How to format your references using the Physical Review Letters citation style

This is a short guide how to format citations and the bibliography in a manuscript for Physical Review Letters. 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.
EndNoteDownload the output style file
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
J. M. Hayes, Geochemistry. The Pathway of Carbon in Nature, Science 312, 1605 (2006).
A journal article with 2 authors
P.-B. Joly and A. Rip, A Timely Harvest, Nature 450, 174 (2007).
A journal article with 3 authors
A. Akbarzadeh, C.-W. Qiu, and A. J. Danner, Exploiting Design Freedom in Biaxial Dielectrics to Enable Spatially Overlapping Optical Instruments, Sci. Rep. 3, 2055 (2013).
A journal article with 4 or more authors
R. Ruiz, H. Kang, F. A. Detcheverry, E. Dobisz, D. S. Kercher, T. R. Albrecht, J. J. de Pablo, and P. F. Nealey, Density Multiplication and Improved Lithography by Directed Block Copolymer Assembly, Science 321, 936 (2008).

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
C. W. Chase Jr., Demand-Driven Forecasting (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2013).
An edited book
A. Steland, E. Rafajłowicz, and K. Szajowski, editors , Stochastic Models, Statistics and Their Applications: Wrocław, Poland, February 2015, Vol. 122 (Springer International Publishing, Cham, 2015).
A chapter in an edited book
S. Janjuha-Jivraj and K. Chisholm, Why Championing Works So Well for Women, in Championing Women Leaders: Beyond Sponsorship, edited by K. Chisholm (Palgrave Macmillan UK, London, 2016), pp. 55–72.

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 Physical Review Letters.

Blog post
S. Luntz, Planet Spotted Forming In Binary System, (unpublished).


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, Telecommunications: Interruptions of Telephone Service, No. RCED-93-79FS, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1993.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
M. W. Miller, The Mediterranean Ethiopian: Intellectual Discourse and the Fixity of Myth in Classical Antiquity, Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Long Beach, 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
M. Davey, Shooting of Black Woman Stirs Racial Tensions Around Detroit, New York Times A11 (2013).

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 titlePhysical Review Letters
AbbreviationPhys. Rev. Lett.
ISSN (print)0031-9007
ISSN (online)1079-7114
ScopeGeneral Physics and Astronomy

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