How to Cite References: IEEE Style Guide

IEEE Style Guide

You should always cite the information that you have extracted from other sources. It is not right to use someone’s work without giving them credits. Citations are important for enhancing the credibility of your work. IEEE is one of the important citation styles that are widely followed for citing the papers. We will have a look at IEEE referencing style.

What is IEEE Referencing Style?

IEEE is the referencing or citation format introduced by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. This is used for citing the research papers. The IEEE is pronounced as I-Triple E. It is used to cite the information of engineering or computer science papers. It is widely used in formatting any technological paper.

If you have a paper to format using IEEE style, you should know all the guidelines of formatting such paper. This article has highlighted everything you need to know before editing a paper using IEEE format.

IEEE General Format

The way of formatting your paper varies a lot depending on the kind of paper you are writing. You should use the referencing style that is the most appropriate for your paper. If you are writing any technological research paper, then IEEE is the format to follow. Follow the guidelines below to format it appropriately.


  • The recommended font style is times new roman or times.
  • The recommended font size is 10pt.
  • The text should be single-spaced.
  • The paragraphs should be indented in the beginning by ¼ inches.
  • The title should be placed in the centre and top of the first page.
  • The title should be written in 24pt.
  • You should place a byline after the title.
  • The byline should be written in 10pt.
  • It should contain the following information. Each element is on a different line.

                – Author’s name

                – Author affiliation

                – Location

                – Email address

  • The body of the paper should always be written in 10pt.
  • You should place two columns at the end of the paper.
  • These columns should be of the same length.
  • There is an abstract or index at the beginning of the paper.
  • Most of the time, papers have the following elements, but sometimes these elements can be skipped depending on the type of paper or field you are writing in.

                – Appendices

                – Acknowledgements

                – Nomenclature

                – Note to practitioners

  • The paper formatted according to IEEE format should be divided into sections and subsections. The article will later cover the guidelines for all kinds of headings; primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary headings.
  • Tables, figures, and appendices should be all numbered. These numberings should be consecutive but separate. They should also appear in the respective columns.


As your entire paper is full of tables, figures, and complex things, you should have something to simplify and present your ideas to the audience. An abstract is basically the summary of your paper in simple words. This is merely your point of view and ideas about the topic. You summarize all the main information of your paper in the abstract. As the abstract should be simple and easy to understand, adding any kind of figures, tables, appendices, graphs, or anything that will make it complicated is forbidden. Abstract should entirely be text and words to give your audience an idea about what your paper covers. This abstract can be as short as 50 words and as lengthy as 200 words.

Section Headings

A paper is mainly divided into the introduction, body, and conclusion. You should also divide the main body of your paper in headings and subheadings. This will not only make it more understandable for the audience but will also enhance the quality of your content. The features of all the headings are explained below.

Primary headings

  • Should be numbered with roman numerals.
  • It should end with a period.
  • It should be written in small caps.
  • It is placed in the center above the text.

Secondary headings

  • These are represented by capital letters.
  • They should end with a period.
  • This heading should be written in italics.
  • It should be un-indented.
  • You should separate it from the text.
  • You can use a line break for separation.

Tertiary headings

  • These are numbered by Arabic numerals.
  • Should be written in italics.
  • Should be placed in parenthesis.
  • You should use a colon to separate it from text.
  • There is no need for the line break.

Quaternary headings

  • They are tagged with lower case letters.
  • Should be written in italics.
  • Should be separated from the text.
  • Separation should be by colon.
  • There is no need for the line break.

IEEE Citation’s Format

The IEEE referencing style has in-text citation and reference list. The explanation of the citation is as follows.

In-text citation

There is in-text citation for all the extracted information. The in-text citations in IEEE format are merely numbers in square brackets. These numbers refer to the entry in the reference list. If you want to provide a detailed in-text citation, you can also write the section number of citation. The in-text citation for the figures would be written right after placing it. If you have made the tables yourself, there is no need to cite it. In-text citations are only required for the content that you have extracted from other sources.

Reference List

There is a reference list entry to every in-text citation entry. The reference list is placed at the end of the paper. This should be titled with the word “reference” at the top. In IEEE referencing style, the citations should be arranged in the numbered sequence, not the alphabetical order. The numbers should be placed on the left in such a way that they are separated from the actual reference. Following are some general rules you should keep in mind to format the reference list.

  • Authors should always be mentioned by their last names and their initials. If the author has some suffix in the name, it should be separated by a comma.
  • If you are citing some IEEE official journals, you should also use their official abbreviations.
  • If there are many authors, say five authors for a text, you should list them in the same order as they are listed in the byline. This rule is applicable for six authors at maximum.
  • If the number of authors is seven, just mention the name of the first author and use the words “et al”.
  • Titles are either placed in sentence case or title case. Books, journals, and online content titles are placed in title cases while reports and publications are placed in sentence cases.
  • You can use the appropriate abbreviations by introducing them.
  • You can also abbreviate the names of months up to three or four letters such as Apr, Sept, June, Oct etc.


Tables, figures, and equations

There are many papers that have extra-textual items. In technological research papers, there are many texts, figures, and tables. These extra textual items should be all numbered consecutively. You should not begin the numbering from the beginning in a new section, but you should continue it as is. Suppose you have six figures in section 1 of the paper. If you begin section2 of the paper and it also has a figure; then this figure will be the seventh figure not the first figure of section 2. 

Tables, figures, and equations are numbered independently of one another. If you have three figures and then there is a table, then you would not number this table as the fourth one. This table will be table 1. If you plan on involving tables, figures, and appendices in your text, you should introduce them first. Although these extra textual elements are placed at the end of the paper, they should be mentioned at the appropriate place in the paper. They should be introduced with the sentences that are explaining these elements or with the paragraphs that relate to these figures or tables.

You should also cite these tables and figures if you do not own them. You should explain the terms you have used in your tables and figures. Most of the time, there are symbols used for tables and the audience has no clue what those symbols mean. This makes readers least interested in the text. You should make your text as easy for your audience as it can get.


Most common mistake by most people is to not cite the work when you have paraphrased it. The idea of paraphrasing is to express someone’s thoughts using your own words and style. Paraphrasing does not make the content your own, it is still owned by the original author. You still must cite it because it is not right to use someone’s work without giving them credits. You should express people’s work in your own style but should always cite it.


Summing up the whole discussion, IEEE referencing style is important for citing the paper involving technological research. You just need to know the guidelines for properly formatting your paper. This article has highlighted almost everything that you need to format a paper following IEEE style. Just follow the guidelines and you will be good to cite your sources using IEEE format.