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
Moro-Martín A. Spanish changes are scientific suicide. Nature. 2012;482: 277.
A journal article with 2 authors
Ueshima R, Asami T. Evolution: single-gene speciation by left-right reversal. Nature. 2003;425: 679.
A journal article with 3 authors
Bryant P, Nunes T, Snaith R. Children learn an untaught rule of spelling. Nature. 2000;403: 157–158.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Hoyt JR, Langwig KE, White JP, Kaarakka HM, Redell JA, Kurta A, et al. Cryptic connections illuminate pathogen transmission within community networks. Nature. 2018;

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Lynn PA. Electricity from Sunlight. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2010.
An edited book
Heredia RR, Altarriba J, editors. Foundations of Bilingual Memory. New York, NY: Springer; 2014.
A chapter in an edited book
Weinmann SM, van den Bosch FC, Pasquali A. The Dependence of Low Redshift Galaxy Properties on Environment. In: Ferreras I, Pasquali A, editors. Environment and the Formation of Galaxies: 30 years later: Proceedings of Symposium 2 of JENAM 2010. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2011. pp. 29–38.

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
Fang J. Invasive Weeds Sustain Malaria-Spreading Mosquitoes. In: IFLScience [Internet]. IFLScience; 28 Sep 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. Smartphone Data: Information and Issues Regarding Surreptitious Tracking Apps That Can Facilitate Stalking. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2016 Apr. Report No.: GAO-16-317.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Lenz RM. Iron, Arsenic, and Elevated Salinity in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Aquifer of Louisiana. Doctoral dissertation, University of Louisiana. 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
Clarke J. Resilient Golf Turf Faces Test at Olympics. New York Times. 23 Jul 2016: SP1.

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