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
Epstein IR. Chemistry. Can droplets and bubbles think? Science 2007;315:775–6.
A journal article with 2 authors
Tsai L, Barnea G. A critical period defined by axon-targeting mechanisms in the murine olfactory bulb. Science 2014;344:197–200.
A journal article with 3 authors
Oxborrow M, Breeze JD, Alford NM. Room-temperature solid-state maser. Nature 2012;488:353–6.
A journal article with 4 or more authors
Dong J, Liu J, Kang G, et al. Pushing the resolution of photolithography down to 15nm by surface plasmon interference. Sci Rep 2014;4:5618.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Sedlacek HH, Sapienza AM, Eid V. Ways to Successful Strategies in Drug Research and Development. Weinheim, Germany: : Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH 2008.
An edited book
Enns RH. Computer Algebra Recipes: An Advanced Guide to Scientific Modeling. New York, NY: : Springer 2007.
A chapter in an edited book
Fushimi T, Satoh T, Saito K, et al. Content Centrality Measure for Networks: Introducing Distance-Based Decay Weights. In: Spiro E, Ahn Y-Y, eds. Social Informatics: 8th International Conference, SocInfo 2016, Bellevue, WA, USA, November 11-14, 2016, Proceedings, Part II. Cham: : Springer International Publishing 2016. 40–54.

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
Andrew E. What Will Earth Look Like 100 Million Years From Now? IFLScience. 2015.


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. Pipeline Safety: Progress Made, but Significant Requirements and Recommendations Not Yet Complete. Washington, DC: : U.S. Government Printing Office 2001.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Naughton CC. Assessing Appropriate Technology Handwashing Stations in Mali, West Africa. 2013.

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
Kenigsberg B. Film Series. New York Times. 2017;:C23.

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