHRQ Grant Final Progress Reports


This section includes guidance on clearance, printing and duplication, and posting on the AHRQ website. It also provides guidance on disclaimers, copyright permissions, and the use of trademarks and trade names. It provides tips on editorial style and an overview of the editorial process that occurs once a document is received at AHRQ's Office of Communications (OC). 

This section also provides instructions for reports and includes general specifications for other documents. 

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Requirements for Document Production and Publication


Products that are newsworthy, controversial, or part of a public education campaign require a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) clearance using an internal HHS platform called the Strategic Communications Plan.

AHRQ has very few products that need Strategic Communications Plans; however, if a product does require one, the OC managing editor assigned to the product will assist with developing and then submitting the Strategic Communications Plan to HHS.

Printing and Duplication

AHRQ purchases printing services through the Government Publishing Office. Contractors are not permitted to purchase printing services on behalf of the Federal Government. All AHRQ publications must have a publication number. 

Coordination With the AHRQ Website

All AHRQ products must adhere to Section 2 of these guidelines, Web Product and Website Development and Redesign.

The OC managing editor will coordinate posting of web documents through AHRQ’s web team, and with AHRQ’s program team for third-level domain websites.

Audiovisual Products

Guidelines for audiovisual products, such as webinar recordings and videos, can be found in Section 5: Audio and Video Products.

Use of AHRQ Branding Design and Logos

AHRQ branding must be included on all AHRQ products, whether produced in-house or by a contractor. 

  • Samples of AHRQ design elements/logos are provided in Section 7 of these guidelines.
  • Grantees may not include HHS or AHRQ logos on their products.
  • Products prepared under contract to AHRQ must include the HHS/AHRQ logos and may not contain contractor logos. Acknowledgment of the contractor's role is usually given in the front matter.
  • The HHS/AHRQ logo is only to be used on official, AHRQ-sponsored products.

Proprietary Software

Contractors will not prepare products that require users to purchase a specific software program to access the information.

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Disclaimers and Disclosures


Contractors and grantees must use a disclaimer for reports developed, respectively, under a contract or grant to indicate the limitations of AHRQ's responsibility for the content of the report and any necessary cautions about its intended use. Contractors and grantees may adapt the disclaimer to suit the needs of the individual report. The disclaimer should appear on the page following the title page.

General Disclaimer

The authors are solely responsible for this document's contents, findings, and conclusions. The findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ; therefore, readers should not interpret any statement in this report as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Multimedia Product Disclaimer

Multimedia products (e.g., DVDs, webinars, PowerPoint presentations) developed under an AHRQ contract or grant Should have the following disclaimer:

The (name of organization) and AHRQ have made a good faith effort to take all reasonable measures to ensure that this product is accurate, up to date, and free of error at the time of publication. Any practice described in this product must be applied by healthcare practitioners in accordance with professional judgment and standards of care in regard to the circumstances that may apply in each situation they encounter. The (name of organization) and AHRQ are not responsible for any adverse consequences arising from independent application by individual professionals of the content of this product to particular patient circumstances encountered in their practices.

Conflicts of Interest Disclaimer

The following disclaimer is used to show that there are no affiliations or financial involvements that conflict with the material presented in a report:

None of the investigators has any affiliations or financial involvement that conflicts with the material presented in this report.

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Funding Statement

For materials developed under an AHRQ contract that may or may not be published (final reports and contract deliverables) and for grantee journal articles, a funding statement is required:

This project was funded under contract/grant number XXXX from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Public Domain Notice

This notice tells the reader whether the material is copyrighted or in the public domain in the United States. Permission is needed to use the materials in other countries. The notice should appear immediately following the disclaimer or on the page following the title page.

When a publication is entirely in the public domain, use the following notice:

This document is publicly available and anyone in the United States may use and reprint it without permission for noncommerical purposes. Users outside the United States must obtain permission from AHRQ to reprint or translate this document. Anyone wanting to reprint this document for sale must contact AHRQ for permission.

