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Writing a Scientific Paper

Discussion of how to understand and write different sections of a scientific paper. Discussions of how to write Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Data, and Discussion.

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Literature Cited Section

This is the last section of the paper. Here you should provide an alphabetical listing of all the published work you cited in the text of the paper. This does not mean every article you found in your research; only include the works you actually cited in the text of your paper.

A standard format is used both to cite literature in the text and to list these studies in the Literature Cited section.  Hypothetical examples of the format used in the journal Ecology are below:

    Djorjevic, M., D.W. Gabriel and B.G. Rolfe. 1987. Rhizobium: Refined parasite of legumes. Annual Review of Phytopathology 25: 145-168.

    Jones, I. J. and B. J. Green. 1963. Inhibitory agents in walnut trees. Plant Physiology 70:101-152.

    MacArthur, R.H. and E.O. Wilson. 1967. The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.

    Smith, E. A. 1949. Allelopathy in walnuts. American Journal of Botany 35:1066-1071.

Here is a dissection of the first entry, in the format for Ecology:  

    Firstauthor, M., D.W. Secondauthor and B.G. Thirdauthor. Year. Article title with only the first letter capitalized. Journal Article Title with Important Words in Caps  volume#(issue# if there is one): firstpage-lastpage.

Notice some of the following details:  

    - the list is alphabetized;
    - no first or middle names are listed (the author's first and middle initials are used instead);
    - only the first word in the title of the journal article (except for proper nouns) is capitalized;
    - different journals use different styles for Literature Cited sections.  

You should pay careful attention to details of formatting when you write your own Literature Cited section.

For papers published in journals you must provide the date, title, journal name, volume number, and page numbers. For books you need the publication date, title, publisher, and place of publication.


Guides from other Schools

Citation Styles & Writing Guides

"Literature Cited Checklist" from: How to Write a Good Scientific Paper. Chris A. Mack. SPIE. 2018.

  • Include citations that provide sufficient context to allow for critical analysis of this
  • work by others.
  • Include citations that give the reader sources of background and related material so
  • that the current work can be understood by the target audience.
  • Include citations that provide examples of alternate ideas, data, or conclusions to
  • compare and contrast with this work, if they exist. Do not exclude contrary evidence.
  • Include citations that acknowledge and give credit to sources relied upon for this
  • work.
  • Are the citations up to date, referencing that latest work on this topic?
  • It is the job of the authors to verify the accuracy of the references.
  • Avoid: spurious citations (citations that are not needed but are included anyway);

biased citations (references added or omitted for reasons other than meeting the
above goals of citations); excessive self-cites (citations to one’s own work).