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
D. Bazin, Nuclear Physics: Symmetrical Tin, Nature 486, 330 (2012).
A journal article with 2 authors
B. Chen and C. L. Cepko, HDAC4 Regulates Neuronal Survival in Normal and Diseased Retinas, Science 323, 256 (2009).
A journal article with 3 authors
G. Pettinato, X. Wen, and N. Zhang, Formation of Well-Defined Embryoid Bodies from Dissociated Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Using Microfabricated Cell-Repellent Microwell Arrays, Sci. Rep. 4, 7402 (2014).
A journal article with 4 or more authors
R. J. Ice, J. Wildonger, R. S. Mann, and S. W. Hiebert, Comment on “Nervy Links Protein Kinase A to Plexin-Mediated Semaphorin Repulsion,” Science 309, 558; author reply 558 (2005).

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
S. Bisgaard and M. Kulahci, Time Series Analysis and Forecasting by Example: Bisgaard/Time Series by Example (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2011).
An edited book
C. Rommel, B. Vanhaesebroeck, and P. K. Vogt, editors , Phosphoinositide 3-Kinase in Health and Disease: Volume 1, Vol. 346 (Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2011).
A chapter in an edited book
T. Érsek and Z. Á. Nagy, Species Hybrids in the Genus Phytophthora with Emphasis on the Alder Pathogen Phytophthora Alni: A Review, in The Downy Mildews - Genetics, Molecular Biology and Control, edited by A. Lebeda, P. T. N. Spencer-Phillips, and B. M. Cooke (Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, 2008), pp. 31–39.

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
E. Andrew, Want More Girls To Be Interested In Computer Science? Change Some Classroom Stereotypes,


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: Weaknesses in Procedures and Performance Management Hinder Junk Fax Enforcement, No. GAO-06-425, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2006.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
S. M. Limpert, A Qualitative Study of Learning Spaces at a Midwest Elementary School and Its Relationship to Student Attitudes about Reading, Doctoral dissertation, Lindenwood University, 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
J. Ewing, A. Goldman, and H. Tabuchi, VW Executive’s Trip Let F.B.I. Pounce, New York Times B1 (2017).

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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