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
Wickelgren I. Neuroscience. Monkey see, monkey think about doing. Science. 2004;305: 162–163.
A journal article with 2 authors
Sur M, Rubenstein JLR. Patterning and plasticity of the cerebral cortex. Science. 2005;310: 805–810.
A journal article with 3 authors
Takahashi JS, Shimomura K, Kumar V. Searching for genes underlying behavior: lessons from circadian rhythms. Science. 2008;322: 909–912.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Li X, Deng ZD, Sun Y, Martinez JJ, Fu T, McMichael GA, et al. A 3D approximate maximum likelihood solver for localization of fish implanted with acoustic transmitters. Sci Rep. 2014;4: 7215.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Leroy L. Eyestrain Reduction in Stereoscopy. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2016.
An edited book
Ledger S. Global to Local Curriculum Policy Processes: The Enactment of the International Baccalaureate in Remote International Schools. Vidovich L, O’Donoghue T, editors. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2014.
A chapter in an edited book
Lehmann F-O. Wake Structure and Vortex Development in Flight of Fruit Flies Using High-Speed Particle Image Velocimetry. In: Tropea C, Bleckmann H, editors. Nature-Inspired Fluid Mechanics: Results of the DFG Priority Programme 1207 ”Nature-inspired Fluid Mechanics” 2006-2012. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2012. pp. 65–79.

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
Davis J. New Zealand Birds May Be Singing Songs Not Heard In The UK For Over 100 Years. In: IFLScience [Internet]. IFLScience; 12 Jan 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. Questionable Need for All Schools Planned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1978 Feb. Report No.: CED-78-55.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Eldridge Z. The Empowerment of a Forgotten Population. Doctoral dissertation, George Washington 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
McWHORTER J. How to Listen to Donald Trump Every Day for Years. New York Times. 21 Jan 2017: SR1.

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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