AMA Citation Guide

The History of AMA Citation

Now in its 10th edition, AMA Citation was first introduced in the AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors and is the cornerstone of writing style for the American Medical Association. Written originally by the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and later published by Oxford University Press, the manual lays the foundation for writing and citation styles used by those in the medical and research communities.  The most recent edition has been updated to allow for advancement in writing mediums and also includes additions such as online blogs, quizzes and regular tips from the editors.

What is AMA Citation

AMA citation, short for American Medical Association citation, is the most widely utilized citation style by those in the medical and science communities. Whether in modification or in full, contributors to scientific journals, medical and health journals, and textbooks or other academic papers rely on AMA citation to properly cite their work. Similar to APA citation or CSE citation, AMA style citation remains widely recognized and accepted. That being said, there are still several smaller publications that choose to utilize local style guides. It is important to clarify which citation style your professor (or the organization you are writing for) prefers so that you are able to deliver a polished project that clearly gives the proper credit to the original contributors of all of your source material.

AMA Citation Format

Much like the guidelines set out for APA or CSE citation styles, AMA citation follows a very specific set of guidelines to ensure that authors are not only clearly citing any reference material they may have used in their research, but also clearly providing credit and acknowledgement to the fact that they may be using someone else’s work in order to prevent plagiarism.

Historically, writers and editors were required to adhere to a strict set of guidelines. More recently, however, in order to keep pace with advancing technology, several developers have created online citation tools that automate the citation process. Popular word processors, like Microsoft Word, now all include built-in citation generators that can be adjusted to automatically input relevant citation and the corresponding reference pages.

AMA Citation Guide

The American Medical Association has created a style guide to ensure consistency in citation, AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors.  Now in its 10th edition, the style guide specifies how various works must be cited, based on the medium that the original work was taken from.

As a matter of good practice, the AMA citation guide specifies that any time a writer uses someone else’s ideas in their writing, it is paramount for them to efficiently acknowledge the originating source. This applies to most work, including but not limited to essays and papers, scientific lab reports, posters, presentations, blog posts and more. You might even see examples of AMA citation style in a textbook!

As an example, the following citation references were taken directly from the AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors

Citations inside the body of a literary paper or article

Each source should be cited in numerical order, using Arabic numbers. Arabic numbers, for all intents and purposes, are the numbers most people use every day – 1,2,3. Roman numerals, on the other hand, are completely different – I, II, III – and have different meanings, they should not be used for citation purposes.

These numbers should be placed on the outside of periods and commas, or on the inside of semicolons or colons. Examples listed below. In the case of multiple citations, a comma void of a space will go directly between each number and a closed series should be joined with a hyphen.

Example of numerical citation: The World Health Organization has completed a review of regulations.(12)

Example of multiple citation: The findings were as follows (3,4:)

Example of closed series: As previously stated, (12-18,30)

AMA In-Text Citation

According to the AMA Manual, AMA in-text citation requires the author to clearly cite each source or reference they use in their writing in numerical order, using what is known as superscript.

Superscript refers to a style of writing wherein the text is set slightly above the normal line of text and is slightly smaller in font size.

Following this guideline means that:

  • All of the in-text citations are listed in numerical order throughout the entire piece of work
  • That both the reference list and the in-text citations will be marked with identical numbers
  • The reference list will be listed numerically and not alphabetically

Every single source, quote or reference used must include AMA style in text citation. This includes anything found in text, on tables, figures or statistics cited in consecutive numerical order, with the relevant corresponding superscript numbers.

When citing direct quotes, it is necessary to use quotation marks.

Example: “Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress. When I get fed up with one, I spend the night with the other.”

Page numbers, on the other hand, are considered optional when using AMA style citation. However, some students might find that their professor requires page numbers. In which case, here is an example of how to include page numbers in in-text citation that you can use for reference purposes.

Example of how to use page numbers: The Journal of Sports Medicine reported that nearly eight in ten sports related concussions resulted in long term memory loss. 7(pp5-6)

AMA Book Citation

Citing books is not nearly as straightforward as article citation, the correct format to be used depends largely on a number of different factors, such as the number of authors, whether or not there is an editor, how many editions there might be, if the book was created by an organization and even whether or not the citation is from a specific chapter or if it was found online.

Listed below you will find several different examples, if the method that you need is not listed here, you can review the AMA Manual of Style online.

Books with only a single author:

Author Surname First Initial. Book Title. Location: Publisher name; date of publication.

