To a lot of students, learning to write in an academic style is nothing more than a chore and an inconvenience—something that their professors foist on them just to make things more difficult for them. The truth is, however, that there are very good reasons that anyone hoping to make their name known in the world of science and academia should familiarize themselves with ACS style and make it a habit of writing in accordance with academic formats.
Like it or not, academic formats are the language of the field; anyone who wants to be taken seriously in the world of science publications—or who wants to follow proper guidelines for writing a laboratory notebook—needs to learn to cite their sources in ACS format. If you want to learn how to do that or need a refresher, read on!
An Introduction to ACS Format
In case you don’t know, ACS stands for American Chemical Society, the group that came up with the guidelines for how scientific articles should be written. ACS format has long been the chosen style for academic scientific writing, and, like other academic formats for citing sources, it provides a unified framework that makes interpreting and fact checking articles easier.
Additionally, according to commonly accepted guidelines, laboratory manuals and notebooks should also be written in ACS style.
What Is ACS Format?
The most important part of ACS format is its guidelines for citations. Inevitably, science articles will make reference to other works, whether those are books, other articles, or the writer’s own previous work. Depending on the information and the type of material being cited, the format changes.
According to ACS format, in-text citations can be handled in different ways:
- Superscript numbers
- • The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.¹
- • Jones and Weaver1 state that the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
- Italic numbers
- • The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. (1)
- • Jones and Weaver (1) state that the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
- Author name and year of publication
- • The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog (Weaver and Jones, 1998)
- • Weaver and Jones state that the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. (1998)
- • If there is more than one other, they should always be written with an “and” (“Weaver and Jones”). For more than two authors, use the first author’s name followed by “et al.” (“Weaver et al.”)
ACS format also has specific guidelines for how to write a reference list of works that are cited in an article. Books, articles, theses, and reports all have their own formats, and we don’t have space to cover all of them, so we’ll only cover the most basic of each type.
- • Weaver, K. The Quick Brown Fox: Did It Jump Over the Lazy Dog?, 3rd. ed.; McGraw-Hill, Boston, 1998.
- Articles from scientific journals
- • Weaver, K. Jones, B. Roberts, M. Methods of Jumping Over the Lazy Dog by Quick Brown Foxes. J. Am Chem. Soc. 1998, 122, 10033-`0046.
- Articles from online journals
- • Weaver, K. Solutions for Quick Brown Foxes When Encountering Lazy Dogs. Chem. Ed. [Online] 1998, 11, 383-393
http://chemeducator.org/bibs/1198473897449.htm (accessed Nov 14, 2016)
This is only the most basic overview of ACS format, but it should give you the guidance you need to get started. If you need more information, refer to the ACS Style Guide, which contains the entire guidelines for the format.
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