AMA Citation Format. How to Cite Your Medical Papers

Our article will guide students through AMA citation. Read the AMA guidelines for citing medical papers.

Andrew Newman
Updated on

You may be conversant with the AMA format and the AMA citation if you belong to the medical and scientific community. The AMA guidelines are considered to be challenging by students worldwide due to them consisting of 1032 pages! The guideline explains how to format your paper using AMA citation. In case you don’t have enough time but would want to learn the American Medical Association (AMA )citation format, this article will guide you. We have included a format example, a template for print, and electronic sources to make it worthwhile. First, let’s start with the definition.

What is AMA Format?

AMA format is a guideline for orchestrating and arranging academic papers. It assists students in nursing, health care, and medicine fields to describe their ideas comprehensively for the reading audiences. 1962 was the first time the American Medical Association published AMA Style Guide and the AMA Citation Guide, and since then, not many changes have been introduced. The purpose was to develop a standard and straightforward structure for students to compose their essays and research papers using evidence from valid sources to defend their arguments.

Mastering the AMA reference format is essential for various reasons:

  • To logically structure your papers
  • To make it easier for your readers to follow the text
  • To credit the names of skilled contributors
  • To avoid issues with plagiarism
  • To follow a guideline for your arguments and thesis statement (s)

Lastly, almost all medical or scientific research papers require you to present your work using AMA format. Not formatting your paper comes with demerits, such as not earning full credits. Students tend to have issues with plagiarism when they don’t cite their sources, which could result in them attaining an “F.” The AMA style varies depending on different educational institutions and publications. We should assess the elements of this writing style to give a well-detailed answer to the question “ What is AMA format?”

Basic Formatting of AMA Papers

As we stated earlier, AMA guidelines have not radically changed since 1962. Therefore, what are its basic principles? Every time a student requires adding an AMA style citation, they need to develop a number in superscript and make sure they cite sources in full in the “ Reference List” with that corresponding number.

General Rules of AMA Formatting

It is essential to ensure that the numbers are in chronological order. Below are basic rules of formatting which you should memorize:

  • Double-space your writing
  • Use 1” margins
  • Apply ½” indents
  • The Font size should be strictly 12 and can be any font type. You can utilize two typefaces ( a serif for body text and sans serif for titles and subheads) with appropriate use of styles, such as bold and scholarly publication. ( 5.22.4)
  • Add page numbers starting with the title page. You should number the pages consecutively. Page numbers are typically placed in the upper right corner.
  • It is crucial to list and number references in the order you cited them in your paper.

Basic Rules for AMA Citation

  • The superscript numbers make it easy for your reader to find the complete citation on AMA “ Reference List” page.
  • Every citation number should match the reference number.
  • Use Arabic superscripts numerals.
  • The complete reference should start with their corresponding numbers.
  • Depending on the type of source a student has to cite, the way a reference should be written varies. This means that knowing how to cite a website does not indicate that a student automatically knows how to cite a book.
  • A bibliographical entry should have the writer’s last name and the first & middle initial without punctuation.
  • When citing a source with more than one writer, insert a comma. Example: 3. Stevens B, Brown C. Ventricular-associated Pneumonia. BMJ. 2000; 3:697-700.
  • Use sentence case for titles with no exceptions ( capitalize the first word of the title-no need to do it with the rest of the words. For example, Live a happy life).
  • The titles of materials based on the National Library of Medicine Database should be abbreviated and italicized.
  • Separate every reference with periods into bibliographic categories.
  • Invert the names of the writers. Use initials for the first and middle names without putting periods between initials. It should look like this: AuthorLastname, FirstInitialMiddleInitial.
  • Insert issue numbers in parenthesis after volume numbers (for journals).

Rules regarding Punctuation Marks

  • In cases where the items are sub-elements of a bibliographic component or a set of interconnected components like writers’ names, insert a comma.
  • Apply a semicolon if the elements in the category vary from one another (the release date & title of the source ) / if various incidences of interconnected components are available within a group + before the volume identification information.
  • Insert a colon before the publisher’s name, between the title and the subtitle, and after a connective phrase (e.g., “In, “ Presented at”).

We want to share a universal AMA citation example to make you comprehend what we are talking about.

AMA Citation Example:

The Cannabis herb has been used in medicine for ages. Historical evidence proves its medical use dated back to 2737BCE1.

References in the AMA Bibliography

Not only does AMA format mean using the appropriate citations within the text and reference list, but it also using the proper stylistic matters. This involves things such as using headings and capitalizing them appropriately or using line spacing, margins, text styles ( such as using “one” or “1”, using AM, a.m, or A.M), placement of page numbers, font, spacing for graphs, size and shapes for tables, etc. 