When the publication contains short, copyrighted quoted passages or reproduced tables or figures that require permission to reproduce, use the following notice:

This document is publicly available and anyone in the United States may use and reprint it without permission for noncommercial purposes, except copyrighted materials that are clearly noted in the document. No one may reproduce copyrighted materials without the permission of the copyright holders. Users outside the United States must get permission from AHRQ to reprint or translate this document. Anyone wanting to reprint this document for sale must contact AHRQ for permission.

When the entire document is copyrighted—as in special pre-approved situations where AHRQ grants a contractor permission to retain copyright to a product—use the copyright notice. A special copyright notice appears on the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) website, whose Recommendation Statements are not in the public domain.

Use a simpler public domain statement on fliers or pamphlets. For example:

This material may be reprinted without further permission.

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Copyright, Licensing Agreements, Trademarks, and Related Intellectual Property Requirements

AHRQ staff authors, project officers, and contractors should work with OC managing editors to determine permissions needed for a project. Sample forms for obtaining permissions and implementing licensing agreements are provided in Appendix 1-A.

Assigning Copyright

Federal Employees

Employees of the Federal Government who submit articles to journals for publication cannot assign copyright to the journal. Federal employees' work is not protected by the Copyright Act. The following statement is used if a Federal employment option is not provided on the journal’s copyright form:

I was an employee of the U.S. Federal Government when this work was completed and prepared for publication. It is not protected under the Copyright Act, and the journal cannot claim copyright to the work.


Grantees may copyright their work. However, the Federal Government has the right to use grantees' work for its own purposes, as long as it does not distribute the products outside the Agency.


In general, contractors may not copyright products they create on behalf of AHRQ. Contract deliverables are the property of the Federal Government.

In certain circumstances, AHRQ may elect to allow contractors to share rights to the materials by negotiating a licensing agreement after AHRQ receives the deliverable. Appendix 1-A has a sample licensing agreement. In these situations, the contractor retains the copyright and the Federal Government has the license to disseminate the products. When the Agency disseminates the material, it will include a disclaimer and copyright notice in the packaging. For further information, contact the OC managing editor assigned to the project..

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Reprinting Copyrighted Materials

Fair Use

The ability to directly quote short passages of text relevant to a particular point is protected under the Fair Use doctrine. Short passages (typically several paragraphs or less) can be quoted without obtaining permission from the copyeright holder, but the sources must be indicated in the text or by a footnote or endnote. Authors can summarize ideas from a copyrighted publication in their own words and provide a reference to the originators of the idea.

Excerpting Content

Authors must consider copyright when reproducing others' work, including tables and figures, photographs and illustrations, and multimedia content. To use copyrighted material in an AHRQ publication, the author must obtain written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce the item and provide a copy of the permission to OC to retain in its permission archive. Note that the copyright holder, often a journal or book publisher, may charge a fee to use the material. At a minimum, copyright holders will require the reprinted item to run with a statement, such as "Reprinted with permission from J Reason. Human Error. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990, p.175."

Tables, Graphs, and Figures

If an author creates a diagram, graph, or a new table using only part of the data from a copyrighted source, he or she can cite the item without asking for permission to reprint copyright material.

If an author uses most of an original copyrighted work, he or she must request permission from the source to adapt the material. The item will appear with a statement that indicates AHRQ received permission to use the work ("Adapted from Donabedian A. Explorations in Quality Assessment and Monitoring: The Definition of Quality and Approaches to Its Assessment. Volume I. Ann Arbor, MI: Health Administration Press, 1980").


Authors need permission to reproduce photographs that are under copyright protection. Photos in the public domain (e.g., photos taken for the Federal Government’s use or no longer copyrighted) do not need permission. Appendix 1-A provides a sample permission form to request use of a photograph.

 Web Content

Web-based material is considered to be copyrighted by the author immediately upon its creation, even if the site does not provide a copyright notice. Authors must obtain permission to reprint web material. Typically, websites offer an email address for these purposes; if no email address is available, authors must cite the website and the date of posting, if available.

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Copyright Notices

A notice should be provided of the existence of copyrighted material, as follows:

  • When an entire electronic document is copyrighted, the notice is placed along with other notices in the front matter. 
  • When copyrighted material pertains only to particular items within the document, an abbreviated copyright notice should be placed directly under the copyrighted item (e.g., Source: World Health Organization, 1990. Used with permission.).

