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CBE is a formal academic referencing manual by Council of Biology Editors. This style is mostly for writing and citing sources in biology. Chemists and another scientist also use this style as they write scientific papers to show the sources of the information in their text and the bibliography at the end of paper.

However, there is a system called Name-Year that provides citations in the main text by way of parenthetical citations.

History of CBE Style and Format

CBE (The Council of Biology Editors) issued the first formal style manual in 1960. At this time, CBE had been in place for three years since 1957 when American Institute of Biological Sciences and National Science Foundation established the council. The name changed to Council of Science Editors after a vote by members for a name that reflects expanding membership on 1st January 2000. It is this reason why some people refer to CBE referencing style as CSE.

CSE currently enjoys a close relationship with various scientific publishing organizations in America and Internationally. It functions autonomously relying on the dynamism of it over 1000 members to reach its goals. Interested individuals get a regular membership.

The first five editions of referencing style guide were released under the name CBE. The content provided guidance of the publication style, format and submitting papers for publication in a journal.

The guidelines limited the scientific style publications mainly to microbial, zoological, plant and medical sciences. The sixth publication published in 1994 expanded the scope of CBE manual and included recommendations on the on scientific style for other observational and experimental sciences. The seventh edition published under the name CSE was in 2006. It defined clearly and implemented the planned expansion from a society with a commitment to publications editors in biology field to more wide-ranging disciplines consisting of all life and physical sciences.

CBE/CSE Eighth Edition

It is this edition that came with updates in content to include some significant revisions to the language relating to ever evolving online and electronic environments. Eight edition updated references bringing a complete shift in the previous Citation-name reference system to the citation-sequence as well as other enhancements.

The subcommittee working on the eighth edition ensures continued integrity of CSE style by providing progression up-to-date resource for users. Many writers however still use this 7th edition for referencing their academic scientific papers:


Create an alphabetical list of references for anything you cite in the following sections: Citing-in-text

In-text references have paraphrased the description of research work by other people. Place parentheses around the surname of the author and the year of publication. In-text citations have different formats depending on whether you use name-year, citation-sequence or citation-name system.

Name-year System

Identifies authors any name in the main text or the parenthesis and the year of publication. Do not use any superscripted numbers. Provide the author's last name and publication year in a parenthetical citation. If you list multiple references in a single parenthetical citation, arrange them chronologically from the earliest date.

E.g. In a research by Ben, it was determined that this method in not credible (2002).

Future studies confirmed the research finding (Kerry 2004; Anna and Dan 2010).

Citation-sequence system

This system has a superscript number after each in-text citation based on the point where the source first appeared in the text. Use the number you assigned the source in the reference list each time you refer it.

For example, if the first reference in citation-sequence is an article by Benjamin, you will label the reference in this way:

In a research by Benjamin1, it was found that this method is not credible.

Citation-name system

Follow each in-text citation with a superscript number depending on where your source appears in the alphabetical references list. For example, if you rely on sources by Ann, Benjamin and Dan, you list their names alphabetically by last name and assign a corresponding number of each source in the list.

1.Ann; 2. Ben; 3. Dan.

If the first reference to the CBE academic paper is to an article by Ben, label in-text citation with a superscript 2 since Ben is the second entry as per alphabetical reference list. When you cite Ben, it reads “in a research study by Benjamin 2; the results discredited the earlier method.” Every time you cite the article by Benjamin in following parts of work, you will label it with a superscript 2. You will label other sources according to their order in references list such as Ann1or Dan3.

Citing work of the single author: The Immunization Department called for a change in the vaccination (John 2003) that…

Citing work by two authors: Provide two names separating them by “and” plus publication year between parentheses.

E.g., In recent research (Peter and John 2015)found in …

Include first initials when authors share a surname.

In recent research (Peter P and Peter J 2013) found in…

Work by three or more authors: Write the name of the first author followed by “et al.” and publication year. …later research (Mary et.al.2016) discovered that …

Organizations or corporations as authors

Create a short form when the author is a committee, organization or corporation to avoid interrupting text with long words. Provide initial letters for every part of you name or familiar abbreviation. Include the abbreviation in the square brackets for a reference list.

