How to format your references using the BMJ Open citation style

This is a short guide how to format citations and the bibliography in a manuscript for BMJ Open. 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
Chandler D. Hydrophobicity: two faces of water. Nature. 2002;417:491.
A journal article with 2 authors
Hunt A, Evan G. Apoptosis. Till death us do part. Science. 2001;293:1784–5.
A journal article with 3 authors
Jamtveit B, Austrheim H, Malthe-Sørenssen A. Accelerated hydration of the Earth’s deep crust induced by stress perturbations. Nature. 2000;408:75–8.
A journal article with 4 or more authors
Meng X, Guler U, Kildishev AV, et al. Unidirectional spaser in symmetry-broken plasmonic core-shell nanocavity. Sci Rep. 2013;3:1241.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Storey IC, Allan A. A Guide to Ancient Greek Drama. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2008.
An edited book
Gao C, editor. Polymeric Biomaterials for Tissue Regeneration: From Surface/Interface Design to 3D Constructs. Singapore: Springer 2016.
A chapter in an edited book
Khalbuss WE, Means M. Glandular Lesions in the Pap Test. In: Khalbuss WE, Means M, eds. Gynecological and Breast Cytopathology Board Review and Self-Assessment. New York, NY: Springer 2013:263–309.

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 Open.

Blog post
Fang J. New Praying Mantis Species Described Based On Female Genitalia For The First Time. IFLScience. 2016. (accessed 30 October 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. Indian Affairs: Further Actions Needed to Improve Oversight and Accountability for School Safety Inspections. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 2017.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Clyde KM. Instructors’ Perceptions of the National Association of Schools of Music Influence on the Development of Undergraduate Applied Percussion Curricula. 2012.

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
Sisario B. Drake Is Back on Top, and Has a New Video, Too. New York Times. 2016;C3.

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 Open
AbbreviationBMJ Open
ISSN (online)2044-6055
ScopeGeneral Medicine

Other styles