Acknowledgments and References


This usually follows the Discussion and Conclusions sections. Its purpose is to thank all of the people who helped with the research but did not qualify for authorship (check the target journal’s Instructions for Authors for authorship guidelines). Acknowledge anyone who provided intellectual assistance, technical help (including with writing and editing), or special equipment or materials.

TIP: The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has detailed guidelines on who to list as an author and who to include in the Acknowledgments that are useful for scientists in all fields.

Some journals request that you use this section to provide information about funding by including specific grant numbers and titles. Check your target journal’s instruction for authors for specific instructions. If you need to include funding information, list the name(s) of the funding organization(s) in full, and identify which authors received funding for what.


As references have an important role in many parts of a manuscript, failure to sufficiently cite other work can reduce your chances of being published. Every statement of fact or description of previous findings requires a supporting reference.

TIP: Be sure to cite publications whose results disagree with yours. Not citing conflicting work will make readers wonder whether you are really familiar with the research literature. Citing conflicting work is also a chance to explain why you think your results are different.

It is also important to be concise. You need to meet all the above needs without overwhelming the reader with too many references—only the most relevant and recent articles need to be cited. There is no correct number of references for a manuscript, but be sure to check the journal’s guidelines to see whether it has limits on numbers of references.

TIP: Never cite a publication based on what you have read in a different publication (such as a review), or based only on the publication’s abstract. These may mislead you and readers. Read the publication itself before you cite it, and then check the accuracy of the citation again before submitting your manuscript.

You should reference other work to:

  • Establish the origin of ideas

When you refer to an idea or theory, it is important to let your readers know which researcher(s) came up with the idea. By citing publications that have influenced your own work, you give credit to the authors and help others evaluate the importance of particular publications. Acknowledging others’ contributions is also an important ethical principle.

  • Justify claims

In a scientific manuscript, all statements must be supported with evidence. This evidence can come from the results of the current research, common knowledge, or from previous publications. A citation after a claim makes it clear which previous study supports the claim.

  • Provide a context for your work

By highlighting related works, citations help show how a manuscript fits into the bigger picture of scientific research. When readers understand what previous studies found and what puzzles or controversies your study relates to, they will better understand the meaning of your work.

  • Show there is interest your field of research

Citations show that other researchers are performing work similar to your own. Having current citations will help journal editors see that there is a potential audience for your manuscript.