What Is AMA Format?
AMA format is a guideline for arranging and organizing your academic papers. It helps students studying health care, medicine, and nursing to present their ideas with a clear structure for their reading audiences. The American Medical Association first published the AMA Style Guide in 1962, along with the AMA Citation Guide, and they have not introduced many changes since that year. The goal was to make a simple and standard structure for students to present their essays and research papers with evidence from credible sources to support their arguments.
It is important to master the AMA reference format for several reasons:
- To logically structure your papers
- To make it easier to follow your texts
- To follow a guideline for your arguments and thesis statement(s)
- To credit the names of talented contributors
- To avoid issues with plagiarism
Finally, using the AMA format is almost always a requirement for medical research papers. It is impossible to earn full credits without formatting your work. Without citing sources, a student risks having problems with plagiarism, and it often results in an ‘F’. AMA style has numerous variations for various educational institutions and publications. To provide a complete answer to the question of “What is AMA format?”, we should analyze the parts of this writing style.
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Basic Formatting of AMA Papers
We have mentioned that AMA guidelines have not changed dramatically since 1962. So, what are its basic principles? Each time a writer needs to add an AMA-style citation, they need to come up with a number in superscript and then need to cite the source in full in the “Reference List” with that corresponding number.
General Rules of AMA Formatting
Making sure the numbers are in chronological order is important. Memorize these basic rules of formatting:
- Double-space your text
- Use 1" margins
- The Font Size should be 12 and can be any font type. You can use two typefaces (a serif for body text and a sans serif for titles and subheads) with appropriate use of styles, such as bold and italics for a scholarly publication. (5.22.4)
- Use 1/2" indents
- You should add page numbers—beginning with the title page. Pages should be numbered consecutively. Page numbers are usually placed in the upper right corner.
- References should be listed and numbered in the order they were cited in your paper.
Basic Rules for AMA Citation
- The superscript numbers will make it possible to discover the complete reference on your AMA “Reference List” page.
- Each citation number should match the reference number.
- Apply Arabic superscript numerals.
- The complete references must begin with their corresponding numbers.
- The way a reference is written depends on the type of source a student has to cite; knowing how to cite a website does not mean a student automatically knows how to cite a book.
- A bibliographical entry should have the writer’s last name and the first & middle initials without punctuation.
- Apply a comma to add more than one writer. Example: 3. Lawrence T, Barman PJ. Cardiac denervation in diabetes. BMJ. 1973;4:584-586.
- Apply sentence case for titles—with no exceptions (capitalize the first word of the title—no need to do it with the rest of the words. Example: GONE with the wind).
- Abbreviate and italicize titles of materials based on the National Library of Medicine database.
- Separate every reference with periods into bibliographic categories.
- Invert the names of the writers. Use initials for the first and middle names without putting periods between initials. It should be like this: AuthorLastname, FirstInitialMiddleInitial.
- Add issue numbers in parentheses after volume numbers (for journals).
Rules in Regard to Punctuation Marks
- Use a comma in cases where the items are sub-elements of a bibliographic component or a set of interconnected components like writers’ names.
- Use a semicolon if the elements in the category vary from one another (the release date & title of the source) / if numerous occurrences of interconnected components are available within a group + before the volume identification information.
- Use a colon before the publisher’s name, between the title and the subtitle, and after a connective phrase (e.g., “In,” “Presented at”).
To make it clear, we would like to share a universal AMA citation example with you.
AMA citation example:
The Cannabis herb has been used in medicine for ages. Historical evidence proves its medical use dated back to 2737BCE¹.
References in the AMA Bibliography
AMA paper format means using proper references within the text and Reference List, but also using the proper stylistic matters. This includes such things as using headings and capitalizing them appropriately, or using line spacing, margins, text styles (such as using "one" or "1", using AM, a.m., or A.M.), placement of page numbers, font, spacing for graphs, size and shape for tables, etc.
AMA style requires the use of standard National Library of Medicine [NLM] abbreviations for all journal titles when available.
Here are some AMA citation general formatting guidelines:
- Corresponding superscript number.
- Article title.