A sample copyright notice follows for use in situations where AHRQ has a licensing agreement in place for the use of a copyrighted product:

"The (description of item), (title of product), is the intellectual property of (name of organization). AHRQ has a nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide license to use and disseminate the work and to authorize others to use it in their delivery of healthcare or for quality improvement and educational purposes. The author/owner hereby assures health care professionals, physicians, nurses, and hospital systems that use of the (description of item), distributed by or through AHRQ, in their practices is permitted. Each user is granted a royalty-free, non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use the product in accordance with the guidance contained in the work.

The product may not be changed in any way by any user. The product and its contents may be used and incorporated into other (training/educational/specify) programs on the condition that no fee is charged by the reproducer of the product or its contents for its use. The product may not be sold for profit or incorporated in any profit-making venture without the expressed written permission of (name of author/owner organization/copyright holder)."

Additional Protections for Materials Published by HHS and Its Agencies

Reprinting of AHRQ publications without permission for commercial purposes is prohibited under the Social Security Act (42 United States Code 1320b-10): 

2(B) No person may, for a fee, reproduce, reprint, or distribute any item consisting of a form, application, or other publication of the Department of Health and Human Services unless such person has obtained specific, written authorization for such activity in accordance with regulations which the Secretary shall prescribe.

Violators can be fined up to $5,000 per printed or electronic copy sold without permission.

Staff members, grantees, or contractors who find a commercial publisher or bookseller reprinting AHRQ-funded reports and selling them for a profit should notify AHRQ;'s Office of Communications. 

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Documenting and Filing Permissions

Authors must provide a copy of the written permission they received to use copyrighted material to the OC managing editor. They must also give credit to the copyrighted source. Example:

Source: World Health Organization, 1990. Used with permission.

The complete citation for the source of the copyrighted material should be included in the reference list. If a table or figure is compiled from data from a number of sources, each source should be listed in a footnote at the bottom of the item, and the complete citation should be included in the reference list. Indication should be given if the table or figure has been adapted.

Trademarks and Trade Names

  • Use the ™ or ® symbols on first mention in each chapter and in major headings to reflect trademarks.
  • Avoid using trade or brand names of drugs or products. For a trademarked or a brand name of a drug, use the generic name whenever possible. The Physicians' Desk Reference® has generic names.
  • For information about trademarks, go to Appendix 1-B.

Additional Information

The U.S. Copyright Office has additional information on copyrights and links to copyright management organizations, such as the Copyright Clearance Center, an organization that helps businesses and academic institutions pay fees for uses of copyright material that do not fall under the Fair Use protections. 

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Authorship and Credit 

Author List

A list of authors with their affiliations can appear in the front matter of a scientific or technical report.

Author Credentials

Professional credentials are listed in the following order:

  • Academic and professional degrees, with the highest ranked degree first.
  • Licenses or other State-issued designations.
  • Professional certifications.
  • Honors, including fellowships in honorary societies.


Acknowledgments of specific substative contributions an individual or organization made are optional. Short acknowledgments can be included in the front matter; longer lists of acknowledgments may warrant an appendix. AHRQ staff may be included.

Acknowledgments may recognize contractor affiliation but cannot include the contractor logo. For example:

We thank John Doe, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the XXX School of Public Health, and Jane Roe, M.D., M.Sc., Associate Professor of Medicine at the XXX School of Medicine, for their valuable advice on this document.

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Editorial Style, Usage, and Punctuation


Style Manuals
  • Government Printing Office style. AHRQ follows the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) Style Manual.
  • AMA Manual of Style. For issues of scientific and medical usage not addressed by GPO, refer to the American Medical Association Manual of Style.
  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Refer to this manual for social science terminology and usage.
  • Associated Press Stylebook. Refer to this manual for materials intended for publication in newspapers, magazines, and other journalistic outlets.
  • Standard English usage. Use Webster's Third New International Dictionary.
  • Medical usage. Use Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary.

Quick Tips on Usage and Style

The following sections list helpful tips from GPO, along with AHRQ style preferences.

