How to format your references using the PLOS Computational Biology citation style

This is a short guide how to format citations and the bibliography in a manuscript for PLOS Computational 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
Beal MF. Parkinson’s disease: a model dilemma. Nature. 2010;466: S8-10.
A journal article with 2 authors
Martin OY, Hosken DJ. The evolution of reproductive isolation through sexual conflict. Nature. 2003;423: 979–982.
A journal article with 3 authors
Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Ojanguren AF, Tregenza T. Comment on “International conservation policy delivers benefits for birds in Europe.” Science. 2008;319: 1042; author reply 1042.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Pfleiderer C, Reznik D, Pintschovius L, Löhneysen HV, Garst M, Rosch A. Partial order in the non-Fermi-liquid phase of MnSi. Nature. 2004;427: 227–231.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Gwynne P. World Religions in Practice. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2017.
An edited book
Syed KT, editor. Through White Noise: Autonarrative Exploration of Racism, Discrimination, and the Doorways to Academic Citizenship in Canada. Rotterdam: SensePublishers; 2012.
A chapter in an edited book
Sandercock L, Cavers V. The Story of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House: A Unique Gathering Place. In: Attili G, editor. Where Strangers Become Neighbours: Integrating Immigrants in Vancouver, Canada. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands; 2009. pp. 123–157.

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 Computational Biology.

Blog post
Carpineti C. This Is What Aliens Might Look Like If They Evolved On A Planet That Orbits A Red Dwarf Star. In: IFLScience [Internet]. IFLScience; 9 Mar 2017 [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. NASA Property: Improving Management of Government Equipment Provided to Contractors. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1993 Sep. Report No.: NSIAD-93-191.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Altassan MA. Employee Training to Increase Efficiency in the Saudi Private Sector. Doctoral dissertation, Pepperdine 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
Sisario B. The Promoter Is an Indie. New York Times. 6 Aug 2017: B1.

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 Computational Biology
AbbreviationPLoS Comput. Biol.
ISSN (print)1553-734X
ISSN (online)1553-7358
ScopeEcology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Molecular Biology
Computational Theory and Mathematics
Modelling and Simulation
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Other styles