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CBE Style Writing Basics

How to Use the CBE Style of Writing – the Basics

The CBE writing style is commonly used in different science disciplines. For example, chemists, biologists, and other science subject experts use it to produce a whole variety of texts. A number of writing styles are available setting out what source information should be included in a paper and, where applicable, in its bibliography. CBE style uses the name/year system. Some of the main features of this style are:

  • Any source a writer cites is placed in the text in parenthesis;
  • Citations are placed in any sentence that contains a reference and they should precede the last punctuation mark;
  • In-text citations should include the surname of the author and the year of publication;

Where a citation contains more than one piece of information, these are separated by a space;

Rules for Citing Authors

It is only necessary to include the publication year in parenthesis where the surname of the author is already contained in a sentence. 

Where a particular work has been authored by two people, the citation should display both authors’ names separated by the word “and.”   

Where a particular work has three or more authors, the name of the first author should be listed in the citation followed by the term “et al.”     

Where two pieces of work have the same publication year and where the authors have the same surname, it is only necessary to use the authors’ initials to distinguish them in a citation. There is no need to use periods or commas in works by same-surname authors and a space is not necessary to separate author initials.      

When two works or more by the same author are being cited and where these have the same publication year, these works should be distinguished by using a letter in lowercase, e.g., an “a” to distinguish the first published work and a “b” for the second. The dates of publication in the works cited page should be shown in the exact same way.    

Where an agency, government body, or corporation is the author of a piece of work, a shortened version of the agency, body, or organization’s name – formed from the initials – should be used. Where an agency or organization has a well-known shortened or abbreviated version, this can be used in the citation.        

A corresponding works-cited page entry should be created using the initials or short version of the authoring organization’s name enclosed in square brackets and preceding the source name or reference. 

Where the author of a particular work is unknown, the work should be indicated in the text using the initial words or initials of the title of the work with the author’s usual name place filled by an ellipsis.    

Select the amount of words you feel are necessary to distinguish this particular citation from other works you are referring to.  

Using Dates Correctly in Citations

When there is not a clear publication date for a particular work, you may use the copyright date. The letter “c” should be used to precede this date to indicate its type. If, as well as no date of publication, there is no copyright date available, you may use the date a work was last updated, revised or modified, but you should put a suitable indicator in square brackets before your citation such as “updated,” “rev,” or “modified, and use a space as a divider. Use of the term “[date unknown]” is allowed where no date is available. It is important to use the same notations when citing references of these types in a works-cited list or page.  

In the name/year system of referencing, it is acceptable to include several works in a single citation. 

When referring to numerous works written by various authors, references should be listed chronologically in single parentheses with semicolons separating them. Where one author needs to be cited several times, it is only necessary to mention the name of the author once as well as the publication years. This list should be chronological, with commas separating the years.  



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