General Usage and Stylistic Considerations
  • Data. The word "data" takes a plural verb. "Datum" is the singular form.
  • Sex versus gender. "Sex" refers to male or female physical characteristics. "Gender" distinguishes masculine and feminine social roles.
  • People versus persons. "People"—not persons—is the plural of "person." Exception: do not correct this in article or book titles in reference lists.
  • Comparisons. "Compared with," not "compared to."
  • Use. Not utilize.
  • Prevention. "Preventive," not "preventative."
Statistical Usage
  • p-values. We prefer lower case regular (p<0.05).
  • Confidence intervals. Use 95% CI, 3.0 to 6.1. This format makes it clear that the interval is a range; it also prevents confusion between negative signs and hyphens.
  • Probabilities. When comparing probabilities, be precise. Use "[however many times] as likely" rather than "more likely," "less likely," or "very likely." (Example: Say the odds of getting cancer = 5.7/1,000 for women and 17/1,000 for men. This means that men are about 3 times as likely to get cancer as women.)
  • Comparisons. Report results in comparative terms to describe the magnitude of effect (units, relative risks, absolute terms), when applicable. For example, if the risk of cancer in men is 3/1,000 and the risk in women is 6/1,000, then the relative risk for women is 2 (twice the risk in men). Use all three terms to provide a full description.
  • Significance. Ensure that terms such as "inconclusive," "inadequate," "insufficient," "inconsistent," and "significance" are used consistently and correctly. 
  • Equivalence. Use the technical terms "equivalent," "noninferior," and "superior" appropriately.
Medical Usage
  • Taxonomic terms are always italicized (e.g., Clostridium difficile or C. difficile). Note that the term is spelled out at first usage.
  • Patients and study subjects should be described with humane language:
    • Diabetic patients or patients with diabetes, rather than diabetics.
    • The treatment failed to alleviate the patient's symptoms, rather than the patient failed treatment.
    • The patient reported chest pain, rather than the patient complained of chest pain.
Report Titles

Titles of reports should be brief yet informative:

  • If possible, keep the title to a maximum of 10 words. A short subtitle is optional.
  • In general, do not use acronyms in titles unless spelling out a term would make the title too long or incomprehensible or if the audience is familiar with the acronym. Do not use both a spelled-out term and acronym in a title.
General Punctuation
  • Serial comma. For elements in a series, use a comma before the conjunctions "and," "or," and "nor" (e.g., dog, cat, and bird).
  • Et al. Use a comma before "et al." in a reference list (more information is under References).
  • Em dash. Use an em dash (—), with no spaces before or after, to separate phrases or clauses from the rest of a sentence.
  • En dash. Use an en dash (–) for compound terms when one element of a compound is itself a multi-word element (e.g., New York–New Jersey bridge), and for numeral ranges (e.g., 10–20 or 1999–2000) within the body of the text. (In reference lists, use hyphens for ranges of pages.)
Bulleted Lists

For a simple list consisting only of words or phrases, do not use periods at the end of the items:

The store has three locations:

  • Silver Spring
  • Wheaton
  • Rockville

If the list contains full sentences, include periods at the end of each item:

The man noticed three things in the waiting room:

  • The clock was slow.
  • The plants needed to be watered.
  • The magazines were dated 1985.

If one item in a list requires a period, all items get periods:

The researchers were very interested in three topics:

  • Healthcare quality.
  • Grants.
  • The National Healthcare Disparities Report. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publishes this report annually.
  • Hyphenate descriptive words when they modify a noun (e.g., patient-centered communication, core-needle biopsy).
  • Hyphenate the following words only when they are used as modifiers.
    • Long-term care.
    • Short-term memory.
    • Up-to-date statistics.
  • Do not hyphenate adverbs when they are used descriptively with an adjective (e.g., developmentally based models, clinically relevant dose).
  • Use hyphens for ranges of pages in reference lists. (Use en dashes for numeral ranges within the body of text.)
Hyphenated Prefixes

Prefixes are not hyphenated in AHRQ style, unless the compound produces an unreadable or ambiguous word, or the original word is a proper noun, for example:

