How to format your references using the PLOS Biology citation style

This is a short guide how to format citations and the bibliography in a manuscript for PLOS Biology. 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
Hobert O. Gene regulation by transcription factors and microRNAs. Science. 2008;319: 1785–1786.
A journal article with 2 authors
Theler D, Allain FH-T. Molecular biology: RNA modification does a regulatory two-step. Nature. 2015;518: 492–493.
A journal article with 3 authors
McNamara AK, van Keken PE, Karato S-I. Development of anisotropic structure in the Earth’s lower mantle by solid-state convection. Nature. 2002;416: 310–314.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Xiao J, Long M, Li X, Xu H, Huang H, Gao Y. Theoretical prediction of electronic structure and carrier mobility in single-walled MoS₂ nanotubes. Sci Rep. 2014;4: 4327.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
First MB, Tasman A. Clinical Guide to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Disorders. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2006.
An edited book
Szczepaniak PS, Kacprzyk J, Niewiadomski A, editors. Advances in Web Intelligence: Third International Atlantic Web Intelligence Conference, AWIC 2005, Lodz, Poland, June 6-9, 2005. Proceedings. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2005.
A chapter in an edited book
De Stefano C, Fontanella F, Folino G, di Freca AS. A Bayesian Approach for Combining Ensembles of GP Classifiers. In: Sansone C, Kittler J, Roli F, editors. Multiple Classifier Systems: 10th International Workshop, MCS 2011, Naples, Italy, June 15-17, 2011 Proceedings. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2011. pp. 26–35.

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 PLOS Biology.

Blog post
Andrew E. How Poo-Sniffing Detective Dogs Can Save Elusive, Rare Gorillas. In: IFLScience [Internet]. IFLScience; 25 Feb 2015 [cited 30 Oct 2018]. Available:


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. Federal Disability Assistance: Stronger Federal Oversight Could Help Assure Multiple Programs’ Accountability. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2007 Jan. Report No.: GAO-07-236.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Hess JP. Exploring the Challenges of Training and Developing Millennials in the Business Environment. Doctoral dissertation, Northcentral University. 2012.

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
Corkery M, Walsh MW. Puerto Rico’s Crisis Draws Split in Congress and Muted White House Reply. New York Times. 29 Jun 2015: B3.

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 titlePLOS Biology
AbbreviationPLoS Biol.
ISSN (print)1544-9173
ISSN (online)1545-7885
ScopeGeneral Agricultural and Biological Sciences
General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
General Immunology and Microbiology
General Neuroscience

Other styles