The IEEE citation format manual for students and graduates

The IEEE citation format is a set of regulations developed by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). Its distinctive feature is the accent on numbers instead of names. You can see the IEEE formatted articles and books dedicated to IT topics, computer science, mathematics, and engineering. However, this format is also used for other industries as well. 

In other formats, you put the names of the authors in parenthesis to define the reference in your text. In the IEEE citation format, you insert the number of the source in square brackets. You can use this number for both the direct citations and the indirect paraphrasing quotations.

At the end of the paper, you provide the full list of all your references. The list is arranged numerically. The first letters of the author’s name do not matter, and it is irrelevant when the book was published. It is the source you cite fist in your text that is placed first in the references list. The source you cite second must be [2], and so on. 

However, when you need to cite the same source several times, you mention its number all the times and don’t include the same work under the different numbers into the list several times.

Sometimes this can cause inconvenience because you need to make sure that each of the citations in the text matches its number in the bibliography list. If you missed some item or included a new citation, you need to rewrite the list of references and edit its numerical order. And then again edit all numbers in the square brackets in the work to correlate them with the sources in the bibliography. 

IEEE citation format for the in-text quotations

The main rule for an in-text citation is that you enclose the number of the source in square brackets and include it into the line of the text directly. It should be located before the punctuation marks, and the opening bracket must be separated by a space. In your text in would look as follows:

“…as shown by Williams [8], the experiment was successful under the conditions that…” 

You can cite several sources at once if you found the arguments supporting your ideas in them all. This is how it would look in the paper: 

“…the latest researches on the problem [6, 13, 18, 25] proved that…”

The numbers will lead to the exact title of the source you refer to, so that anyone may get familiar with the full information on the theme. 

In these examples, you only mention the sources “in general”. If you need to cite some information that is located in some specific area of the sources, you should add the page number to the source. It must be put after the number of the source and a comma:

“In that study, Johnson defines the conditions of the experiment [5, p.18] …”

The numerical “markers” of the sources in the IEEE citation format can serve as full-functional parts of the sentence, and you can treat them according to the grammar rules. In fact, these numbers are substitutions for the nouns like “reference”, “book”, “article”, “work”, etc: 

“Refer to [4], [9], [10] for more information on the topic.”

“According to [12] and [15], you can build that structure on…”

In these examples, the numbers can be easily replaced by the titles of the sources.

The same method is used when you want to name the exact author you refer to. In this case, you add the number of the source to the author’s name: 

“Both Williams [8] and Johnson [5] agree that the main factor influencing the results is…”

When you want to appeal for arguments to more than three different experts, you can use the standard method: mention the first name and put et al. after that name. It will mean “Name and others”:

“Schliemann [14] et al. consider that…”

Due to the “grammatical” nature of these numerical references, one more issue arises. If you want to include the name of the author into your citation, it must be in the definite form:

  • Don’t use the name if you use the number in brackets instead of the book’s title. The construction like “In Williams [8] we can find that…” is awkward and unsuitable grammatically. Use “In [8] we can find that…” instead. 
  • Use the name if you appeal to the definite words or want to refer to the definite personality. “Williams [8] set the new methodology for…”
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Read also about ASA Citation Format

The list of bibliography in IEEE citation format

The list of sources used for your work is at the end, like in all other types of academic papers you write in college. This part of the work aims to give detailed information on your references and their types. It is necessary that anyone might use those data to find these materials as well and refer to them for more information on the topic. 

There are rules for creating this list and formatting the titles of the sources: 

  • All sources are numbered from [1] till the end according to their “order of appearance” in your work. 
  • You include only the original sources of information. The IEEE format does not allow the so-called “secondary” citation. 
  • brief, this means the following: there is some source that provides the facts, and that source is mentioned in another book. And you learned about the original source when you read that another book. The trouble is that you can’t include it in the bibliography as the references for that first source. You need to find the original issue. If it is impossible to refer to it directly, then you should not use this reference at all. 
  • The name of the author begins with the first name (full or the first initial) followed by the last name. This format is different from APA and MLA where you need to put the last name first. The thing is, in those common formats the list of references is sorted alphabetically by name. The IEEE format sorts the sources by numbers, and the alphabetical order is not needed here. 
  • When your source is an article or another fragment of the bigger item (e.g. a book’s chapter), you need to put its title into the quotation marks. 
  • When your source is a book or a magazine in general, its title must be in italics. 
  • The quotation marks and italics can be present in the same entry of the reference list when the source is the article located in a magazine. 
  • For a work made by several co-authors, you should list them all if there are up to six names. If there are more than six co-authors, put et al. after the sixth name. Also, use this method if the source does not provide information about all the authors’ names.
  • If you will refer to a part of the larger source, specify the pages where you found the information. 
  • The correct reference in the bibliography list: 

Yan, Y. Gu, Y. Wang, C. M. Wang, X. Y. Hu, H. X. Peng, et al., “Study on the interaction mechanism between laser and rock during perforation,” Optics and Laser Technology, vol. 54, pp. 303-308, Dec 2013.

The modern guidelines on the IEEE citation format provide detailed instructions on building the correct syntax for any kind of source. You can include traditional printed books and magazines and their electronic versions, videos, lectures, website articles and even email messages as your references.