  • Anti (e.g., anticoagulant; but anti-inflammatory, anti-AIDS).
  • Co (e.g., codirector, but co-occurrence).
  • Non (e.g., nonopioid, but non-Hispanic).
  • Post (e.g., postsurgical, postmarketing; but post-test, post-Darwinian).
  • Pre (e.g., preterm).
  • Re (e.g., rebiopsy; but re-creation vs. recreation).
Compound Words
  • The following appear as one word:
    • Database.
    • Dataset.
    • Email.
    • Followup (one word if used as a noun, but two words if used as a verb, such as "the doctor will follow up with you in a few days").
    • Healthcare
    • Online.
    • Policymakers.
    • Policymaking.
    • Website
  • Do not compound the following:
    • Quality of life, except when used as an adjective (quality-of-life outcomes).
    • Web conference, web page.
Acronyms and Abbreviations
  • Define all abbreviations in the text at the first mention in each chapter or major report section (i.e., in the text or headings but not the title).
  • The first usage should be followed by the abbreviation in parentheses—for example, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs).
    • Exception: do not define HIV/AIDS.
  • After first usage, use the abbreviation consistently.
  • Use abbreviations judiciously. If a term is used only a handful of times in a document, an abbreviation is not necessary.
  • Avoid using "the" before the abbreviations AHRQ, FDA, and NIH.
  • List all acronyms and abbreviations at the bottom of figures and tables.
  • Spell out standard medical abbreviations—such as HbA1c (hemoglobin A1c), MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)—at first use. In general, place the spelled-out version first, followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. (There may be exceptions, when the abbreviation is the focal point of the sentence.)
  • Spell out "United States" when used as a proper noun. Use the abbreviation "U.S." when used as an adjective.
  • Spell out these standard abbreviations when they are in text and abbreviate them when they are within parentheses:
    • Et cetera (etc.).
    • For example (e.g.).
    • That is (i.e.).
    • Versus (vs.).
  • Be careful to distinguish between e.g. (an example from a larger class) and i.e. (an explanation of the term that has been described in the preceding phrase).
  • Spell out "percent" in text, but use % in tables, figures, charts, graphs, and parentheses.
  • Use numerals for time, measurement, and money (e.g., 2-year followup, 4 weeks, 4 percent, 10 cm, $5 million) and for the number 10 and greater. Write out everything else (six cats, nine oranges, three-ply, fivefold).
  • Use numerals for ordinal numbers beginning with 10th (in text and footnotes).
  • Numerals are also preferred in charts and in parentheses (n=3 studies).
  • Capitalize the following in text as well as headings:
    • The titles and subtitles of the report.
    • The words Federal, State, Nation, and Federal Government. However, do not capitalize nationwide, statewide, local, or federally.
    • Capitalize Web at the beginning of a sentence. Otherwise, user lowercase ("website" and "web address"). Also lowercase webcast, weblog, and webinar, as one word.
    • Capitalize offices and officers related to AHRQ programs when used as titles: e.g., John Doe, Project Officer; Mary Roe, Task Order Officer.
  • In titles and headings, capitalize the following:
    • Prepositions with four or more letters (With, From, Between).
    • All 4-letter demonstrative pronouns (This, That).
    • All 2- and 3-letter verbal forms (To [in an infinitive], Am, Be, Is, Was, Has, Have).
    • Each word in a hyphenated term with initial caps (Off-Label Use of Drugs).
      • Exception: Evidence-based Practice Centers.
  • Do not capitalize in text:
    • The words "syndrome" and "disease" (e.g., Prader-Willi syndrome, Paget disease).
    • Medical conditions (e.g., type 2 diabetes).

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Citations, Reference List, Footnotes, and Bibliography

Citation Style

For citations and reference lists, AHRQ uses its own modification of the Vancouver Style®, which is similar to PubMed. A detailed explanation follows of how sources should be cited.

Citing Sources

Reference management software, such as Procite®, EndNote®, or Reference Manager®, is recommended.