AMA style requires using Standard National Library of Medicine [NLM] abbreviations for journals when available.

Below are several AMA citation general guidelines:

  • Corresponding superscript number
  • Author(s)
  • Article title
  • Abbreviated Journal Title
  • Date; volume (issue): pages
  • Online Journal Articles


Gatz M, Reynolds C, Nikolic J, Lowe B, Karel M, Pedersen N. An empirical test of telephone screening to identify potential dementia cases. Int Psychogeriatr. 1995 Jan 12;7(3):429-438. 

O’Barry M, Sakras S. Determining the implications of obesity in adults and children. J Adult Health. 2010 Sep 14;45(10): 583-596.

Below are other vital rules:

  • Acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms: Avoid using acronyms and abbreviations unless they are well-recognized( this might be accepted units of measurements or other well-known terminologies. Suppose you use an acronym, abbreviation, or initialism, spell it out with its first use, even though it is well-known. Do not insert periods between the letters of acronym, abbreviation, or initialism. Mentioned names should always appear as full names in the manuscript. If incorporated in references, use the two-letter abbreviation ( first name initial and middle name initial).
  • Numbers: Numerals (1,2,3 etc.) should be used in all writing, except when the number begins the sentence or title. Use AM or PM in small letters when you want to indicate time (2 am). AMA prefers the conventional 12-hour clock. Nonetheless, if you need to show precise timing, you can use a 24 hour or military time convention.
  • Dates: If you need to state the date in the text, it is desirable to use numerals for the day and year except for the month- for instance, January 3, 2021. In case you are using dates in a table, you may use numerals for the month (e.g., 3/8/2019).
  • Measurements: Use the SI standard measurements ( The International System of Units) when writing measurements. Always write the numbers in plain text. Add space after the number and before the unit. Unless a period ends a sentence, do not include it. Do not insert commas in longer numbers (e.g., 1600 km, not 1,600 km).

AMA Title Page

A title page should consist of the following:

  • The Title [ Capitalize the first letter of each main word in titles and subtitles]
  • Page Number on the top right corner
  • First Name and Last Name
  • University
  • Student Number
  • Course Title 
  • Date 
AMA  title page

General Rules 

  • You should list the references numerically in the order that they appeared within the text of your paper.
  • You should never add a comma between the last name and the first initials of an author, editor, or director, regardless of the type of source that you are referencing.
  • How you organize and format information to include in the reference list varies depending on the type of source you borrowed information/idea from.
  • Suppose you derive information/idea from a particular page number or range of pages within a printed work or paginated web resource; you should identify the said page(s) at the end of the corresponding reference.
  • If you indicate a page number or numbers in an entry in your list of references, ensure to insert the numbers in full ( for example, use 120-125 instead of 121-5).

In-Text Citation: Format and Rules

An in-text citation is a brief form of the reference that you include in the body of the paper when you derive information or an idea from an outside source. In-text citations should be identified using superscripts. When directly quoting from another source, ensure to enclose the quote within quotation marks. Suppose the direct quote is longer than four lines. In this case, you should set off the quote, indent it in a distinct block, and present it in a reduced type. Keep in mind that the quote should not be enclosed in quotation marks. The superscript numbers that identify the use of derived information or idea should appear outside ( or to the right) of commas, periods, and quotation marks and should appear inside (or to the left) of colons and semicolons.

If you derive information or ideas from more than one source in a single passage or sentence, make sure to identify each of the sources with a unique superscript number. Use commas to separate multiple superscript numbers and ascertain that no space is left between them.  Information or ideas derived from personal communication such as interviews, emails, and letters should be cited parenthetically within the text of your paper. You should also incorporate the person’s name as well as the type of communication and the date of the communication in the citation.

You should not assign a superscript number to personal communications. In addition, personal communications should not be included in the list of references at the end of the paper. Here are two examples of in-text citations using the AMA format citation style.


  1. Indirect quotation (citation after a comma, period): Smoking is believed to deteriorate the breathing functions8. British Columbia Institute of Technology.
  2. Direct quotation(citation after quotation mark): The engineer announced that “ the house was built on solid ground.”8

AMA Reference List

After including the in-text citations, the AMA format requires you to compose a well-detailed list of references at the end of the paper that provides information about the selected sources. The list of references should offer details about the sources you consulted in your research and derived information or ideas from. As discussed earlier, the in text-citations appear throughout the text, while the entire entry to each of those references is included on a separate page of the essay.

The AMA reference list format gives readers a chance to identify the source of information on the discussed topic, allowing them to profoundly research the matter. An author should connect both the in-text citation and its corresponding reference by a superscript number. The superscript is predetermined by its order of appearance within the essay (starting with 1,2,3 etc.)

