Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Chemistry: Citing references

A guide to finding information in chemistry. Includes links to key resources and sources of help.

Whenever you refer to another person's work in your own essay, dissertation or article you must acknowledge them and give full details of your source. You risk being accused of plagiarism if you fail to do so. See the video on Avoiding unintentional plagiarism for tips on using sources in your work and avoiding poor academic practice.

Which referencing style should I use?

The Chemistry Department usually requires students to follow the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) referencing styleConsult the guidance below to discover how to create correct references in this style. 

For further help with formatting your references consult your Academic Liaison Librarian, Jackie Skinner. Email, come to the weekly drop-in, or make an appointment.

How should I use references in my work?

If you are unsure about using references in your work, and whether to use quotes or paraphrase, take a look at this guide:

For further help on using references in your work make an appointment with one of our Study Advisers:

Your Chemistry librarian

Profile Photo
Jackie Skinner
Book an appointment
Contact:
Please contact me if you have a query or need advice on literature searching, accessing resources, referencing or using EndNote/Mendeley.

Email me, or make an appointment using the 'book now' button above. At the moment all appointments will take place online via MS Teams.

In term-time I also hold a weekly online drop-in on Tuesdays 13:00-14:00. See the drop-in box on this page.
Website

RSC referencing

The Chemistry department usually require students to use the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) style which is a brief, numbered referencing style. There are brief examples of how to reference the most common types of sources below. See also the link below to the RSC's own guide to referencing:

In-text citations - RSC style

In-text citations are given by a superscript numeral i.e. Atkins.1 This is the same for all types of source. Your citations should be numbered consecutively in the order they are used in the text. If you cite the same source more than once, you should use the same number each time.

Citations can either be placed directly after a word or at the end of a sentence, but should be placed after punctuation i.e. after a comma or full stop.

Here is a short example:

Despite some difficulties,1 this method was proven to be effective.2

Author(s) can be mentioned at their first citation in the text, but this isn't essential. Just use their surnames - no initials. For papers with one or two authors simply mention their names. For those with three or more authors just mention the first one followed by et al. Examples:

Chen and Qi used this method for the first time.3

Zanka et al. used proton-nuclear magnetic resonance to characterise source fingerprints and ageing processes.4

Any figures or images you use from other papers should also include a numerical citation in the caption. These numbers must be part of the sequence you use through the text, and have a full reference in the bibliography at the end.

If you have multiple citations for a piece of information you should list them all.

If you are citing three or more sources at once and the numbers are consecutive, you can separate the first and last sources using a dash i.e. 1–7.

If they are not consecutive or you are citing two sources, you should separate them with commas i.e. 1, 5, 12 or 7, 8.

You can also use a combination of both such as 1, 3, 5–9.

Here is a typical example:

Such reactions are often rationalised using empirical reactivity rules derived from resonance theory,or calculated properties such as FMOs6,7 and electrostatic potentials.16–19 

Extract from: J. J. Brown and S.L. Cockroft, Chem. Sci., 2013, 4, 1772-1780.

You can find instructions on creating both superscript and subscript (i.e. H2O) text in Microsoft Office applications via this link:

Referencing and bibliographies - RSC style

At the end of your work, you will need to produce a bibliography. This will include full details of all sources you have cited (used) in your text. Here are some tips for the RSC style:

  • You should list your sources numerically in the order you referred to them in your work - not in alphabetical order.
  • All authors must be individually listed for each source, in the format initials followed by surname e.g. R. R. Schrock. You must not use et al. in a reference. If there are two authors, put 'and' between them e.g. T.J. Hebden and Q. Li. If there are more than two, list them all with 'and' before the last one.
  • You do not need to include the titles of a journal articles in your references.
  • Journal titles should be written using an abbreviated form (see the 'Journal articles' tab for further information on the form to use).

Guidance on citing the most common types of publication is available via the tabs in this box. For other types of publication see the RSC guide:

Books with a single author should be referenced as:

Author name, Title, Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year.

P. W. Atkins, Chemistry: a Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2015.

Note that every significant word in the title is given an initial capital letter.

Books with multiple authors should be referenced as:

 Author names, Title, Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year.

C. E. Housecroft and A. G. Sharpe, Inorganic Chemistry, Pearson, Harlow, 4th edn., 2012. 

Edited books should be referenced as:

Title, ed. Editor name, Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year.

Methods of Surface Analysis, ed. J. M. Walls, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989.

Chapters in edited books should be referenced as:

Chapter Author, in Title of book, ed. Book Editor(s), Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year, pages.

M. J. White, in Chemical Information for Chemists: A Primer, ed. J. N. Currano and D. L. Roth, RSC Publishing, Cambridge, 2014, pp.53-90.

Note that 'ed.' to indicate an edited book remains ed. not eds. where there are multiple editors.

Journal articles (online and in print) should be referenced as:

Authors, Abbreviated Journal Title, year, volume number, page numbers.

P. M. Keane, F. E. Poynton, J. P. Hall, I. P. Clark, I. V. Sazanovich, M. Towrie, T. Gunnluagsson, S. J. Quinn, C. J. Cardin and J. M. Kelly, J. Phys. Chem. Lett., 2012, 6, 734-738.

Note: when using the RSC style, you do not need to include the title of the article.

If there are no page numbers include the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) instead. This may be the case for articles which have been published online but are not yet available in print.

J. Frau and D. Glossman-Mitnik, Chem. Cent. J., 2017, 11, DOI: 10.1186/s13065-017-0239-7.

Abbreviated journal titles can be found at the following database:

If you can't find the journal you want to cite in this list have a look at other titles containing the same words to see how they have been abbreviated and construct a sensible abbreviation. If this isn't possible then cite the full journal title.

Websites should be referenced as:

Name of resource, URL, [month and year you accessed the resource].

ChemSpider, http://www.chemspider.com/Chemical-Structure.4886482.html, (accessed May 2020).

Patent references are very short! Include the following:

Country code, patent number, and the date of the patent.

Br. Pat., GB2548342, 2016.
US Pat., 5 057 555, 1991.

 

Any images that are used should be numerically referenced in the figure caption. For example:

Example image showing molecular structures

Figure 1: Electrooxidation of (a) dopamine, (b) ascorbic acid and (c) cholesterol biomolecules.5

Reference list

5. N. Thakur, D. Gupta, D. Mandal and T. C. Nagaiah, Chem. Commun., 2021, 57, 13084-13113.

Reference management tools

Consider using EndNote or Mendeley to manage your references. See the EndNote/Mendeley page in this guide: