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
Sundqvist B. Mapping intermolecular bonding in C₆₀. Sci Rep. 2014;4: 6171.
A journal article with 2 authors
Machlis GE, McNutt MK. Disasters. Scenario-building for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Science. 2010;329: 1018–1019.
A journal article with 3 authors
Cannistraci CV, Alanis-Lobato G, Ravasi T. From link-prediction in brain connectomes and protein interactomes to the local-community-paradigm in complex networks. Sci Rep. 2013;3: 1613.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Wang D, Zhang Z, Zhu Z, Liang B. Magnetic structure and magnetic transport properties of graphene nanoribbons with sawtooth zigzag edges. Sci Rep. 2014;4: 7587.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Evans PW. Top Hat. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
An edited book
Akiyama J, Kano M, Sakai T, editors. Computational Geometry and Graphs: Thailand-Japan Joint Conference, TJJCCGG 2012, Bangkok, Thailand, December 6-8, 2012, Revised Selected Papers. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2013.
A chapter in an edited book
Yip NM. Challenges to Public Housing in Post-colonial Hong Kong. In: Chen J, Stephens M, Man Y, editors. The Future of Public Housing: Ongoing Trends in the East and the West. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2013. pp. 65–83.

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 A. Earth’s Day Will Be One Minute Longer In 6.7 Million Years. In: IFLScience [Internet]. IFLScience; 7 Dec 2016 [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. Customs Service Modernization: Strategic Information Management Must Be Improved for National Automation Program to Succeed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1996 May. Report No.: AIMD-96-57.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Smith J. The work expectations of individuals with developmental disabilities. Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Long Beach. 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
St. John Kelly E. Circular Makes the Rounds and Residents Complain. New York Times. 10 May 1998: 148.

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