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Plant Sciences: Referencing Guide

Information about the Plant Sciences Library, including information for researchers

Referencing style for Plant Sciences Graduates and Undergraduates

There is no single recommended style for Postgraduate theses, dissertations, or interim reports in the Plant Sciences Department  :  You should ask your Supervisor what style they recommend. Consistency is the key requirement. If your Supervisor expresses no preference, stick to a well-known international standard, such as Harvard.

Undergraduates are advised to use the 'Current Opinion...' format or their Mini-Review, including the references. You can find the details regarding referencing [plus information on how to structure the essay itself] in Elsevier's Guide for Authors at

For the Undergrad Project Report, the advice is to '... adopt the layout and conventions of an appropriate scientific journal, eg Plant Journal, Journal of Ecology, or New Phytologist. Use their style consistently, eg in citing references'. The website of these journals will give advice to authors about formatting - But see the next paragraph for the really good news!

But you don't have to worry about formatting! Reference Management Software [see box below] will format your references in the required style and keep them consistent - simply choose from the list available. If you cannot find the style required by your Supervisor in the list of default styles, there is usually a set of further styles which can be downloaded for free. And if you find there is a change in the required format, it's not a problem if you use an RMS - reformatting is instantaneous. If you check out the Elsevier Guide for Authors mentioned above, you'll see they recommend using Ref Management Software too!

Those who are really concerned about referencing styles might like to check out CiteThemRight

More Referencing help : Reference Management Software

Reference Management Software is not only useful for creating bibliographies, or dropping references into your text : it will help you organise and keep tabs on all that 'stuff' you have to read, and format the references for you in the style required - whether they are for a journal paper, book, website, whatever.

Zotero is the easiest to use, and is free. Mendeley is very popular with scientists and is also free. EndNoteWeb is linked to the University's subscription to Web of Science, so whilst it is free during your registered time at Cambridge, you lose access when you leave. There are many other systems you can use - some are free and some not. Wikipedia runs a comparison of what they offer on

We have LibGuides on: Reference Management [in general] see Tips & Tools tab  |  Mendeley  |  Zotero

How to choose? The choice of which RMS is better for you might depend on what database you use to search for references : some link seamlessly so that you can drop selected references found in a search straight into your personal list, some do not.  You could also ask lab colleagues or friends what they use - knowing a relative 'expert' is helpful! However, as it is better to get into the habit of using an RMS right from the beginning [as well as the habit of being organised!], choose anything for now - you can transfer your references to another one later if necessary.

The University Information Services run occasional short courses [under the theme Bibliographic Software] - check if any are running at a convenient time for you here. There are guidelines and help facilities linked from the main RMSs. Many other universities also produce useful help sheets - Googling will find them.


The fact that you have clearly indicated that information you have given comes from somewhere else, and you are not claiming it as your own, is more important that the style in which the reference is represented.

We have a LibGuide on plagiarism.

Here is some more help from the University: