Source References and the Scientist’s Mind-Map: Harvard vs. Vancouver Style

As a scientist develops, a referencing system (linking results/hypotheses to sources) evolves in the mind. This mind-map is an essential working tool that uses indexing features—such as author names—as reference points. The Harvard style (HS), in which citations in the text are made of names and years of publication and the references are listed in alphabetical order, actively helps to establish this mind-map. In our view, the Vancouver style (VS), in which citations in the text are numbers and the references are listed in order of appearance within the text, does not enhance the formation of a mind-map in a similar way and makes detections of incongruity between the reader’s mind-map and the text more difficult. In an ideal academic world, HS would be used because of these two effects: constant education of and easy quality control by the scientific reader. Although VS reduces printing space and allows easier reading for less academically trained readers, scientific readers may find this style difficult when trying to check and verify sources. For reviewers, who cannot opt not to make such checks, VS is even more tedious. We advocate that journals using VS in print should use HS for the reviewing process; further, in the final printed version, the references should be numbered and listed alphabetically rather than according to the order in which they are cited. Especially for maturing scientists, reading texts with HS referencing is essential.