- Abbreviated Journal Title.
- Date; volume(issue): pages.
- Online Journal Articles.
1. Kumar RN, Chambers W, Pertwee RG. Pharmacological Actions and Therapeutic Uses of Cannabis and Cannabinoids. Anesthesia. 2001 Dec 7; 56(2): 1059-1068.
2. O'Barry M, Sakras S. Determining the implications of obesity in adults and children. J Adult Health. 2010 Sep 14; 45(10): 583-596.
Here are other important rules:
- Acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms: It is discouraged to use acronyms, abbreviations, and initialisms, except if they are well-known. It may include accepted units of measurement and some well-recognized terms. If you do use an acronym, abbreviation, or initialism, spell it out with its first use, even if it is well-known. Do not place periods between the letters of an acronym, abbreviation, or initialism. Stated names should always appear as full names in the text of a manuscript. If included in references, use the two-letter abbreviation (first name initial and middle name initial).
- Numbers: Numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) should be used in all writing, except when: the number begins the sentence or title. To indicate a time of day, use AM or PM in small letters (6 pm). Conventional 12-hour clock time is preferred. However, 24-hour or military time conventions can also be used if you need to show precise timing.
- Dates: When you need to provide a date in the text, it is preferable to use numerals for the day and year, and write out the month – e.g. October 2, 2020. If you are using dates in a table, you may use numerals for the month (e.g. 4/2/2010).
- Measurements: To write measurements, it’s better to use SI standard measurements (The International System of Units). Numbers are always written in plain text. There is a space after the number and before the unit, and never a period after the unit (unless it ends a sentence). Do not include commas in longer numbers (e.g. 1600 km, not 1,600 km).
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AMA Title Page
The title page should include the following:
- The Title [Capitalize the first letter of each major word in titles and subtitles]
- Page Number in the top right corner
- First Name and Last Name
- Student Number
- Course Title
In-Text Citation: Format and Rules
In-text citations are the notes that you make within the text of your paper when you use a borrowed piece of information and/or idea and should be identified using superscript numbers. If you use a direct quote from another work, you should enclose the quote within quotation marks. If the direct quote is longer than four lines, the quote should be set off and indented in a distinct block, should be presented in reduced type, and should appear without quotation marks. The superscript numbers that identify your use of a borrowed piece of information and/or idea should appear outside (or to the right) of commas, periods, and quotation marks, and should appear inside (or to the left) of colons and semicolons.
If you borrow pieces of information and/or ideas from more than one source in a single passage or sentence, be sure to identify each of the sources with a unique superscript number. Multiple superscript numbers should be separated by commas and should not have spaces between them. Pieces of information and/or ideas borrowed from personal communications – including interviews, emails, and letters – should be cited parenthetically within the text of your paper. You should include the person’s name, as well as the type and the date of the communication, in the citation.
Personal communications should not be assigned a superscript number and should not be included in the list of references at the end of your paper. Listed below are two examples of in-text citations using the AMA format citation style:
1. Indirect quotation (citation after a comma, period): Smoking is believed to deteriorate breathing functions ⁸. British Columbia Institute of Technology
2. Direct quotation (citation after quotation mark): The engineer announced that “the house was built on solid ground.” ⁸
AMA Reference List
When using the AMA format, you need to create a comprehensive list of references at the end of your paper that offers details about your chosen sources. The list of references should present detailed information about the sources that you consulted in your research, borrowed pieces of information, and/or ideas from other sources you used in your paper. The in-text citations appear throughout the text, while the full entry to each of those references is included on a separate page of the essay.
The AMA Reference List format allows readers to find the source of the information on the topic covered and allows them to go on researching the problem in-depth. A writer should link both the in-text citation and its corresponding reference, by a superscript number. The superscript number is predetermined by its order of appearance within the essay (beginning with ¹, ², etc.)
- The references are to be listed numerically in the order that they appeared within the text of your paper.
- The type, the order, and the format of the information that you are to include in a Reference List will vary depending on the type of source that you borrowed the piece(s) of information and/or idea(s) from.
