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There seem to exist many bibliographic reference styles and many universities have their own guidelines too. I wonder, whether there exist any universal guidelines for formatting bibliographic references in publications?

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@JeffE See this for a discussion on this issue, meta.academia.stackexchange.com/questions/197/… –  Noble P. Abraham Sep 27 '12 at 15:18
    
@Daria Please see the discussion linked above and try to edit your question and tags accordingly. –  Noble P. Abraham Sep 27 '12 at 15:19
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3 Answers 3

There is no truly "universal" system—that's why packages like EndNote and BibTex both come with hundreds or even thousands of different bibliography styles.

That said, there are some common approaches—the Modern Language Association and Harvard formats are quite common in the humanities. The sciences have more widely spread systems, but I think the most common I've seen is the "abbreviated style," containing authors, journal, volume and page info and year. (There are some variations within that style based on different publishers, and some publishers, like ACS, are now starting to take advantage of electronic distribution by including full titles.)

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The answer is No. Within fields, there are often a single style which makes some approaches and components more common or even that makes a single style dominant.

Get yourself some software like BibTex, EndNote, Zotero (my personal favorite), or similar so that you can simply rely on someone else to automate importing the data into a database and outputting according to whatever rules a particular journal or venue requires.

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This is already contained in Benjamin's answer, but let me stress it once more. You shouldn't edit bibliography entries by hand. It is time-consuming and error-prone. There is software for doing that. It might take a little while to learn how to use it, but it is extremely beneficial in the long run. –  Federico Poloni Feb 12 '13 at 20:01
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As aeismail said, there are no truly universal rules and the bibliographic reference styles differ across scientific disciplines, and even within these there is often large variation. So normally, you need to consider the journal/conference/... the publication you are writing is aimed at and consult their rules. Most of the time, you will find quite strict requirements articulated in the venue's "submission guidelines", or "author's corner" sections - usually on their website. If still not sure, contact the responsible editors/PC chairs to advise you.

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