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Fact Sheet
Construction of the National Library of Medicine Title Abbreviations

This fact sheet discusses the rules currently used by NLM to construct title abbreviations for journals indexed in PubMed. Users should keep in mind that policies and procedures have changed over time at NLM, and they may encounter older title abbreviations that are not established according to the rules described below.

Guiding Principle

Each journal title indexed by NLM is assigned a unique title abbreviation. Existing title abbreviations are not changed to conform to current policies and procedures.

Standards Used

As of March 1, 2007, NLM establishes title abbreviations based on the form used by the ISSN Centre as their abbreviated key title, whenever this is available, editing only for format as described below:

How Title Abbreviations are Determined

The ISSN Centre constructs abbreviations generally using the same principles that NLM used prior to March 2007. The title abbreviation is based on the title proper of the journal at its first issue. The title proper includes part designations and section titles, if present, but does not include subtitle or parallel title (titles presented in other languages) information. See examples 1-2.

When a full title and an acronym both appear on the chief source of the journal (usually the title page or the cover), the fully spelled out form is always considered the title proper. See example 3.

Each word in the title proper is compared against a master list of abbreviations issued by the ISSN International Centre. If the word or word root is found in the master list, that abbreviation is used. If a word is not found in the ISSN list, the word appears in the title abbreviation as it appears in the title proper.

Articles, conjunctions, and prepositions are always omitted from title abbreviations.

For hyphenated words, each element is treated separately only if each word could stand alone. See example 4.

If a journal emanates from a corporate body and deals with the internal policies, procedures, or resources of the organization, the organizational name will be added at the end of the title abbreviation, using the appropriate abbreviations for any words in the organizational name. See example 5.

Exceptions to above rules:

Note: Prior to March 2007, NLM only abbreviated the second element of compound words. After this date, each element of a compound word will be abbreviated when possible. See example 7.

Use of Qualifiers

As noted above, a fundamental principle of title abbreviation assignment is that each title abbreviation must be unique.  If two journals have the same title, or have titles which, when the above procedures are followed, would result in the same title abbreviation, one or more of the qualifying elements listed below is added to the title abbreviation to make it unique:

Policy on Changes

If the title proper of the journal undergoes a major change, requiring the creation of a new bibliographic record for the journal, a new title abbreviation is assigned for the new journal. The rules determining major changes in title proper are governed by the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, (AACR2), 2nd ed. 2002 rev.

If a journal title undergoes minor changes that do not require a new bibliographic record, the existing title abbreviation continues to be used.


Example 1:

  Journal title is: Journal of neural transmission.  General section
  Title abbreviation is: J Neural Transm Gen Sect

Example 2:

  Journal title is: Arthritis care and research : the official journal of the Arthritis Health Professions Association
  Title abbreviation is: Arthritis Care Res

Example 3:

  On cover of journal: JMS
    Journal of mass spectrometry
  Journal title is: Journal of mass spectrometry
  Title abbreviation is: J Mass Spectrom

Example 4:

  Journal title is: Diabetes self-management
  Title abbreviation is: Diabetes Self Manag (both Self and Management could stand alone
  Journal title is: Journal of pre-hospital care
  Journal abbreviation: J Prehospital Care (Pre cannot stand alone)

Example 5:

  Journal title is: Report of proceedings.
    It is issued by the Scottish Society of the History of Medicine
  Title abbreviation is: Rep Proc Scott Soc Hist Med

Example 6:

  Psychiatry is not abbreviated to Psychiatr
  Psychiatric would be abbreviated to Psychiatr

Example 7:

  Prior to March 2007: Forschungstechnologie was abbreviated as Forschungstechnol
  After March 2007: Forschungstechnologie is abbreviated as Forschtechnol

Example 8:

  Journal title is: Pediatrics
  There are already several journals with that title in the database, so the city of publication of the first issue cataloged, Chicago, is added to the title abbreviation. Later the city of publication changes to Philadelphia, but the title abbreviation remains as initially established.
  Title abbreviation is: Pediatrics (Chic)
  [Note that as a single word title, Pediatrics is not abbreviated]

Example 9:

  Journal title is: Hu li yan jiu
  In the first issue cataloged, the Chinese title appears first on the title page with the English title Nursing research presented below it.Later issues present the English title first: Nursing research, with the Chinese title appearing below it. Since the Chinese title was initially selected as the title proper and it continues to appear on the title page, the title abbreviation remains as initially established.
  Title abbreviaton is: Hu Li Yan Jiu

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Last reviewed: 02 October 2008
Last updated: 02 October 2008
First published: 23 May 2007
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