Example: Jones A. The Land Before Time. Flint, MI: Saunders Elsvier; 1998

Books with two to six authors.

Author A, Author B, Author C. Book Title. Location: Publisher name; date of publication.

Example: Jones A, Jones B. The Land Before Time. Flint, MI: Saunders Elsvier; 1998

Books with seven or more authors.

Author A, Author B, Author C, et al. Book Title. Location: Publisher name; date of publication.

Example: Jones A, Jones B, Jones C, et al. The Land Before Time. Flint, MI: Saunders Elsiver; 1998

Citation of a chapter in an online publication or an ebook

Author Surname First Initial. Chapter title. In: Editors. Title of the eBook. Based on:[details relating to the edition or above]. Edition. Location: Name of publisher; date of publication. URL. Date accessed

Example: Jones A. What time is it. In: Saunders Press. The Land Before Time. Based on: Saunders Press. The Land That Time Forgot. 2nd ed. Flint, MI: Hill; 2001. Accessed December 19, 2003.

Citation referencing an edited book

Editor Surname First Initial, ed. Book Title. Location: Name of Publisher; date of publication.

Example: Jones A, ed. The Land Before Time. Flint, MI: Saunders Press: 2003

Citation referencing a chapter in an edited book

Author Surname First Initial. Chapter title. In: Editor Name, ed. Book Title. Location: Publisher name; date of publication: pages.

Example: Jones A. The Land the Time Forgot. In: Sanders, ed. The Land Before Time: The Earth. Flint, MI. Minuteman Press; 2010: 148 – 153

The AMA guidelines differ depending on the source, there are plenty of free resources, pdfs and powerpoints available online to help you with AMA citation styles.

AMA Citation Page

Previously it was mentioned that all in-text AMA citations must be supported by a corresponding citation reference page that uses identical citations and is listed in numerical order of occurrence.

The AMA Manual of Style offers the following tips and guidelines:

  • Reference lists are listed numerically, not alphabetically
  • Sample reference lists can be found both online and on page 753 of the latest edition
  • A reference list uses REGULAR numbers, not superscript like in-text citation
  • Reference lists are left justified, this means that the text is flush left.
  • Each item noted on a reference list should be single spaced. If your Word Processor is set to double space, you can create a single space list by pressing CTRL-ENTER after each line of text is completed.

Referring to the above-mentioned tips and guidelines, below is an example of what a properly formatted reference list will look like at the end of an academic paper.

Reference List

 (The title is always center aligned and in bold font)

  1. American Press. Generic pharmaceuticals to be purchased in bulk by most states. ABC News. Published January 13, 2012. Updated January 12, 2012. Accessed April 01, 2013
  2. Jones A. Surgeons relying on pharmacists to speak with patients. 3rd Flint, MI: Parker Press; 2013
  3. Jenson B, Kendrick A. Academic training of pharmacists in urban centers. K Pharm. 2013; 24(7):300-304.

A few words in conclusion

AMA style of citation is most commonly found in the medical community, when citing works in journals, articles, research or lab papers and textbooks. However, that is not to say that it can’t be incorporated into regular academia.  Whenever a person writing a paper uses source material, or direct quotes, from a piece of text that they did not originally write – that work must be properly cited in order to give the proper credit to the originating material.

While similar to APA and other citation styles, the AMA citation style has its own very specific set of formatting rules. First and foremost, always check and then recheck your work, and when in doubt, refer to the manual or another trustworthy resource for further explanation on how to best format your work. Things to remember include:

  • Spelling – Remember to always use identical spelling and symbols as they are used in the source material. Example: Bones & Calcium is NOT the same thing as Bones and Calcium.
  • Punctuation – Pay attention to not only the punctuation used in the source material, but also the requirements for punctuations as set out in the guidelines.
  • Capitalization, bolded font, italics – Make sure that you understand what to capitalize, what to italicize and so on.
  • Spacing – Reference lists should be single spaced, but what about the body of your work or other elements of text?
  • Abbreviations – There are exceptions to the abbreviation rule. For example, the titles of Journals must be abbreviated. You can search for title abbreviations in the NLM Catalog.

Properly citing your work is crucial. In failing to do so, you run the risk of being accused of plagiarism. In most academic institutions, this is expressly prohibited by what is known as an ‘integrity’ pledge and has the potential for an automatic failing grade, or worse – expulsion.

If you are unaware of how to properly cite your sources, there are a number of online resources and applications that will guide you. Or you can ask your professor or librarian for further clarification.