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All About References

By Rachel A. Russell, American Mineralogist Managing Editor; edited by Christine K. Elrod, Assistant Editor

References are very important because they help you prove your arguments, document the research, provide background, and so on. All scientists ought to understand their value. It is surprising how often the reference section and the citations in a paper have problems.

The key point with references is to allow the reader to find your background material. If you do nothing else, supply too much information rather than too little. Think to yourself, can someone find the book "Geology Today" with just an author name and year? Probably not. Can they find it with a publisher's name? Maybe. But throw in the city where the publisher is located (the main sales office) and then they can certainly track down that book.

The first way that American Mineralogist, like all journals, aids this process is by having a standard style. Submitting your manuscript with properly formatted references and complete in-text citations will speed up the editorial process.

Understanding our style is not hard, but there are many details. Here we discuss the order of references, the basic journal citation format, and discuss a few variations of the basic.

Quick tips--What helps the editorial office the most:

  1. Complete information.
  2. No abbreviations of journal titles, material source, etc.
  3. Alphabetical order (chronological order for three or more authors; last name is all that matters for order).

Ordering References

There are 3 basic types of references to order: 1-author documents, 2-author documents, and 3(+)-author documents. List all your references in alphabetical order by last name (initials are irrelevant for sorting).

For references with the same last name, follow this order: 1-author, then 2-author, followed by 3(+)-author documents, in chronological order.

Here are examples, in the correct format and order:

  • Andreozzi, G.B., and Lucchesi, S. (2002) Intersite distribution of Fe and Mg in the spinel (sensu stricto)-hercynite series by single-crystal X-ray diffraction. American Mineralogist, 87, 1113-1120.

  • Andreozzi, G.B., and Princivalle, F. (2002) Kinetics of cation ordering in synthetic MgAl2O4 spinel. American Mineralogist, 87, 838-844.

  • Andreozzi, G.B., Princivalle, F., Skogby, H., and Della Giusta, A. (2000) Cation ordering and structural variations with temperature in MgAlO spinel: An X-ray single crystal study. American Mineralogist, 85, 1164-1171.

  • Andreozzi, G.B., Lucchesi, S., Skogby, H., and Della Giusta, A. (2001) Composition dependence of cation distribution in some synthetic (Mg,Zn)(Al,Fe)O spinels. European Journal of Mineralogy, 13, 391-402.

From the top: Andreozzi and Lucchesi (2002) is first, followed alphabetically by Andreozzi and Princivalle (2002). Last are Andreozzi et al. listed chronologically: 2000, 2001.

Note: in print, duplicate author lists are replaced by 3 m-dashes, e.g., two references by "Smith and Dymek", the second instance in the list would be replaced by 3 dashes so as to not repeat in the list. If you see this change on your proofs, don't worry! (And don't bother marking it...it is our style.)


Note a few other things about those made-up entries. When multiple initials are used there are no spaces (e.g., Jones, D.H.). Suffixes, such as Jr. and III, go after the initials, with a space (e.g., Bosworth, M.R. Jr.).

The year is in parentheses, with no colons, commas, or other punctuation.

Generally only Roman (plain text) characters are used throughout the references. The titles are not in italic, no numbers are in bold, and issue numbers are only needed when the pages start at 1 for each issue, which is rare. Titles end in periods. Our style is very uncluttered.

The journal name is fully spelled out! This is the most common and most tedious mistake to fix. I have been in publishing a long time, and my experience is that abbreviating journal names is more trouble than the tiny amount of space saved is worth. Trust me, all of you would abbreviate the journal name differently, and I would have to come up with standards and fix them all. But most importantly, what we want is for the reader to be able to find the reference. Spelling out the name prevents any confusion whatsoever.

Also note that the title of the article or book or whatever should be exactly whatever it is. This is "quoted material" so I do not alter it in anyway and I assume that you have quoted it correctly, right down to misspellings, British spellings, or whatever.

Book titles follow "initial caps" format, e.g. The History of Rocks. For journal titles and chapter titles, use "sentence case," meaning capitalize the first word, proper nouns, etc., e.g., Eruptions of St. Mary's volcano through the ages; A study of Pb minerals.


