Citing References in the Text

I had the privilege this past weekend of judging the Technical Writing Contest held in conjunction with the Science Engineering Fair of Houston. Although I was judging the junior level (middle school pre-teens), some of these students wrote better papers than some degreed professionals I know.

One of the failings that sprang up in quite a few of those papers, however, was failing to cite referenced material in the text itself. There was a nice list of references – formatted properly – at the end of the paper, but there was no way to tell which parts of the paper came from which references. Those papers without citations in the text did not make the top five considered for prizes.

To cite references in the text, according to the SPE Style Guide, use the first author’s last name followed by the year of publication in parentheses, then provide a list of references (alphabetized by last name) at the end of the paper. SPE used to require that references be numbered in the order mentioned in the paper using superscript numerals, but ever since SPE papers began to be stored online for searching and purchasing purposes, superscripts didn’t always translate properly to electronic format, particularly when scanned.

Example of citation in the text:

In his OTC presentation, Economides (2007) stated that the imbalance in the location of energy producers and consumers would cause geopolitical upheavals in the future.

Example of corresponding listing in the references:

Economides, M.J. 2007. Energy Security: A Geopolitical Perspective. Paper OTC 19046 presented at the Offshore Technology Conference, Houston, Texas, 30 April–3 May.

Q: What if there is more than one paper by the author(s) that same year?

A: Cite it in the text using an “a” and “b” after the year inside the parentheses.


Hawking and Bousso (1996a, 1996b) theorized about the evolution of black holes during inflation.

Finally, multiple consecutive references included in the same pair of parentheses should be separated by semicolons.


Several studies have been done modeling asphaltene deposition and the resulting damage to the formation and to production equipment (Leontaritis and Mansoori 1987; Leontaritis 1989; Leontaritis et al. 1994).


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