Direct and indirect citations in IEEE format

There are two ways to cite someone else’s works in your paper: 

  • A direct quote is the exact fragment taken from the source as is. Writers mostly use this type of citation when they want to attract attention to the way the idea is expressed.
  • Indirect quotes or paraphrasing may refer to the summary of the author’s statements or using the reported speech in your text. You will still need to give credit to the original source.

Methods of formatting the direct quotations

If you cite the exact fragments of the source works, you need to include the page number where those fragments are located, like [1, p. 25]. As for the way you format the direct citations on your text, it will depend on the size of the quote. 

For a short quotation of about 10-15 words in it, you can put it into the sentence. Make sure to put the citation into single brackets to mark it. The reference can be placed either after the end of the quotation or after the name of the author.

e.g.: Later she noted that the author ‘brings the difficult and often neglected topic of nonfunctional requirements to the forefront’ [5, p.12]

For the longer quotes which consist of several sentences, you should use the “block quotation” method. This way you separate the citation block in from the rest of the text, so it comes forth. You can apply another font size and also make the indents bigger for that block.

Methods of working with the paraphrased quotations

When you mention someone else’s ideas and express them in your own words, it is still a quotation. It must be marked appropriately. The principle will be the same: you have to insert the number of the reference in the square bracket after the paraphrased citation. It can be in the middle of the sentence, or the beginning, or in the end. There are no strict rules for locating such references.

e.g.: Einstein offered a different interpretation of the gravitation law. He considered that the space-time [24, p.16] is curved near the heavy objects like black holes. The attempts of other objects to move straight in the curved space-time determines the way they do it [24, pp 29-34]. 

Note that this is not the direct citation which can easily be located in the text. So, you might not be able to provide the page number for it. For example, you summarize the contents of several pages at once and give is as a short statement. However, here you can mention the page range. 

Defining the exact fragments of the source works in IEEE format

As it is already mentioned, you compile the list of references in your work for two reasons: 

  1. To give credits to the sources you used for information.
  2. To let your readers find the origin of the data and learn more on the topic, as you referred to the expert scientific researches.  

Dealing with the solid published studies, you might need to specify where exactly you found this or that piece of data. The most common means is to define the page number. 

As you might have already noticed in the previous examples, some references do not include page numbers, while others do. There are criteria for using page numbers in references.

Rules of applying the page numbers in IEEE format

The page number is not needed if:

  • You give a summary of a long fragment of the text dedicated to the issue.
  • Your source has only one page.
  • You refer to the e-document or e-book which do not have the correct pagination. 
  • You refer to the source in general, not some specific fragment. 
  • You have already specified the necessary page or pages you refer to in the bibliography list. 

The page number should be present if:

  • You give a direct quote in the text.
  • You give a summary or retell in your words some specific idea that has a definite location in a book.
  • You refer to different sections of the same source several times. 

Other methods of defining the exact location in the source text

Besides the single page number or several pages definition, you can direct the reader to another section of the book or page area. Note the following options with their standard abbreviations for the IEEE format: 

  • para. – paragraph 
  • Ch. – chapter 
  • Example – example mentioned in the scientific research 
  • Sec. – section 

Thus, if you want to note the specific area of the page to help to find the original information location, you can use these additional markers.  

Explaining the publication details in IEEE citation format

There are specific rules which dictate the format of the publication place of the informational source in the bibliography. This feature can cause additional difficulties for a person using the IEEE format. So, you need to pay special attention to the regulations.

The IEEE citation style differentiates between the well-known and less-known locations in both the USA and foreign countries. In writing this difference means that you have to provide additional information for the less-knows cities of publication. 

Well-known cities in IEEE citation details

The standard syntax for the well-known cities of both the USA and the rest of the world is: 

City: Publishing house, year of publication 

New York: Columbia University Press, 2010

Paris: Hachette Education, 2015

Less-known cities in IEEE citation details

The syntax for the less-known cities is: 

City, U.S. state/country: Publisher, year of publication.

You need to specify the U.S. state for the less-known city of the USA: 

Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, 2017

Provide the country for the less-known foreign city: 

Cardiff, Wales, UK: University of Wales Press, 2017

Citation of the electronic sources in IEEE format

Electronic journal articles and books became commonplace for modern researches. That’s why the necessity to cite them properly in the work appears. All citation formats have already developed their regulations for such sources.

To provide the correct reference for a digital object in the IEEE format you need its DOI (Digital Object Identifier), which is usually the direct URL of a page.


If you worked with books and journals in digital format, which are not available online, you can mention the database where you purchased and downloaded the item. 

Also, it is allowed to truncate long URLs. This is convenient when you deal with the dynamic URL strings containing lots of symbols. You can mention the provider only:


The correct syntax for the digital source reference will be as follows: 

J. Kazmierczak. (2018). New Simulation Sheds Light on Spiraling Supermassive Black Holes [Online]. Available:

The IEEE citation format became popular due to its clarity. It can guarantee that the scientific work will look properly, all references in text will correlate the bibliography list, and any reader will be able to turn to the original resources for more information. 

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