- Regardless of the type of source that you are referencing, you should never insert a comma between the last name and the first initials of an author, editor, or director.
- If you borrow a piece of information and/or idea from a specific page or range of pages within a printed work or a paginated web resource, you should identify said page(s) at the end of the corresponding reference.
- When you identify a page number, or numbers, in an entry in your list of references, be sure to insert the numbers in full (for example use 111–112, not 111–2).
All references to digital journals should include the following elements:
- Title of article and subtitle (as applicable)
- Abbreviated and italicized name of the journal
- Volume number
- Issue number
- Part or supplement number, when pertinent
- Inclusive page numbers—Do not omit digits from inclusive page numbers. The year of the publication is followed by a semicolon; the volume number and the issue number (in parentheses) are followed by a colon; the initial page number is followed by a hyphen, and the final page number is followed by a period.
1. Compston A, Coles A. Multiple sclerosis. The Lancet. 2008;372(9648):1502-1517.
2. Beran RG, Braley TJ, Segal BM, Chervin RD. Sleep-disordered breathing in multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 2013;80(14):1354-1355.
3. Pollart SM, Calleigh AS. Changing conversations, changing culture: A medical education journal club. Med Educ. 2011;45(11):1134.
Love and reconciliation: examining human emotions. Web site. https://www.ama-assn.org/. Published 1997. Accessed April 30, 2004.
Bros R. The promise of precision prescriptions. Washington Post. June 24, 2000: A1. https://www.washingtonpost.com. Accessed October 10, 2001.
Online Journal Article:
Jahden JS. Can preparedness for biological terrorism save us from pertussis? Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004;158(2):106‐107. https://www.ama-assn.org/. Accessed June 1, 2004.
Online Government/Organization Reports
Kahdyen L, Gruber J. Does public insurance improve the efficiency of medical care? Medicaid expansions and child hospitalizations. https://www.nber.org/papers/w755. Published February 2000. Accessed February 26, 2004.
Online Conference Proceedings/Presentations
Loshabel F. Talk presented at: National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee; April 9, 2001; Bethesda, MD. https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/. Accessed February 26, 2004
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All references to print books should include the following elements:
- Authors’ surnames and first and middle initials
- Chapter title (if there)
- Surname and first and middle initials of the book’s author(s) or editor(s) (or translators if any)
- Title of book, and subtitle (if any)
- Volume number and volume title (when there is more than one volume)
- Edition number (do not indicate the first edition)
- Place of publication
- Country names must be spelled out when they appear alone.
- Name of publisher
- Year of copyright
- Page numbers (when specific pages are cited)
1. Luckerston A, Luckerston VB, Nunn LS. Destiny. Maryland, MN: Twenty-First Century Books; 2020. 2. Charston SK, Adams JN. Childhood Cancer: A Nursing Overview. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett; 1987.
Here are AMA citation examples of how to cite books:
Book with One Author:
Sacks O. Uncle Tungsten. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf; 2001.
Book with Two to Six Authors: Separate the authors’ names using a comma.
Beckon O, Laurent B. Miracles working. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf; 2009.
Book with Seven or More Authors: List the first three authors, and then put “et al.”
Beckon O, Laurent B, Seichen P et al. Miracles working. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf; 2009.
Book with an Editor:
Galanter M, ed. Services Research in the Era of Managed Care. New York, NY: Kluwer Academic/Plenum; 2001.
Book by an Organization:
World Health Organization. Injury: A Leading Cause of the Global Burden of Disease, 2000. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2002.
Book of Second or Later Edition
Adkinson N, Yunginger J, Busse W, Bochner B, Holgate S, Middleton E, eds. Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice. 6th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 2003.
Solensky R. Drug allergy: desensitization and treatment of reactions to antibiotics and aspirin. In: Lockey P, ed. Allergens and Allergen Immunotherapy. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker; 2004:585‐606.
Print Journal Article
Colbert S, Thomas D, Tokarz D, et al. Myofibrillogenesis regulator 1 gene mutations cause paroxysmal dystonic choreoathetosis. Arch Neurol. 2004;61(7):1025‐1029.
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