Digital Documents

All references to digital journals should include the following elements:

  • Title of the article and subtitle (as applicable)
  • Abbreviated and italicized name of the journal
  • Year
  • Volume number
  • Issue number
  • Part or supplement number, when relevant
  • Inclusive page numbers- No digits should be omitted from the inclusive page numbers. The year of publication is followed by a semicolon; the volume number and the issue number (in parenthesis ) are followed by a colon; a hyphen follows the initial page number, and the finale page is followed by a period.


Rakesh G, Szabo ST, Alexopoulos GS, Zannas AS. Strategies for dementia prevention: latest evidence and implications. Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2017;8(8-9):121-136.

Xu WL, Atti AR, Gatz M, Pedersen NL, Johansson B, Fratiglioni L. Midlife overweight and obesity increase late-life dementia risk: a population-based twin study. Neurology. 2011;76(18):1568-1574. 

Gustafson D. Adiposity indices and dementia. Lancet Neurol. 2006 Aug;5(8):713-20.


  • (With an author)


Rainie L. The rise of the e-patient. Pew Research Center Internet and the  American Life Project website. October 7, 2009. Accessed January 11, 2012.

  • ( Without an author)

Air Pollution and Respiratory Health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Updated January 9, 2012. Accessed March 2, 2012.

Online Newspapers


Brown D. Global diabetes rate soars. Washington Post. June 26, 2011. Accessed March 30, 2012.

Online Journal article 


Jahden JS. Can preparedness for biological terrorism save us from pertussis? ArchPediatr Adolesc Med.2004;158(2): 106-107. Accessed June 1, 2004.

Online Government / Organization Reports


Department of Making Pregnancy Safer. Annual report, 2005. 07.01_eng.pdf. Published 2006. Accessed March 4, 2017.

Online Conference Proceedings/Presentations


Loshabel F. Talk presented at: National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee; April 9, 2001; Bethesda, MD. Accessed February 26, 2004.

Print Materials

All references to print books should include the following elements:

  • Author’s surname, first and middle name initials
  • Chapter title (if present)
  • Editor’s or translator’s surname, first and middle name initials
  • Title of the book and subtitle (if any)(italicized)
  • Volume number and volume title (where there is more than one volume)
  • Edition number ( do not indicate the first edition)
  • Place of publication
  • Country names should be spelled out when they appear alone
  • Publisher’s name
  • Year of copyright
  • Page numbers (when specific pages are cited)


  1. Luckerston A, Luckerston VB, Nunn LS. Destiny. Maryland, MN: Twenty-first Century Book; 2020.
  2.  Charston SK, Adams JN. Childhood Cancer: A Nursing Overview. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 1987.

Below are AMA citation examples of how to cite books:

Book with One Author :


  1. Bell E. Research for Health Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2010.
  2. Catalano JT. Nursing Now: Today’s Issues, Tomorrow’s Trends. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Co.; 2003.

Book with Two to Six authors: Separate the author’s name using a comma. Do not add “and” to separate any of the names.


Cheng H, Kotler P, Lee NR. Social Marketing for Public Health: Global Trends and Success Stories.Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 2011.

Book with Seven to More Authors: Mention the first three authors, and then put “et al.”


Beckon O, Laurent B, Seichen P et al. Miracles working. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf; 2009.

Book with an Editor:


Trevor W, ed. The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories. Oxford, UK: Oxford UP; 2010.

Book with  more than one editor:


Higonnet MR, Jenson J, Michel S, Weitz MC, eds. Behind the Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars. New Haven, CT: Yale UP; 1987.

Book by an Organization:


World Health Organization. Injury: A Leading Cause of the Global Burden of Disease, 2000. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2002.

Book of Second or Later Edition


Catalano JT. Nursing Now: Today’s Issues, Tomorrow’s Trends. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Co.; 2003.

Book Chapter


Habib RR. Understanding water, understanding health: the case of Bebnine, Lebanon. In: Charron DF, ed. Ecohealth Research in Practice: Innovative Applications of an Ecosystem Approach to Health. New York: Springer; 2012:45-59.

Cushman JT, Shah MN. Emergency health services. In: Veenema TG, ed. Disaster Nursing and Emergency Preparedness: For Chemical, Biological and Radiological Terrorism and Other Hazards. 3rd ed. New York: Springer; 2013: 203-213.

Print Journal Article


Foley MK, Prax B, Crowell R, Boone T. Effects of assistive devices on cardiorespiratory demands in older adults. Phys Ther. 1996;76(12):1313-1319.

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