For in-text citations:

  • Assign each source a number, in the order in which it is referred to in the text. When the same source is cited a second time, it retains its number.
  • Provide a source or attribution for all statements of fact. For example, "Only two studies1,2 showed a positive outcome for this treatment approach."

For the reference list:

  • Use AHRQ style for references; do not use the reference style of the source.
  • Ensure that every reference used in the reference list is cited in the text and vice versa.
  • List only the first three authors, followed by a comma, then et al.
  • Separate inclusive page numbers with a hyphen.
  • To facilitate retrieval, add a document identifier if one is available, such as a PMID number for journal articles indexed by PubMed, an NTIS number for government reports, or a digital object identifier (DOI) for web documents.

Citing Journals

  • Author name(s) followed by initials (no periods). List up to three authors and then add a comma followed by "et al." Period at the end of the author list.
  • Full title of article, including subtitles, followed by a period. Sentence capitalization.
  • Title of journal, abbreviated in Index Medicus style. Do not italicize the journal title. (This is a deviation from Index Medicus style.)
  • Year (month optional), followed by a semicolon, no space after.
  • Volume, issue (optional, in parentheses), and page numbers; no spaces. Use a hyphen for a range of numbers.
  • Add the PubMed identification (PMID) number to the end of each reference found in PubMed. This unique identifier can be obtained by searching for the reference in PubMed. 

Example: standard journal citation:

Ouchida K, LoFaso VM, Capello CF, et al. Fast forward rounds: an effective method for teaching medical students to transition patients safely across care settings. J Am Geriatr Soc 2009 May;57:910-7. PMID: 19368582.

Example with more than three authors:

Lesselroth B, Adams S, Felder R, et al. Using consumer-based kiosk technology to improve and standardize medication reconciliation in a specialty care setting. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf 2009 May;35(5):264-71. PMID: 19480380.

Note: The issue number is optional.

Example of a policy statement in a journal, where a committee is the author:

American Academy of Pediatrics, Medical Home Initiatives for Children With Special Health Care Needs Project Advisory Committee. The medical home [policy statement]. Pediatrics 2002 July;110(1):184-6. PMID: 12093969.

Note: The issue number is optional.

Example of an article where individuals are writing as participants in a program (the CERT at U. of Penn.). Because this journal may be unfamiliar, spelling out the institution’s name may help the reader recognize the source:

Strom BL, Schinnar R; Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics, University of Pennsylvania. Evaluating health information technology's clinical effects. Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI). LDI Issue Brief 2011 Feb;16(4):1-4. PMID: 21365962.

Note: In the example above, a semicolon is used to separate the individual authors from the institutional author.

Example of an article in a journal supplement, with a related discussion:

Hadley J. Sicker and poorer—the consequences of being uninsured: a review of the research on the relationship between health insurance, medical care use, health, work, and income. Med Care Res Rev 2003;60(2 Suppl):3S-75S; discussion 76W-112S. PMID: 12800687.

Example of an editorial in a journal:

Alberts ME. Immunization [editorial]. Iowa Med 1989 Oct;79(10):489-93. PMID: 2807831.

Example of a magazine article without a by-line:

"Teach back" technique improves patient safety. Patient Education Management 2007 April;44-5.

Citing Database Reviews and Other Public Health Publications

Use standard PubMed formats for the following kinds of documents, but do not italicize the journal titles:

  • Database Reviews:

    Somaraju UR, Tadepalli K. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for Gaucher disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;(1):CD006974.

  • Other Public Health Publications:

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of disabilities and associated health conditions among adults: United States, 1999. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2001;50:120-5. PMID: 11393491.

Citing Books

  • Author name(s) followed by initials (no periods after initials). Comma between each author. After three authors, use a comma followed by "et al."
  • Title. Use title capitalization for the title of a work as a whole; sentence capitalization for titles of parts—chapters, articles in a series, etc.
  • City of publication (followed by a colon), publisher (followed by a semicolon), and date. For the State, (used only when location of city is not clear), use the two-letter U.S. Postal Service abbreviation.
  • Use a period to separate each of the three major elements above (author, title, and publication information).

Examples: books with an individual author:

Perrin PG, Smith GH. The Perrin-Smith Handbook of Current English. Chicago: Scott, Foresman; 1962.

