In scientific writing, should I capitalize in-document references?

Which of the following is correct or more widely used?

  • For more detail, see Section 4.1.
  • For more detail, see section 4.1.

Are there different rules depending on the type of in-document reference (Chapter, Section, Appendix, etc.)?

  • 2
    This question would be better at Writing or Academia. It's not really on topic here because you could ask exactly the same question if you were writing any other language with two cases. Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 4:12
  • Have you tried searching this site? This has been asked more than a few times before. Your search would be fruitful. Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 4:14
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    @curiousdannii: Perhaps Writers or Academia are better places for this, but the question is definitively specific to english. For example in German, it would be wrong not to capitalize the reference as in German every noun has to be capitalized. Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 4:17

2 Answers 2


This varies considerably with the style standard you follow, or are required to follow by the target publication.

Now, if you follow the guidelines set out by the Chicago Manual of Style , then parts of a book, including numbered chapters, should be lowercase when referenced (per CMOS). See CMOS 8.178 and 8.177.

8.178 Numbered chapters, parts, and so on

The words chapter, part, appendix, table, figure, and the like are lowercased and spelled out in text (though sometimes abbreviated in parenthetical references). Numbers are given in arabic numerals, regardless of how they appear in the original. If letters are used, they may be upper- or lowercase (following the original) and are sometimes put in parentheses. See also 9.27–29.

This matter is discussed in chapters 4 and 5.

The Latin text appears in appendix B.

The range is presented numerically in table 4.2 and diagrammed in figure 4.1.

These connections are illustrated in table A3.

Turn to section 5(a) for further examples.

The Chicago Manual of Style

If you write consistently following Chicago, spare yourself some headaches by buying the $40/year online subscription, to have access to the online edition and to its extremely useful forum.

Now, there are other style guides, e.g. the APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. An introduction is available at Purdue OWL (Online Writing Laboratory).

Also, first obtain and become familiar with the guide style of the journal you want to publish in.

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    CMOS seems unique in recommending this approach as I found when I followed it. Almost all other style guides say "Section" , "Chapter", "Figure" and other logical entities should be capitalised (as proper nouns) while "page" is generally kept lowercase as an arbitrary location.
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 28, 2015 at 10:23

If I may I will suggest a cheaper alternative. U of Chicago publishes another book, authored by Charles Lipson, and its title is called, "Cite Right" and that book is all about citing the sources of your statements, claims, knowledge, information whatever you put in your paper.

On page 144, Chapter seven of that book Council of Science Editors' (CSE) Standards nicely explained. All disciplines have varying citation guidelines such as MLA, APA, AMA etc. that is a slender book, and affordably priced.

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