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
Butt H-J. Materials science. Controlling the flow of suspensions. Science 2011;331:868–9.
A journal article with 2 authors
Loreau M, Hector A. Partitioning selection and complementarity in biodiversity experiments. Nature 2001;412:72–6.
A journal article with 3 authors
Gustafson JL, Lim D, Miller SJ. Dynamic kinetic resolution of biaryl atropisomers via peptide-catalyzed asymmetric bromination. Science 2010;328:1251–5.
A journal article with 4 or more authors
McElreath R, Luttbeg B, Fogarty SP, et al. Evolution of animal personalities. Nature 2007;450:E5; discussion E5-6.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Robinson MD. An Employer’s and Engineer’s Guide to the FIDIC Conditions of Contract. Oxford: : John Wiley & Sons 2013.
An edited book
Bauer E, Sigrist M, editors. Non-Centrosymmetric Superconductors: Introduction and Overview. Berlin, Heidelberg: : Springer 2012.
A chapter in an edited book
Waluszewski A. Contemporary Research and Innovation Policy: A Double Disservice? In: Rider S, Hasselberg Y, Waluszewski A, eds. Transformations in Research, Higher Education and the Academic Market: The Breakdown of Scientific Thought. Dordrecht: : Springer Netherlands 2013. 71–95.

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
Hale T. Watch The Very Dangerous Ordeal Of A Sloth Pooping. IFLScience. 2016. (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. Migrant Children: Education and HHS Need to Improve the Exchange of Participant Information. Washington, DC: : U.S. Government Printing Office 1999.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Xiao EA. Understanding Employment to Entrepreneurship Transitions among Women Working in the Tech Industry. 2017.

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
Fountain H, Schwartz J. Science and Medicine; Researchers Bristle at Extent of Cuts. New York Times. 2017;:A18.

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

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