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. Rizo, Cell Biology. Staging Membrane Fusion, Science 337, 1300 (2012).
A journal article with 2 authors
B. Brei and D. Fish, Comment on “Parasites as a Viability Cost of Sexual Selection in Natural Populations of Mammals,” Science 300, 55; author reply 55 (2003).
A journal article with 3 authors
J. L. Blois, J. L. McGuire, and E. A. Hadly, Small Mammal Diversity Loss in Response to Late-Pleistocene Climatic Change, Nature 465, 771 (2010).
A journal article with 4 or more authors
T. Sun, Z. Zhang, J. Xiao, C. Chen, F. Xiao, S. Wang, and Y. Liu, Facile and Green Synthesis of Palladium Nanoparticles-Graphene-Carbon Nanotube Material with High Catalytic Activity, Sci. Rep. 3, 2527 (2013).

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
N. F. Sharpe and R. F. Carter, Genetic Testing (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2005).
An edited book
C. R. Velde, editor , International Perspectives on Competence in the Workplace: Implications for Research, Policy and Practice (Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht, 2009).
A chapter in an edited book
M. Strizhov and I. Ray, Multi-Keyword Similarity Search over Encrypted Cloud Data, in ICT Systems Security and Privacy Protection: 29th IFIP TC 11 International Conference, SEC 2014, Marrakech, Morocco, June 2-4, 2014. Proceedings, edited by N. Cuppens-Boulahia, F. Cuppens, S. Jajodia, A. Abou El Kalam, and T. Sans (Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2014), pp. 52–65.

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, Meteorite From Mars Tells A 2-Billion-Year Volcanic Story,


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, Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Telecommunications Readiness Critical, Yet Overall Status Largely Unknown, No. T-AIMD-98-212, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
S. Chhun, Assessing the Role of Vacuolar Trafficking in Fifteen Candidate Env Genes at the Late Endosome to Vacuole Interface in S. Cerevisiae, 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. Kelly, THE 1992 CAMPAIGN: In His Own Words; On TV, a Very Public Education for Ross Perot, New York Times A18 (1992).

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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