I’m submitting a proposal that has a 5 page limit (12 point font!) for EVERYTHING (figures, citations, tables) and I’m wondering how best to format my citations to save space. No specified citation format is given.

What I’ve tried to do is abbreviate common words, use initials for the journal titles (I provide a key), drop “19” and “20” from the year, and pile everyone after the 1st author into “et al”. In some cases, I’m dropping words, eg, if they come after a colon. My goal is to provide enough info to indicate what the paper is about and that it could be found using Google. I put it all in 2 columns.

I’m worried that this is getting ugly and that I might annoy reviewers that are used to a certain format.

What I currently do:

3)Doherty et al. ‘02. Surv. of resident birds in a frag. forested landscape. Eco 83.

4)Lawson et al ‘15 Env. variation and pop. responses to global change. EL.

One option is what Science uses, eg D. G. Ainley, L. B. Spear, S. G. Allen, Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 137, 1 (1996).

But I’ve never liked this b/c the title gets completely dropped.

Another options would be to glob everything together like this 1) Barraquand et al. 2013. When can env. variability benefit pop. growth? Counterintuitive effects of nonlinearities. Theor. Pop.Bio 89:1–11. 2) Black et al. 2012. Stochastic formulation of eco. models & their applications. TREE 27 3) Bled et al. 2013. Modeling trends from North American Breeding Bird Survey data : A spatially explicit approach PLoS 8. 4) Caswell. 2006. Matrix Population models. 5) Clutton-Brock et al. 2010. Individuals & pop: The role of long-term, individual-based studies of animals in eco & evo. TREE 25:562–573.

A final option is to be more conventional in the citation list and just remove citations and content from the proposal so that it all fits.

1 Answer 1


As a writer of (and occasional reviewer of) applications following this format - UK BBSRC grants - the most common approach I see is 'glob everything together', although personally I prefer to use short-format Science-style references. It comes down to personal preference really. It is so common to use the 'glob' approach that you won't be explicitly penalised for it by a reviewer, but as a reviewer I might subliminally be 'happier' reviewing the more legible version. Admittedly you can't fit as many references in but I can't remember ever having seen any application which I was inclined to mark down because too few references were provided.

(Disclaimer: this is based entirely on experience with BBSRC, other RCUK councils may differ...)

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