For detailed specifications, we refer you to the September 2014 article titled Sequence Alignment/Map Format Specification by the SAM/BAM Format Specification Working Group, and the Samtools site.

For information on the related binary version of SAM, see BAM.

The citation for the 2009 Bioinformatics paper introducing the SAM format follows:

Li H.*, Handsaker B.*, Wysoker A., Fennell T., Ruan J., Homer N., Marth G., Abecasis G., Durbin R. and 1000 Genome Project Data Processing Subgroup (2009) The Sequence alignment/map (SAM) format and SAMtools. Bioinformatics, 25, 2078-9. [PMID: 19505943]