How to format your references using the PLOS ONE citation style

This is a short guide how to format citations and the bibliography in a manuscript for PLOS ONE. 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
Obara K. Nonvolcanic deep tremor associated with subduction in southwest Japan. Science. 2002;296: 1679–1681.
A journal article with 2 authors
Arimoto T, Sato Y. Science and society. Rebuilding public trust in science for policy-making. Science. 2012;337: 1176–1177.
A journal article with 3 authors
Sun JC, Beilke JN, Lanier LL. Adaptive immune features of natural killer cells. Nature. 2009;457: 557–561.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Burgert R, Schnöckel H, Grubisic A, Li X, Stokes ST, Bowen KH, et al. Spin conservation accounts for aluminum cluster anion reactivity pattern with O2. Science. 2008;319: 438–442.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Coles A, Hawkins DG. MIDAS Technical Analysis. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2011.
An edited book
Maiuri MC, De Stefano D, editors. Autophagy Networks in Inflammation. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2016.
A chapter in an edited book
Dall BE, Eden SV, Bucklen B, Moldavsky M, Mcnutt RW. Biomechanics of the Injured SIJ: Results from an In Vitro Study. In: Dall BE, Eden SV, Rahl MD, editors. Surgery for the Painful, Dysfunctional Sacroiliac Joint: A Clinical Guide. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2015. pp. 37–43.

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 ONE.

Blog post
O`Callaghan J. NASA Is Sending A Rover Into A Water-Carved Gully On Mars For The First Time. In: IFLScience. IFLScience; 10 Oct 2016.


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. Observations on the FBI’s Interstate Identification Index. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1984 Oct. Report No.: GGD-85-4.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Lee BK. Tracking of truck flows for drayage efficiency analysis. Doctoral dissertation, California State University, Long Beach. 2015.

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
Pilon M. Wozniacki Is Lining Up for New York Marathon. New York Times. 31 Jul 2014: B13.

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 ONE
AbbreviationPLoS One
ISSN (online)1932-6203
ScopeGeneral Agricultural and Biological Sciences
General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
General Medicine

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