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
Flückiger J. Climate change. Did you say “fast”? Science. 2008;321: 650–651.
A journal article with 2 authors
Boyd PW, Mackie D. Comment on “The Southern Ocean biological response to aeolian iron deposition.” Science. 2008;319: 159; author reply 159.
A journal article with 3 authors
Visser K, Thunell R, Stott L. Magnitude and timing of temperature change in the Indo-Pacific warm pool during deglaciation. Nature. 2003;421: 152–155.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Pätzold M, Andert TP, Asmar SW, Anderson JD, Barriot J-P, Bird MK, et al. Asteroid 21 Lutetia: low mass, high density. Science. 2011;334: 491–492.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Sox HC, Higgins MC, Owens DK. Medical Decision Making. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2013.
An edited book
Lupu M, Mayer K, Tait J, Trippe AJ, editors. Current Challenges in Patent Information Retrieval. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2011.
A chapter in an edited book
Krendel M, De La Cruz EM. Overview: Actin-Binding Protein Function and Its Relation to Disease Pathology. In: Remedios CG dos, Chhabra D, editors. Actin-Binding Proteins and Disease. New York, NY: Springer; 2008. pp. 65–82.

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
Luntz S. Supernovae and Black Holes Clean Galaxies. In: IFLScience. IFLScience; 27 May 2015.


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. Unsupported Adjustments. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1992 Dec. Report No.: AFMD-93-28R.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Ahmadi SA. Synergistic interplay between math search and handwritten mathematical notation recognition. Doctoral dissertation, George Washington University. 2009.

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
Vecsey G. World Cup Draw Portends More Peril Than Promise. New York Times. 2 Dec 2009: B12.

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