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
Zülicke U. Applied physics. Ultrasmall wires get excited. Science 2002;295:810–1.
A journal article with 2 authors
Hinde K, Lewis ZT. MICROBIOTA. Mother’s littlest helpers. Science 2015;348:1427–8.
A journal article with 3 authors
Wittlinger M, Wehner R, Wolf H. The ant odometer: stepping on stilts and stumps. Science 2006;312:1965–7.
A journal article with 4 or more authors
Andersson M, Malehmir A, Troll VR, et al. Carbonatite ring-complexes explained by caldera-style volcanism. Sci Rep 2013;3:1677.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Stokes DJ. Principles and Practice of Variable Pressure/Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy (VP-ESEM). Chichester, UK: : John Wiley & Sons, Ltd 2008.
An edited book
Essig M, Hülsmann M, Kern E-M, et al., editors. Supply Chain Safety Management: Security and Robustness in Logistics. Berlin, Heidelberg: : Springer 2013.
A chapter in an edited book
Orringer MB. Transhiatal Esophagectomy—Intraoperative Disasters. In: Pawlik TM, Maithel SK, Merchant NB, eds. Gastrointestinal Surgery: Management of Complex Perioperative Complications. New York, NY: : Springer 2015. 35–51.

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
Evans K. Earth Has A Brand-New Continent Called Zealandia, And It’s Been Hiding In Plain Sight For Ages. IFLScience. 2017. (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. V-22 Osprey Aircraft: Assessments Needed to Address Operational and Cost Concerns to Define Future Investments. Washington, DC: : U.S. Government Printing Office 2009.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Bankas JK. CAFE—Community and Family Enrichment: Toward Community-Based Mental Health Support for Families. 2014.

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
Wasik JF. Trading Stocks for Bonds Poses Its Own Risks. New York Times. 2016;:B4.

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