How the AMA Style Guide Differs from Other Style Guides?

The American Medical Association (AMA) – established in 1847 – is the largest association of physicians and medical students in the US. The primary aim of the American Medical Association (AMA) is to include each facet of the medical profession, spanning developments in medicine to raising funds for education. The longstanding Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), first issued in 1883, is the most extensively read medical journal globally and has a network of eleven specialty journals. As JAMA began as an in-house publication, in 1961, AMA supplied its editors and authors with the first style manual – the AMA Manual of Style (AMA Style). The guide, now published by Oxford University Press, has come a long way from merely covering 68 pages to currently extending to more than 1000 pages. AMA Style is the most trusted guide for academic research authors in the domains of medicine, life sciences, and related fields. Every scholarly science-based journal has its own guidelines for authors, but certain AMA rules are adhered to by most – particularly those for references and citations.

In-Text References and Citations

AMA Style utilizes the Arabic numeral in superscript placed right after the referenced author or material—with no date or author name present in the parentheses. In addition, the citations are numbered sequentially and the reference section appears after that numbering. For instance:

Johnson et al.2 furnished the outcomes of their studies in 1975.

In the reference section, this will come second in the list. If it is cited more than once in the paper, the exact number is used. The entry in the references will be expressed as:

2. Whale BC, Watson FD, House MD. Shifts in alcohol consumption in pre-teens. Am J Clin Nutr. 1975;83(3):600–650.

Particular to AMA Style is also the format of punctuation, italics, and author initials. Moreover, journal names are shortened as per the PubMed Journal Database.

Web Pages and Electronic Sources

Each time online journals are cited using the AMA Style, it is imperative to supply a link to the source that utilizes the digital objective identifier (DOI). The conventional format is:

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

For web pages, the prescribed format is:

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 APA (American Psychological Association) is geared toward researchers and students in the behavioral and social sciences. APA utilizes the author–date method for in-text citations as shown below:

After the intervention, children increased in the number of books read per week (Smith & Wesson, 2011).

Whereas, the same will be written in accordance with AMA style as given below:

Smith and Wesson3 reported that children increased in the number of books read per week after the intervention.

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

In addition, in the APA convention, the references are listed alphabetically by author names as seen below:

Wegener, D. T., & Petty, R. E. (1994). Mood management across affective states: The hedonic contingency hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 661034-1048.

The order of the names and the particular punctuation style are different from that of AMA Style but remain consistent with AMA in the manner that the article name isn’t in initial caps and the journal name is italicized and not shortened.

  1. The MLA (Modern Language Association) is primarily used in the humanities and liberal arts for cataloging sources in scholarly writing. The MLA style uses the author’s name and the page number from where the cited text needs to be taken for in-text citations. For instance:

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 named the “references” section) of the MLA style, the last name of the author is listed alphabetically, but the entire first name (and middle names/middle initials, if applicable) is also listed. For instance:

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

The article’s title is not just initial capped but also enclosed in quotation marks. The date format and page numbers should also be noted.

  1. Both APA and MLA follow the exact reference format for electronic media, including the DOI or URL.
  2. Two more styles deserve mention here. Both the Council of Science Editors (CSE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have their own styles for in-text citations, which are comparable to that of AMA, however, with subtle dissimilarities. Both utilize Arabic numerals after in-text citations but the formats for each differ.

AMA Style’s Distinctive Points

Each style guide has formatting recommendations – how to present numerals, headers, page numbers, times of day, among others. AMA Style is also distinct in this respect, and it recommends, for instance, using the 24-hour clock format, Arabic numerals for all numbers, no commas in numbers greater than 999 (e.g., 2000 and not 2,000), and the Le Système International d’Unitiés for all measurements. These should be followed but always check with your particular author guidelines – some of them may have their independent formats.

Writing Tips

In brief, AMA Style guidelines for references and citations are:

  • Utilize Arabic superscript numbers for in-text citations in the order of their appearance.
  • Use the exact numbers in the reference list in numerical order.
  • Put commas and periods inside the superscript number, and semicolons and colons outside.
  • In the reference list, the last name appears first and initials for the first and middle name appear second; no periods or spaces are placed between the initials.
  • Capitalize just the first word in titles, and don’t italicize the title.
  • Abbreviate and italicize the names of the journal.


  1. St. Catherine University Libraries (2015, September) Citing Sources using AMA Citation Style. Retrieved from

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