Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

I'm using another referencing style

What is numeric referencing?

Which disciplines use numeric referencing?

Numeric referencing systems are common in the sciences. You are likely to encounter some numeric references in your reading if you are studying a science or technology subject even if you don't need to use them for your own referencing.


Which numeric referencing styles are used at Sheffield Hallam?

Numeric referencing systems used by certain courses at Sheffield Hallam are the Royal Society of Chemistry, IEEE, and Vancouver.


Is numeric referencing similar to a name-date system like APA?

Numeric referencing uses citations in the text and reference lists at the end in a similar manner to name-date systems like APA: however, there are some key differences.

Some referencing systems which use footnotes also use numbers for citations: however, footnote referencing systems have significant differences and guidance on them will be covered elsewhere.

You must check the guidance for each individual referencing style for further information on using that style and ensure you are following your assignment brief.

How to write a numeric citation

In numeric systems, the in-text citations are numbers, assigned in order of appearance in the finished text.

The first source to appear in the text is cited as 1, the second one to appear is cited as 2, and so so. Each system presents the numbers used in citations in different ways:

  • Royal Society of Chemistry uses superscript, e.g. 1
  • IEEE uses square brackets, e.g. [1]
  • Vancouver uses round brackets, e.g. (1)

Here is an example of writing with in-text citations written using the IEEE style:

Promoting entrepreneurship is one of the best ways for a nation to improve its economy and attract foreign investments that can earn huge rewards in the future [1]. The number of start-ups in India has become bigger over the past few years and has contributed greatly towards the country’s growth [2]. 

What do you do if you refer to a source more than once in your writing?

If a source is re-used later in the text, it keeps the number from its original appearance: for example, you cite the first source you use as 1, and you will still cite it as 1 if you re-use elsewhere in the same text.

Please bear in mind that revising and adding to your work might change the order of the citations. This means you could be required to update the numbers used for some citations. If you are using referencing apps and software, they can often do this for you automatically.

How to write a numeric reference list

How is a numeric reference list arranged?

The reference list goes at the end of your assignment. The list is arranged by order of appearance in the text. A numeric reference list is not arranged alphabetically.

The list starts with the first reference to be cited in the text, then the second, and so on. Put the number next to each item in the reference, to make easier to cross-reference with the in-text citations.


Here is an example of a numeric reference list written using the IEEE style:

[1]     S. Shane and S. Venkataraman, "The promise of entrepreneurship as a field of research," Academy of Management Review, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 217-226,  Jan. 2000, doi: 10.2307/259271 
[2]     K. Dinesh and Sushil, "Strategic innovation factors in startups: Results of a cross-case analysis of Indian startups," Journal for Global Business Advancement, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 449-470, Aug. 2019, doi:10.1504/JGBA.2019.101387
[3]     H. Kelsall, The creative’s guide to starting a business, London: Robinson, 2018. 
[4]     S. Blank and B. Dorf, The startup owner’s manual: The step-by-step guide for building a great company, Hoboken: Wiley, 2020. 

How to cite multiple sources in numeric referencing systems

There may be times where you need to cite several sources at once; for example, several different studies which all support the same conclusion.

If you are citing two consecutive numbers at once, include them both numbers in the citation, and separate them with commas:


If you are citing more than two consecutive numbers at once, include the first and last numbers in the citation, and separate them with a dash to show that you are including all intervening numbers:


If you are citing two or more non-consecutive numbers, include all the numbers in order in the citation, separated by commas:


Remember you need to present the numbers in correct way for your chosen referencing style.