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
Magurran AE. Ecology. Threats to freshwater fish. Science. 2009;325: 1215–1216.
A journal article with 2 authors
Dynek JN, Smith S. Resolution of sister telomere association is required for progression through mitosis. Science. 2004;304: 97–100.
A journal article with 3 authors
Chen F, Tillberg PW, Boyden ES. Optical imaging. Expansion microscopy. Science. 2015;347: 543–548.
A journal article with 7 or more authors
Trieloff M, Jessberger EK, Herrwerth I, Hopp J, Fiéni C, Ghélis M, et al. Structure and thermal history of the H-chondrite parent asteroid revealed by thermochronometry. Nature. 2003;422: 502–506.

Books and book chapters

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

An authored book
Andresen R, Oades LG, Caputi P. Psychological Recovery. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2011.
An edited book
Kundu A, editor. Tsunami and Nonlinear Waves. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2007.
A chapter in an edited book
Bramanti A, Fratesi U. The Dynamics of an ‘Innovation Driven’ Territorial System. In: Fratesi U, Senn L, editors. Growth and Innovation of Competitive Regions: The Role of Internal and External Connections. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer; 2009. pp. 59–91.

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
Taub B. Check Out This Assassin Bug Murdering A Spider In Its Own Web. In: IFLScience. IFLScience; 27 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. Motor Vehicle Safety: Information on Accidental Fires in Manufacturing Air Bag Propellant. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 1990 Sep. Report No.: RCED-90-230.

Theses and dissertations

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

Doctoral dissertation
Papp TM. CrashAppTM–Concurrent Multiple Stakeholder Evaluation of a DSR Artefact. Doctoral dissertation, University of South Florida. 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
Branch J. Leader of U.S. Governing Body Resigns as Scandal Spreads. New York Times. 16 Mar 2017: B9.

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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