Arthur J. Lean Six Sigma Demystified: A Self Teaching Guide. New York: McGraw Hill; 2007.

Example: book with an institutional author:

Beth Israel Hospital. Obstetrical Decision Making. Philadelphia: B.C. Decker; 1987.

Example where both the city and State are needed:

Dennis P. Lean Production Simplified: A Plain-Language Guide to the World's Most Powerful Production System. University Park, IL: Productivity Press; 2002.

Citing a Chapter in a Book or an Article in a Compendium

Note: The parts are in sentence case capitalization; the whole is in title case capitalization.

Examples: chapter in a book:

Cassidy JT, Pefty RE. Basic concepts of drug therapy. In: Textbook of Pediatric Rheumatology. 2nd ed. New York: Churchill-Livingston; 1990:chapter 3.

Pesce MA. Laboratory testing in infants and children. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chapter 714.

Note: Inclusive page numbers are preferred; the chapter is a less desirable alternative.

Examples: volumes in a series:

Rombeau JL, Caldwell MD, eds. Parenteral Nutrition. In: Clinical Nutrition, vol. 2. Philadelphia: Saunders; 1986.

Note: The designation ed./eds. is abbreviated.

Merritt CRB. Breast imaging techniques. In: Putnam CE and Ravin CE, eds. Textbook of Diagnostic Imaging, vol.3. Philadelphia: Saunders; 1988:2118-20.

Example of a reference with specific page numbers:

Anthony D, Chetty VK, Kartha A., et al. Re-engineering the hospital discharge: an example of a multifaceted process evaluation. In: Henriksen K, Battles JB, Marks ES, et al., eds. Advances in Patient Safety: from Research to Implementation, vol. 2. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2005:379-94.

A volume in an AHRQ series posted on the web:

Shojania K, McDonald K, Wachter R, et al. Care coordination. In: Closing the Quality Gap: A Critical Analysis of Quality Improvement Strategies, vol. 7. AHRQ Publication No. 04(07)-0051-7. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2007. www.ahrq.gov/clinic/tpcaregaptp.htm. Accessed November 5, 2010.

Citing Scientific and Technical Reports From Government Agencies

  • Author name(s). Use "et al." after three authors. Insert a comma before "et al."
  • Title of the article and/or individual publication within a series. Title capitalization for full-length reports.
  • Name of the series.
  • Publication or acquisition number.
  • City (and state if necessary) of publication, followed by a colon.
  • Agency or organization responsible for the series, followed by a semicolon.
  • Date of publication.
  • DOI number, if available.
  • Statement of online availability, if applicable.

Examples: Reports with individual or institutional authors:

Cohen S. Sample design of the 1997 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component. MEPS Methodology Report No. 11. AHRQ Publication No. 01–0001. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2000.

National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group. Working Group Report on High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy. NHBPEP Publication No. 00–3029. Washington, DC: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; 2000.

Example: Citation with DOI number:

Schiraldi GR. Post-traumatic stress disorder sourcebook: a guide to healing, recovery, and growth [Internet]. New York: McGraw-Hill 2000 [cited 2006 Nov 6]. 446 p. Available from: https://www.mhprofessional.com.

Example: AHRQ compilations for which there are no authors:

Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews. AHRQ Publication No. 10(11)-EHC063-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; March 2011. Chapters available at https://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov.

Industrial and Systems Engineering and Health Care: Critical Areas of Research. Final Report. AHRQ Publication No. 10-0079. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; May 2010.

Citing Grant or Contract Reports

  • Author nme(s).
  • Full title of the report. Title capitalization.
  • Status of the report, if given (final, draft, preliminary).
  • Grantee or contractor.
  • Grant or contract number.
  • Publication or acquisition number.
  • City of publication.
  • Agency for which the report was prepared.
  • Date (year with first three letters of month).

Example: grant or contract report:

Schachter H, Resiman J, Tran K, et al. Health Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Asthma. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 91. Prepared by University of Ottawa Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290–01–0021. AHRQ Publication No. 04–E013–2. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; July 2004.

