ACS Format — Step-by-Step Instructions

The primary question to start with is "What is ACS format?" What source to use to find the most appropriate definition and meet all the requirements? The 3rd edition of the ACS Style Guide is known to be the last one released by today. You can find the full version either in your library or online. Either way, the most economical would just use the stock brief that came with your assignment. We recommend reading our walkthrough ACS format guide to minimize your efforts. It's a one-stop shop, and there's a reason why it's still worth reading.

What is ACS Format Basics

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has developed its own citation format to help students, industry professionals, and the likes discern and use the proper formatting when striving to organize their written works into a unified whole. Also, this style is widely used in microbiology reports as these two disciplines are closely related. You should use this style for the purpose of distinguishing third-party sources you use in your papers as evidence or examples of your stance.

Take a look at the general guidelines of ACS citation style first. They look as follows:

  • Page numbers on every page (except for the first one);
  • Large enough font of the text to make it readable;
  • Figures, graphs, tables, and images should be separated from the description by a minimum 0.3 inches and 0.1 inches of white space respectively;
  • 1-digit integers should be put into words;
  • Use only well-known acronyms or avoid using them at all;
  • There is no need to apply the sets of parentheses.

There is even more valuable information about what is ACS format for those who write papers in chemistry or microbiology. When it's looked at in that sense the rest of the article gains its point.

How to Cite ACS Style Properly?

Unlike the major formats such as MLA or APA, ACS requires of you 10 font size in the entire document. Do not double-space the text (the type with a full space between lines) — leave it single-spaced as set by default in your MS Word software.

The ACS outline (structure) usually looks this way:

  1. Abstract
  2. Title
  3. Introduction
  4. Experimental details (Theoretical analysis)
  5. Results and Discussion
  6. Conclusions
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References

Consider taking a look at the major parts of the ACS writing format.

ACS Cover Page Requirements

In most cases, there is no need to develop a separate ACS cover page as you do in APA, for instance. Dealing with ACS, you are to be aware of some other formatting peculiarities. Instead of creating a full ACS title page, introduce your work with all necessary details in the upper-left corner at the top of your page, and start writing the body of the document immediately thereafter.

You should include this information at the top (in order of appearance):

  1. Your full name;
  2. Educational institution;
  3. Publication date;
  4. Abstract.

These four elements are considered the integral part of a title page written in this format. The rest of the paper constitutes its main part also known as 'body.'

Adhere to the outline described above and see it performing impeccably on your template and format duties.

ACS Abstract

An abstract is either a part of the research paper or a separate document that contains a summary (overview) of the entire text. It is a self-contained, brief, and strong statement that explains the objective of your work — it will often be to define which small step in a more extensive process you are taking right now. The elements of it may vary based on the structure. According to the ACS abstract guidelines, an abstract should contain the following components:

  • The scope of the work;
  • A key challenge (the objective of your work);
  • Findings;
  • Research.

In some cases, an abstract may also include:

  • Thesis statement;
  • Background information;
  • Summary by quickly recapping on the basic elements and ideas of your work.

Do not confuse an abstract with a review! It does not assess the paper being summarized. Instead, focus on involving as many relevant keywords in your abstract as possible to make it easier for people interested in the same research question find your paper faster on the web. Tags and keywords also help them understand what your writing is about.

People may face the need to come up with an abstract when applying for grants, writing a book or research proposal, finalizing the Ph.D. or Master's thesis, or submitting articles to journals.

The type of an abstract depends on the number of words you have to fall into while working on this section. If your abstract is 100-120 words long, it is a descriptive one meant to describe the entire text. 250 or more words would make it an informative abstract, which is more preferred in ACS.

ACS Header Main Points

As for the headers, insert page numbers on all pages except for the first one. Also:

  1. The title in the running head must be a shorter version of the full one (you may abbreviate it);
  2. The writer should capitalize the first letter of every word in ACS header or subheading;
  3. The page headers should contain the author name and title of the work (add this info after the first page in the rest of the document).

ACS In-Text Citation

According to the 3rd edition of the guide, writers may pick one of the following 3 methods to create in-text citations, which can be either direct or indirect. In the former case, you should leave the quote exactly how it appears in the original source and cite the reference accordingly. In the latter case, you paraphrase the words of another author by reference. For example, use "As [Last Name] admitted…" or "According to [Last Name],…" for this purpose.

If you have to come up with in-text citation ACS, choose one of the following approaches:

  1. Creating an italic number;
  2. Developing a superscript number;
  3. Adding the author name and date.

Numbering the references in sequential order is important. If the same source is quoted more than once, it should retain its initial number. When citing multiple sources at once, add reference numbers in growing order, and separate them by commas. Please refer to the pages 287-290 in the ACS Style Guide for details.

If you prefer to insert ACS citation in text using superscript numbers, do it at the end of the quoted info or within the cited material. Examples:

  • Chemistry is the science that studies matter along with its properties, the reasons for substances to mix or divide to create other elements, and the way they interact with energy.³
  • Johnson³ admits that chemistry is the science that studies matter along with its properties, the reasons for substances to mix or divide to create other substances, and the way they interact with energy.

In case you decide to insert italic numbers to cite sources after and within the text, here is how it should be:

  • Understanding fundamental chemistry principles is essential for almost every occupation [4].
  • Edwin [4] believes that understanding fundamental chemistry principles is essential for almost every occupation.

Finally, you may choose the third method, which is the author's name and year of publication. Examples:

  • As far as fats possess 2.25 times the energy per gram than proteins, for examples, most of the consumers restrict their consumption of food that contains these elements to prevent obesity (Craft, 2012).
  • Craft thinks that as far as fats possess 2.25 times the energy per gram than proteins, for examples, most of the consumers restrict their consumption of food that contains these elements to prevent obesity (2012).

The last thing to discuss is generating a bibliography (a list of used sources) in ACS papers.

ACS Reference Format

When you define the type of source first, ACS may be more of a drag than its usual hassle-free nature. Depending on whether it is a book, website, or something else, different rules for creating references apply. Anyway, teachers take stock of the ACS reference page as it is an integral part of your research project. You should mention the author, work's title, publication date and place in any case. As for the rest of the elements, they depend on the availability of information and type of cited source.

The examples below:

  • A book (print):
    Normand, G. G. Wavepacket Theory of Photodissociation & Reactive Scattering. In Chemistry for Everyone; Stevenson, M. O., Ed.; Wiley: New York, 2012; Vol. 130; p 231.
  • Scholarly article:
    Hansen, M. E.; Matthews, R. T.; Smith, O. B. Application of Complex Aldol Reactions in Real World M. C. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 104, 1002-1047.
  • Web source:
    Green, D. What to Do If Your Brain Refuses to Make New Neurons? MicrobiologyTech [Online] June 4, 2013, p 71. Expanded Academic Index. [full URL address] (accessed Nov 18, 2014).

As you see, each of the examples is cited or referenced differently. It is impossible to remember all of the guidelines, so just keep the examples or templates in front of you. You may find free examples online as well as citation generators to help with formatting your paper.

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