The abbreviation cf. (short for the Latin: confer, meaning "compare") is used in writing to refer the reader to other material to make a comparison with the topic being discussed. It is used to form a contrast, for example: "Abbott (2010) found supportive results in her memory experiment, unlike those of previous work (cf. Zeller & Williams, 2007)." Many usage guides recommend against using "cf." in place of "see also" to indicate sources of additional examples or supporting evidence.
Use in scientific nomenclature
In biological naming conventions, cf. is commonly placed between the genus name name and the species name to describe a specimen that is difficult to identify because of practical difficulties, such as the specimen being poorly preserved. For example, "Barbus cf. holotaenia" implies that the specimen is believed to be Barbus holotaenia but the actual identification cannot be certain.
Cf. can also be used to express a possible identity, or at least a significant resemblance, such as between a newly observed specimen and a known species or taxon. Such a usage might suggest a specimen's membership of the same genus or possibly of a shared higher taxon, such as in, "Diptera: Tabanidae, cf. Tabanus", where the author is confident of the order and family (Diptera: Tabanidae), but can only offer the genus (Tabanus) as a suggestion and has no information favouring a particular species.
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- "cf.", Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus, Cambridge University Press, n.d., retrieved October 30, 2016
- Lee, Chelsea (May 13, 2010), "It's All Latin to Me: Latin Abbreviations in Scholarly Writing", APA Style Blog, American Psychological Association, retrieved October 30, 2016
- "Latin Terms and Abbreviations", The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, n.d., retrieved October 30, 2016
- "Chicago Manual of Style 15th Ed. Style Sheet" (PDF). Michigan State University Press. p. 6, citing Chicago Manual of Style section 16.58. Retrieved 2016-07-07.
There is a distinction between see and cf.; use cf. only to mean 'compare' or 'see, by way of comparison'.
- Bengtson, Peter. "Open Nomenclature" (PDF). Palaeontology. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- Hartmann, Anne (February 2007), Field Key for Selected Benthic Invertebrates from the HKH Region (PDF), Daft Version, retrieved October 30, 2016