Example: series of case studies published under contract to AHRQ:

Schneider K, Nichols L, Stevens C, et al. Success Stories from the AHRQ-Funded Health IT Portfolio (2009). Prepared by John Snow, Inc., under Contract No. HHSA 2902009000181. AHRQ Publication No. 10-0095-3-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; November 2010.

Citing Dissertations and Theses

  • Author name.
  • Full title of the report. Title capitalization.
  • Publication type.
  • Location and name of institution.
  • Date of publication.

Example: dissertation:

Youssef NM. School Adjustment of Children With Congenital Heart Disease [dissertation]. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh; 1988.

Example: thesis

Devins GM. Helplessness, Depression, and Mood in End-Stage Renal Disease [master's thesis]. Montreal, Quebec: McGill University; 1981.

Citing Conference Proceedings

  • Editor names(s).
  • Title of publication. Title capitalization.
  • Title of conference. Title capitalization.
  • Dates and place of conference.
  • City of publication, publisher, and date of publication.

Example: conference proceedings:

Vivian VL, ed. Child abuse and neglect: a medical community response. First AMA National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect; 1984 Mar 30–31; Chicago. Chicago: American Medical Association; 1985.

In addition, papers presented at meetings should begin with:

  • Author name(s).
  • Full title of paper. Sentence capitalization.

Example: conference paper:

Harley NH. Comparing radon daughter dosimetric and risk models. In: Gammage RB, Kaye SV, editors. Indoor Air and Human Health. Proceedings of the 7th Life Sciences Symposium; 1984 Oct 29–31; Knoxville, TN. Chelsea (MN): Lewis Publishers; 1985:69-78.

Example: conference abstract:

Lunin LF. Organizing for information interaction in a radiology department [abstract]. In: Petrarca AE, ed. Information Interaction. Proceedings of the 45th ASIS Annual Meeting; 1982 Oct 17–21; Columbus, OH. White Plains (NY): Knowledge Industry Publications, Inc.; 1982:179-80.

Citing a Publication With No Listed Author

When no author is listed for a reference, list the reference alphabetically by title (excluding "A," "An," or "The" if it is the first word). For Government documents, the publishing agency often will be listed as the report author.

Citing Nonprint Data, Including Web Citations

When nonprint data are used, give the following information as applicable and available:

  • Author name(s) followed by initials (no periods). Comma between each author. After three authors, use a comma followed by "et al."
  • Title. Use title capitalization for the title of a work as a whole; sentence capitalization for titles of parts—chapters, articles in a series, and so forth.
  • Type of medium (CD, DVD, and so forth).
  • Source of data.
  • Availability information (for example, web URL).
  • Date accessed, if a web product.

Example: web citation:

Hsiao C-J, Beatty PC, Hing ES, et al. Electronic Medical Record/Electronic Health Record Use by Office-based Physicians: United States, 2008 and Preliminary 2009. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/emr_ehr/emr_ehr.pdf. Accessed January 7, 2010.

Example: part of database:

Sestini P, Renzoni E, Robinson S, et al. Short-acting beta 2 agonists for stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2002(4):CD001495.

Example: website:

Use the following simplified format:

www.ahrq.gov/consumers. Accessed January 16, 2009.

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The following rules apply to footnotes:

  • Use footnotes sparingly.
  • Use superscript letters rather than numbers.
  • Tables and figures are likely to need footnotes, and may also include citations to the reference list. Cite the source by letter in the body of the table, provide an abbreviated reference at the bottom of the table, and list the source(s) in the reference list.
  • Provide an alphabetical list of all acronyms and abbreviations at the bottom of the table.

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A bibliography documents the sources used in developing a paper or report, whether or not they were discussed specifically in the text or appear in the reference list. It also evaluates the opinions of others who have written on a topic and provides suggestions for further reading.

The structure of a bibliography will depend upon its purpose. Most often, it is arranged alphabetically by its first element: either by author, or in the case of a document without an author, by title.

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Page last reviewed October 2018
Page originally created February 2013
Internet Citation: Section 1: Publishing Style. Content last reviewed October 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/publications/pubcomguide/pcguide1.html