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
Robinson K. Personal finance. So what should you invest in? Science 2006;313:1456.
A journal article with 2 authors
Nestler EJ, Landsman D. Learning about addiction from the genome. Nature 2001;409:834–5.
A journal article with 3 authors
Schoener TW, Spiller DA, Losos JB. Natural restoration of the species-area relation for a lizard after a hurricane. Science 2001;294:1525–8.
A journal article with 4 or more authors
He M, Dijkstra FA, Zhang K, et al. Leaf nitrogen and phosphorus of temperate desert plants in response to climate and soil nutrient availability. Sci Rep 2014;4:6932.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Morris AS. ISO 14000 Environmental Management Standards. Chichester, UK: : John Wiley & Sons, Ltd 2006.
An edited book
Charney N, editor. Art Crime: Terrorists, Tomb Raiders, Forgers and Thieves. London: : Palgrave Macmillan UK 2016.
A chapter in an edited book
Urban C, Berghofer S, Norrish M. Barendregt’s Variable Convention in Rule Inductions. In: Pfenning F, ed. Automated Deduction – CADE-21: 21st International Conference on Automated Deduction Bremen, Germany, July 17-20, 2007 Proceedings. Berlin, Heidelberg: : Springer 2007. 35–50.

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
Luntz S. Oxytocin-Lowering Medical Conditions May Reduce Empathy. 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. Acid Rain: Delays and Management Changes in the Federal Research Program. Washington, DC: : U.S. Government Printing Office 1987.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Mehmeti A. Intensive dramaturgical research facilitated the creation of the character Soran Saleen in “The Poetry of Pizza”. 2010.

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
Burghardt LF. One-of-a-Kind Gifts, All Made by Hand. New York Times. 2005;:14LI17.

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