Chapter 2. The Scientific Method in Nutrition

Properly Citing and Referencing your sources

You may want to report on a certain nutritional trend using the latest in scientific findings. This will entail spending some time in the academic journal databases looking for peer-reviewed articles. Once you have collected all of the articles relevant to your topic, you may decide to stay organized by creating a literature review matrix. This is essentially a spreadsheet in which you write the important pieces of information from each article. The matrix will vary depending on your project and on your area of study but typically includes: the title, the authors, the year of publication, the purpose of the study, the target population, the intervention (methods), sampling strategy, and the results. See example below:

Figure 2.5 Literature Review Matrix

Once your matrix is full and once you are satisfied with the number of articles that you have summarized, you can beginning the writing process. All scientific reports should start with an introduction in which you present your topic and justify why it is relevant or important. You then present the findings of all of the papers reviewed in a logical order, as though you are telling a story that has a beginning and an end. At the end of your paper, include a paragraph to summarize the main findings and the purpose of your paper. You can rely on the marking rubric of the instructor and the specific assignment for more details.

In a report, you are presenting the information you collected in the peer-reviewed article. In Nutrition, you typically use one to five sentences to summarize an article. You address the answer to the question they addressed and the strength and weaknesses of the argument (limitations). The population and intervention may also be worth mentioning depending on the topic. Any time you report information from an article, you must cite the article. Since you did not produce the new information, you must give credit to the authors by mentioning their last name and the year the article was published. This is called citing. In this course, we will use the American Psychology Association (APA) citation style. Here is a fictitious example represented in three acceptable ways:

  1. In 2020, Hamm found caffein to have a positive effect on …. OR
  2. Hamm (2020) found caffein to have a positive effect on… OR
  3. Caffein has a positive effect on (Hamm, 2020)…

When PARAPHRASING or referring to an idea contained in another work, APA encourages but does not require one to “provide a page or paragraph number, especially when it would help an interested reader locate the relevant passage in a long or complex text.” (Publication manual, 2010, p. 171).

There are specific ways of referring to the authors of the text depending on the number of authors. Where there are TWO AUTHORS, cite both names each time the reference occurs in the text. e.g.

The most recent study (Hamm & Duval, 2019) …

When there are THREE TO FIVE AUTHORS, cite all the names the first time. From then on, use only the first name followed by et al. (Latin abbreviation for “and others”). e.g.

First citation: Hamm, Duval, Murray and Johnson (2017) discovered that …
Later citations: Hamm et al. (1983) also discovered that …

When there are SIX OR MORE AUTHORS, cite only the surname of the first author followed by et al. and the year for all citations in text. e.g.

First citation: Hamm et al. (2016) demonstrated that …
Later citations: … as has been shown by Hamm et al. (2016).

Write out in full the whole name of a GROUP OR ORGANIZATION THAT SERVES AS AUTHOR every time, unless the abbreviation is well known. e.g.

First citation: The police report (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 1979) …
Later citations: The RCMP report (1979) …


In Nutrition, we rarely use direct quotations from texts, we prefer paraphrasing and citing appropriately. For more information on APA referencing and for more examples, please consult the Douglas College Library website:

At the end of your report, you should list the references from all of the citations included in your paper. Instructions on proper referencing in APA style can be found at the link above.


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Human Nutrition by Karine Hamm is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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