How to format your references using the BMJ citation style

This is a short guide how to format citations and the bibliography in a manuscript for BMJ. For a complete guide how to prepare your manuscript refer to the journal's instructions to authors.

Using reference management software

Typically you don't format your citations and bibliography by hand. The easiest way is to use a reference manager:

PaperpileThe citation style is built in and you can choose it in Settings > Citation Style or Paperpile > Citation Style in Google Docs.
EndNoteFind the style here: output styles overview
Mendeley, Zotero, Papers, and othersThe style is either built in or you can download a CSL file that is supported by most references management programs.
BibTeXBibTeX syles are usually part of a LaTeX template. Check the instructions to authors if the publisher offers a LaTeX template for this journal.

Journal articles

Those examples are references to articles in scholarly journals and how they are supposed to appear in your bibliography.

Not all journals organize their published articles in volumes and issues, so these fields are optional. Some electronic journals do not provide a page range, but instead list an article identifier. In a case like this it's safe to use the article identifier instead of the page range.

A journal article with 1 author
Hoag H. In search of form and function. Nature 2003;425:880–1.
A journal article with 2 authors
Moerchen M, Coontz R. General relativity. Einstein’s vision. Introduction. Science 2015;347:1082–3.
A journal article with 3 authors
Croon MB, Hillier JK, Sclater JG. Comment on ‘Mantle flow drives the subsidence of oceanic plates’. Science 2011;331:1011; author reply 1011.
A journal article with 4 or more authors
Aurbach D, Lu Z, Schechter A, et al. Prototype systems for rechargeable magnesium batteries. Nature 2000;407:724–7.

Books and book chapters

Here are examples of references for authored and edited books as well as book chapters.

An authored book
Brown MA, Kaplan L. The Advanced Practice Registered Nurse as a Prescriber. West Sussex, UK: : John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2012.
An edited book
Ribes R. Learning Musculoskeletal Imaging. Berlin, Heidelberg: : Springer 2010.
A chapter in an edited book
Hardin CS, Taylor AD. Dual Hat Problems, Ideals, and the Uncountable. In: Taylor AD, ed. The Mathematics of Coordinated Inference: A Study of Generalized Hat Problems. Cham: : Springer International Publishing 2013. 49–59.

Web sites

Sometimes references to web sites should appear directly in the text rather than in the bibliography. Refer to the Instructions to authors for BMJ.

Blog post
Fang J. Small Birds Warring Over Nests Resort To Parasitism. IFLScience. 2015. (accessed 30 Oct 2018).


This example shows the general structure used for government reports, technical reports, and scientific reports. If you can't locate the report number then it might be better to cite the report as a book. For reports it is usually not individual people that are credited as authors, but a governmental department or agency like "U. S. Food and Drug Administration" or "National Cancer Institute".

Government report
Government Accountability Office. Federal R&D Laboratories--Directors’ Perspectives on Management. Washington, DC: : U.S. Government Printing Office 1979.

Theses and dissertations

Theses including Ph.D. dissertations, Master's theses or Bachelor theses follow the basic format outlined below.

Doctoral dissertation
Yamada M. The role of the TRANSPORT INHIBITOR RESPONSE2 (TIR2) gene in auxin synthesis in Arabidopsis. 2008.

News paper articles

Unlike scholarly journals, news papers do not usually have a volume and issue number. Instead, the full date and page number is required for a correct reference.

New York Times article
Greenhouse L. Roberts Is at Court’s Helm, But He Isn’t Yet in Control. New York Times. 2006;:A1.

In-text citations

References should be cited in the text by sequential numbers in square brackets:

This sentence cites one reference [1].
This sentence cites two references [1,2].
This sentence cites four references [1–4].

About the journal

Full journal titleBMJ
ISSN (print)0959-8138
ISSN (online)1756-1833

Other styles