If I'm reading a journal article for which the reference for example is stated as "Journal of Examples 3, 74-78 (2014)", how can I tell whether it's the volume or issue number that is given? In many circumstances, I understand that it's quite easy to tell. For example, if the number is quite high, it's probably not the issue number. And if it's a journal which I know have been in existence for long (for example Science), I can surmise that if I'm seeing a low digit, it's probably not the volume number.

However, sometimes it's not unambiguous. In the example given above, is it a new journal which has only released three volumes? Or is it just issue three of some, unknown volume number?

Is there a system to all this madness? Is there a way to always tell what you're actually looking at?

1 Answer 1


The general rules are:

  • If there is only one number, it's the volume.
  • If there are two number, it's first volume, then issue.

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