In my field a number of different styles are used in titles.

Many publications present scientific names in italics, such as this one. Others do not italicise scientific names, such as this one.

Some publications are in uppercase, such as these, while most others are in lowercase.

When citing, should I follow the original style exactly, i.e., use capitals and italics whereever they were used in the original? Or should I adapt citations to my own consistent style?

4 Answers 4


All-caps are just a typographical decoration or emphasis of the whole title. You do not need to keep them for the same reason you do not need to use the same font and font size (as used for the original paper title) when citing. Something similar holds for title case (i.e., capitalising the first letter of all words except of, the an similar) – it’s just a typographical choice and does not affect the content.

Italics (unless they apply to the whole title) on the other hand serve some non-decorative purpose. In your examples, they allow you to directly see where a potentially complicated species name starts and ends. In other cases they may signal that a word is standing for the word itself, such as:

On the evolution of the in Old English

In those cases, keeping the italics may really ease reading and thus I would personally opt for it in general. Keep in mind that the italics of italics are upright if you choose to italicise titles in general in your style, and you would e.g. get¹:

Aaron A. Aaronson, On the evolution of the in Old English, Journal of Definite Articles (2015)

Finally note that you may have no choice regarding this anyway, as your supervisor or the journal you are submitting to prescribe some citation style.

¹ LaTeX does this for you automatically if you use \emph instead of \textit or similar to italicise.

  • 2
    The Journal of Definite Articles was founded in 1986 as niche journal by the European Association of Linguistists. Around 1994 authors started submitting linguistic articles beyond its scope as a joke, and the journal accepted some of them, probably to raise its impact factor. This process avalanched over the next decade and the journal quickly became a highly prestigious journal covering all fields. In 2014, a section with more lenient criteria focussing on definite articles in the linguistic sense was launched. Experts expect research in this sector to quadruple in the next years.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 8:27
  • 5
    Not to be confused with the Journal of Indefinite Articles, which publishes vague papers on any subject, and the Journal of Infinite Articles, which is probably to be avoided because of its publication backlog. Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 9:54
  • "Something similar holds for the title case" -- why? While all-caps is a font choice just like italics (and is never properly set by actually using capitals, just by using lowercase glyphs that are similar to capitals), actual choice of capitalization seems like something that doesn't change. I wouldn't remove the capitals from a German article title, for instance, nor would I insert them into a Romance language.
    – user4512
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 10:16
  • @ChrisWhite: I think you are misunderstanding title case. Many journals prescribe that paper titles or similar are set in title case, presumably to avoid a single capital letter standing out and make such titles more homogenous – it’s a question of typography and not a choice made by the author. Switching between title case and sentence case in the references would be awkwardly inconsistent. Note that German capitalisation is something else than title casing and thus not affected by my statement. Title case is almost never used in German.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 10:34

The journal or conference to which you submit your manuscript will likely recommend or require a citation style. Follow that.

Yes, that may well mean having to reformat your manuscript's references if you are rejected and resubmit elsewhere.

Some styles are legendary for their attention to detail, up to and including whether periods should be typeset in italics or not. If the style you are required to use does not address one specific point, like whether or not to keep an italicized word in your reference's title, feel free to make your own choice, striving for consistency.

And don't worry too much. As long as you don't do something enormously strange, not following every detail in the required citation style will likely not harm your submission's chances.


I think that one's citation style should match the required (or desired) style for the target document and/or the publication outlet (APA, Chicago, etc.). I believe that the target document's citation style is not related to and, thus, absolutely should not depend on the style of the original source.


Personally, I was taught to keep all of my citations completely consistent, even if it meant changing the title from block capitals to a normal capitalisation. However, I always italicised scientific names in my citations because they're supposed to be italicised in the rest of the paper.

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