Unique Characteristics of the AMA Style Guide

The American Medical Association (AMA) was founded in 1847 to encompass all aspects of the medical profession from advances in medicine to fundraising for education. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), first published in 1883, is the most widely read medical journal in the world, with a network of 11 specialty journals. Given that JAMA was first an in-house publication, AMA provided its editors and authors with the first style manual in 1961, the AMA Manual of Style (AMA Style). Now published by Oxford University Press, the guide has expanded in coverage from only 68 pages to more than 1,000. AMA Style is the go-to guide for authors of academic research in the fields of medicine and other life sciences. Although all scholarly science-based journals have author guidelines, most follow specific AMA rules, especially those for citations and references.

In-Text Citations and References

AMA Style uses a superscript Arabic number placed immediately after the referenced author or material—there is no author name or date in parentheses. The citations are then numbered in sequence and the reference section follows that numbering. For example:

Johnson et al.2 provided the results of their studies in 1975.

In the references, this would appear second in the list. If this work is cited again in the paper, the same number is used. The entry in the references would then be as follows:

2. Johnson AB, Smith CD, Houser EF. Shifts in alcohol consumption in pre-teens. Am J Clin Nutr. 1975;83(3):600–650.

Specific to AMA Style is the format of author initials, punctuation, and italics. Also, journal names are abbreviated according to the PubMed Journal Database.

Electronic Sources and Web Pages

When citing online journals using the AMA Style it is important to provide a link to the source using the digital objective identifier (DOI). The format is as follows:

Author. Title of article. Name of Journal. Year;vol(issue):pages. doi:xx.xxxx.

For web pages, the format is as follows:

Author or responsible body. Title of item cited. Name of website (if different from the Author). URL. Published date. Updated date. Accessed date.

Differences from Other Style Guides

1. The American Psychological Association (APA) is geared toward those in the behavioral and social sciences. APA uses the author and date method for in-text citations as follows:

After the intervention, children increased in the number of books read per week (Smith & Wexwood, 2010).

Smith and Wexwood (2010) reported that after the intervention, children increased in the number of books read per week.

The author(s) name and date of publication are enclosed in parentheses at the end of the text. The second sentence uses the author names in the sentence so only the publication date is in parentheses. Note that in the citation, the ampersand (&) is used, but not in the text itself.

The references are listed alphabetically by author name as follows:

Wegener, D. T., & Petty, R. E. (1994). Mood management across affective states: The hedonic contingency hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1034-1048.

The order of the names and the specific punctuation are very different from that of AMA Style, but still consistent with AMA Style. The article name is not in initial caps and the journal name is italicized; however, it is not abbreviated.

2. The Modern Language Association (MLA) is used mainly in the liberal arts and humanities disciplines for documenting sources in scholarly writing. MLA style uses the author’s name and the page number from where the cited text has to be pulled for in-text citations. For example:

Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (263).

Romantic poetry is characterized by the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Wordsworth 263).

In the works cited section (not called the “references” section) of the MLA style, the author’s last name is listed alphabetically; however, the full first name (and middle names or middle initials if available) is also listed. For example:

Poniewozik, James. “TV Makes a Too-Close Call.” Time, 20 Nov. 2000, pp. 70-71.

The title of the article is not only initial capped, but also enclosed is quotation marks. Note also the format of the date and page numbers.

3. Both APA and MLA use the same reference format for electronic media, including the DOI or URL.

4. Two other styles are worth mentioning here. Both the Council of Science Editors (CSE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have their styles for in-text citations that are similar to that of AMA but with subtle differences. Both use Arabic numerals after in-text citations, but the formats for each are different.

Unique Points of the AMA Style

Each style guide has formatting suggestions, such as how to present numerals, times of day, headers, page numbers, etc. AMA Style is unique in this respect as well in that it suggests, for example, that numerals be used for all numbers, the 24-hour clock be used, there are no commas in numbers greater than 999 (e.g., 1000 not 1,000), and the Le Système International d’Unitiés be used in all measurements. These should be followed; however, always check your specific author guidelines; some might have their own formats.

Writing Tips

Briefly, AMA Style for citations and references is as follows:

  • Use superscript Arabic numbers to cite in-text works in the order they appear.
  • Use those same numbers in the reference list in numerical order.
  • Place periods and commas inside the superscript number; place colons and semicolons outside.
  • In the reference list, last name first, initials for first and middle names second; no periods or spaces between initials.
  • Capitalize only the first word in titles; do not italicize.
  • Italicize and abbreviate journal names.



  1. St. Catherine University Libraries (2015, September) Citing Sources using AMA Citation Style. Retrieved from http://library.stkate.edu/assets/library-uploads/files/citeAMA.pdf

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