In the text, the first basic thing is to use "et al." for multiple authors (do not write "Smith, Jones, and Dymek (1990) discovered..." Instead write "Smith et al. (1990) discovered.."). The second basic thing is to use a semi-colon between multiple citations with commas between citations for the same author set (e.g., Smith 1999; Jones 1929; Conway and Dymek 1980, 1984; Jones et al. 1988, 1994). The two Jones may have completely different authors, doesn't matter because the reader will be able to quickly find them both chronologically.

Here are citation examples for the made-up references above:

Smith (1990)

(Smith 1991)

(Smith 1990, 1991)

Smith and Dymek (1980, 1990)

(Smith and Dymek 1990)

Smith et al. (1989)

(Smith et al. 1992)

Other info

References in languages other than English need to have that information as follows, e.g., "Nishimura, K. (2008) Calcium and magnesium arsenates. Mineral and Metallurgy Bulletin, 43, 206-207 (in Japanese).

Submitted and "in review" work is not listed in the references cited. Just put a note in the text, e.g., "Clark, in review" "Smith and Jones, in preparation".

In press: List the article info, DOI if you have it, and say "in press," e.g., Klein, C. (2006) Clay minerals in America. Clays Journal, in press, DOI: 10.claysmin.444.118909. (Note: citations would be "Klein 2006" the reader will discover "in press" when they consult the list.)

Further examples

I have added a bunch of examples of different types of formats below. I also have a few notes of explanation. But I want to repeat a big warning: do not lose sight of the purpose of references. The purpose is to prove your points by allowing people to find previous literature. That's it. We can and do and will fix a lot of minor things about references, but if the information isn't there to allow someone to find the reference, then all the comma placement in the world simply doesn't matter. And, in point of fact, you may have beautifully formatted references, but if your paper is not good, then it doesn't matter. So I expect scientists to do their best with the references, as with all aspects of a paper, but keep it in perspective!

Reference types:

  1. Journal articles: Issue numbers only needed when the page numbering is not continuous. This is rare. Use a comma between journal name, volume number, and page numbers (or article ID no.). Example:

Smith, J. (2000) The theory of rocks. American Mineralogist, 85, 5-17.

  1. Theses/dissertations: It helps to have University name, town, country, and pages. Example:

Smith, J. (1962) The first theory of rocks, 534 p. Ph.D. thesis, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.
(In that example, no need to repeat Illinois because part of name of school, and readers can just figure out that it is the U.S.A.)

  1. General Books: Include publisher, pages if possible, and only the city where one could call to buy the book--the main office. I assume the first office is the main office and delete all the others. The idea is to give a totally clueless person a clue to finding the book. Realistically to find the book you ask your librarian and she glares at you and hands it over in about 39 seconds. Example:

Smith, J. (1969) The secret life of rebellious rocks, 432 p. Wiley, New York.

  1. Books in a series or with editors: Here are a couple examples to help you out (formats to follow).

Editor as cited author:
Smith, J., Ed. (1969) Our Rock Group, 2nd ed., 1002 p. Wiley, New York.
(Capital E when editors, lowercase e when edition. People get caps.)

Chapter in book with editors:
Doe, S. (1970) My favorite rock. In J. Smith, B. Jones, and J. Dole, Eds., Rocks and Minerals, p. 333-360. Wiley, New York.
(No colons, the editor's initials are first in names, and the page numbers refer to the specific article. Don't forget "In".)

Chapter in a series, such as (shameless plug) Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry:
Finger, L.W. and Hazen, R.M. (2000) Systematics of high-pressure silicate structures. In R.M. Hazen and R.T. Downs, Eds., High-Temperature and High-Pressure Crystal Chemistry, 41, p. 123-156. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, Virginia.

  1. Conference proceedings. No formal style, just think: do I have enough information? Generally I insist on publisher and city of publisher. Example:

Smith, J. (1971) The truth of rocks in Florida. In B. Jones and C. Doe, Eds., Proceedings of the third conference on Florida rocks, p. 224-228. Mineralogical Society of Florida, Miami.

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