E.g The report on new methods of immunization ([DOI] 2016) is…

No author

If you cannot determine the author, do not write “anonymous.” You should instead substitute the author’s name with that of the organization if it is available. If there is no name of the organization, use the first word of the title or few ones then an ellipsis. Use enough words in the title for distinguishing it from the other titles.

Recommendations on caring for the elderly (Handbook…2015) depart from…

No date

At times, it is impossible to determine the date associated with the publication. If you found the document online, write the date when you viewed. For print publications, write the words “date unknown” in square brackets.

Only one study (Mathews 2015) relating to effects of late immunization…

Only one study (Mathews)[date unknown]) relating to effects of late immunization…

Reference List

A CBE reference list is at the end of your paper or document. Begin the page with a heading Reference, Literature Cited, Cited References or Bibliography. The purpose is to list and match sources you cited within text including the figures and tables. Features of CBE/CSE reference page

CBE style has three reference systems. These other features of your reference page are similar across all CBE citation systems but it is important to note these essential features.

  • Double space throughout
  • Only capitalize the first words of your title, article or book. Do not italicize, underline or bold them. Do not put your title in quotation marks.
  • Use correct abbreviation for the journal articles. If you are not sure about ISO standardized abbreviations, check with the National Library of Medicine catalog.
  • List the last name, use initials for the first and middle names without spaces or periods in between.
  • For article and book entries, capitalize only the first word of the title and proper noun. Capitalize all words for journal entrie
  • s. li> For book entries, list the number of pages in a book in brackets.

  • In web entries, list the number or an approximate of pages, paragraphs, screens, bytes or lines in brackets.
Differences in CBE citation-systems

Name-Year system

Organize by last name of the author or organization followed by the year. You have the option to keep every citation flush left or indent your second and additional lines of the reference. Put a period after the date/year. Organize the references in sequential order in which sources first appear in your text.


Number your bibliographic entries in the same order they appear in-text then sort them numerically. The first reference cited in the text should appear as number 1 followed by others in a similar format.

Reference books by writing the last name of the author(s), initial of middle and first name, Year. The title of the book: Publication City Abbrev: Publisher.


Organize all entries alphabetically by the last name of the author (organization name or title if unavailable) then number the entries. In-text reference numbers will match the alphabetical order of your list.

Consult your supervisor about the most appropriate for your discipline among the citation systems.

For proper citing, you should make these considerations.

Citing work by more than one author: For 2-10 authors, list their surnames and initials to other names without a separating comma or period. Do not separate the names with and or &.

For more than 10 authors, list the first ten and follow the last nane with et al., e.g., Hertha JT, et al.

Organizational Authors:

Government agencies or multidimensional organizations:

When you list a division of an organization as the author, provide the elements of this organizational name in a descending order hierarchy order. Separate by commas. You may reorder these elements by placing one that is familiar to your readers in the first sequence. Use your best judgment to gauge the essential elements.

E.g National Diabetes Institute is under National Institutes of Health that in turn falls under Department of Health. You can list an organizational book author from Division of Diabetes Prevention of National Diabetes Institute as:

National Diabetes Institute, Division of Diabetes Prevention.

You can use NCI National Diabetes Institute, Division of Diabetes Prevention if you used abbreviation in your in-text citation


National Organizations: If the author is a national body and without a listing of the nationality, place a two-letter ISO country code in a parenthesis after its name. For example:

  • National Sciences Academy (US)
  • National Sciences Academy (GB)
  • Two or more organizations: When several organizations appear as authors, cite them according to the listing order in the publication separating them with a semicolon as below.
  • American Health Association; American Cancer Association.

Personal and organizational author: If both appear on a document’s title page, use the personal author except when you cite an article, and the name of the organization is traditionally within your discipline when referring to publications.

Secondary authors: CBE regards secondary authors as optional. Translators, editors, producers and illustrators are some of those in this category. Place secondary authors after title and edition statement.

Eg Joan VM. 2000. Bacteria Diagnosis and Treatment. Robert JB, editor.

The secondary author is a necessary reference component if you cite a work without an organizational or personal author. You place the editor or translator in the author’s position. For instance, Robert JB, Cliff MH, editors.2000. Bacteria Diagnosis and Treatment

No author: If you use work without an identifiable author, start the reference with its title.

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