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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 (cite) them and give full details of your source. You risk being accused of plagiarism if you fail to do so.

For general information on referencing, including an explanation of different citation systems, and guidance on citing specific types of publication, see our Citing references guide.

For help with citing specific types of publication contact your subject librarian (details below).

For advice on using references in your work, and how to use them to support your arguments, consult the guidance on the Study Advice website or make an appointment with them.

Your Chemistry librarian

Jackie Skinner's picture
Jackie Skinner
In term-time I hold a weekly drop-in in the Harry Nursten Building PC Lab (Room 2-64). These have finished for the summer but I am still around, so please email me or use the 'book now' button to make an appointment.
0118 378 5120

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. You can find the original guidelines on the RSC website and the University of Bath have produced a simplified guide (PDF) which you may find helpful.

If you use EndNote Desktop the RSC have created EndNote styles (zipped folder) which match their requirements and can be added to your personal library. For more information on output styles in EndNote please see our EndNote webpages.

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

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 here.

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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 in the order you referred to them in your work - not in alphabetical order.
  • All authors must be individually listed for each source.
  • You do not need to list the title of an individual journal article in your reference.
  • Journal titles should be written using the abbreviated form (see the 'Journal articles' tab for further information).

Books with a single author should be referenced as:

  1. A. Surname, Title, Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year.
  2. P.W. Atkins, Chemistry: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2015.

Books with multiple authors should be referenced as:

  1.  A. Surname, B. Surname, Title, Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year.
  2. C.E. Housecroft and A.G. Sharpe, Inorganic chemistry, Pearson, Harlow, 4th edn., 2012. 

Edited books should be referenced as:

  1. Title, ed. A.N. Editor, Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year.
  2. Methods of surface analysis, ed. J.M. Walls, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1989.

Chapters in edited books should be referenced as:

  1. A. Chapter Author, Title of book, ed. A.N. Editor, Publisher, Place of publication, Edition (if not the first), year, pages.
  2. M.J. White, Chemical Information for Chemists: A Primer, eds. J.N. Currano and D.L. Roth, RSC Publishing, Cambridge, 2014, pp.53-90.

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

  1. A. Surname, B. Surname and C. Surname, Abbreviated Journal Title, year, volume number, page numbers.
  2. 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.

  1. 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:

Websites should be referenced as:

  1. Name of resource, URL, [date you accessed the resource].
  2. ChemSpider,, [1 May 2016].

Patents should be referenced as:

  1. Patentee, patent issuer, patent number, year.
  2. J.T. Bristow, Rotam Agrochem International Company Limited, GB2548342, 2016.


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EndNote logoWhen you do your dissertation you could consider using EndNote to manage your references. This bibliographic management package can be used to store references, and then insert the citation in your Word document, automatically building the bibliography for you in the correct style.

Find out more on our EndNote webpages:

For information on other options for electronic management of your references see our guide to Managing references: