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Submission Guidelines

Style and Format

File format

Manuscript files can be in the following formats: DOC, DOCX, RTF, or PDF. Microsoft Word documents should not be locked or protected. 

LaTeX manuscripts must be submitted as PDFs. Read the LaTeX guidelines.

Length

Manuscripts can be any length. There are no restrictions on word count, number of figures, or amount of supporting information.


We encourage you to present and discuss your findings concisely.

Font

Use any standard font and a standard font size. 

Headings

Limit manuscript sections and sub-sections to 3 heading levels. Make sure heading levels are clearly indicated in the manuscript text.

Layout

Manuscript text should be double-spaced.

Do not format text in multiple columns.

Page and line numbers

Include page numbers and line numbers in the manuscript file.

Footnotes

Footnotes are not permitted. If your manuscript contains footnotes, move the information into the main text or the reference list, depending on the content.

Language

Manuscripts must be submitted in English. 

You may submit translations of the manuscript or abstract as supporting information. Read the supporting information guidelines.

Abbreviations

Define abbreviations upon first appearance in the text.

Do not use non-standard abbreviations unless they appear at least three times in the text.

Keep abbreviations to a minimum.

Reference style

PLOS uses “Vancouver” style, as outlined in the ICMJE sample references.

See reference formatting examples and additional instructions below.

Equations

We recommend using MathType for display and inline equations, as it will provide the most reliable outcome. If this is not possible, Equation Editor is acceptable.

Avoid using MathType or Equation Editor to insert single variables (e.g., “a² + b² = c²”), Greek or other symbols (e.g., β, Δ, or ′ [prime]), or mathematical operators (e.g., x, ≥, or  ±) in running text. Wherever possible, insert single symbols as normal text with the correct Unicode (hex) values.

Do not use MathType or Equation Editor for only a portion of an equation. Rather, ensure that the entire equation is included. Avoid “hybrid” inline or display equations, in which part is text and part is MathType, or part is MathType and part is Equation Editor.

Nomenclature

 Use correct and established nomenclature wherever possible.

Units of measurement Use SI units. If you do not use these exclusively, provide the SI value in parentheses after each value. Read more about SI units.
Drugs Provide the Recommended International Non-Proprietary Name (rINN).
Species names Write in italics (e.g., Homo sapiens). Write out in full the genus and species, both in the title of the manuscript and at the first mention of an organism in a paper. After first mention, the first letter of the genus name followed by the full species name may be used (e.g., H. sapiens).
Genes, mutations, genotypes, and alleles Write in italics. Use the recommended name by consulting the appropriate genetic nomenclature database (e.g., HUGO for human genes). It is sometimes advisable to indicate the synonyms for the gene the first time it appears in the text. Gene prefixes such as those used for oncogenes or cellular localization should be shown in roman typeface (e.g., v-fes, c-MYC).

Manuscript Organization

Manuscripts should be organized as follows. Instructions for each element appear below the list.

Beginning section

The following elements are required, in order:

  • Title page: List title, authors, and affiliations as first page of manuscript
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
Middle section

The following elements can be renamed as needed and presented in any order:

  • Materials and Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions (optional)
Ending section

The following elements are required, in order:

  • Acknowledgments
  • References
  • Supporting information captions (if applicable)
Other elements
  • Figure captions are inserted immediately after the first paragraph in which the figure is cited. Figure files are uploaded separately.
  • Tables are inserted immediately after the first paragraph in which they are cited.
  • Supporting information files are uploaded separately.

 

Please refer to our downloadable sample files to make sure that your submission meets our formatting requirements:

Parts of a Submission

Title

Include a full title and a short title for the manuscript.

Title Length Guidelines Examples
Full title 250 characters Specific, descriptive, concise, and comprehensible to readers outside the field

Impact of Cigarette Smoke Exposure on Innate Immunity: A Caenorhabditis elegans Model

Solar Drinking Water Disinfection (SODIS) to Reduce Childhood Diarrhoea in Rural Bolivia: A Cluster-Randomized, Controlled Trial
Short title 70 characters State the topic of the study

Cigarette Smoke Exposure and Innate Immunity

SODIS and Childhood Diarrhoea

Titles should be written in title case (all words capitalized except articles, prepositions, and conjunctions). Avoid specialist abbreviations if possible. For clinical trials, systematic reviews, or meta-analyses, the subtitle should include the study design.

Author List

Who belongs on the author list

All authors must meet the criteria for authorship as outlined in the authorship policy.  Read the policy.

Those who contributed to the work but do not meet the criteria for authorship can be mentioned in the Acknowledgments. Read more about Acknowledgments.

Author names and affiliations

Enter author names on the title page of the manuscript and in the online submission system.

On the title page, write author names in the following order:

  • First name (or initials, if used)
  • Middle name (or initials, if used)
  • Last name (surname, family name)

Each author on the list must have an affiliation. The affiliation includes department, university, or organizational affiliation and its location, including city, state/province (if applicable), and country.

If an author has multiple affiliations, enter all affiliations on the title page only. In the submission system, enter only the preferred or primary affiliation.

Author names will be published exactly as they appear in the manuscript file. Please double-check the information carefully to make sure it is correct.

Corresponding author

One corresponding author should be designated in the submission system as well as on the title page. 

One corresponding author should be designated in the submission system. However, this does not restrict the number of corresponding authors that may be listed on the article in the event of publication. Whoever is designated as a corresponding author on the title page of the manuscript file will be listed as such upon publication. 

Include an email address for each corresponding author listed on the title page of the manuscript.

Consortia and group authorship

If a manuscript is submitted on behalf of a consortium or group, include the consortium or group name in the author list, and include the full list of members in the Acknowledgments or in a supporting information file. Read the group authorship policy.

Author Contributions

The contributions of all authors must be described according to the CRediT Taxonomy of author roles. Read the policy.

The submitting author is responsible for completing this information at submission, and it is expected that all authors will have reviewed, discussed, and agreed to their individual contributions ahead of this time.

Enter all author contributions in the submission system at submission.

Contributions will be published with the final article, and they should accurately reflect contributions to the work.

The corresponding author is responsible for making sure all authors approve the final manuscript before submission. PLOS ONE will contact all authors by email at submission to ensure that they are aware of the submission

Cover letter

Upload a cover letter as a separate file in the online system. The length limit is 1 page.

The cover letter should include the following information:

  • Summarize the study’s contribution to the scientific literature
  • Relate the study to previously published work
  • Specify the type of article (for example, research article, systematic review, meta-analysis, clinical trial)
  • Describe any prior interactions with PLOS regarding the submitted manuscript
  • Suggest appropriate Academic Editors to handle your manuscript (see the full list of Academic Editors)
  • List any opposed reviewers

IMPORTANT: Do not include requests to reduce or waive publication fees in the cover letter. This information will be entered separately in the online submission system.

Read about publication fee assistance.

Title page

The title, authors, and affiliations should all be included on a title page as the first page of the manuscript file.  

 

Abstract

The Abstract comes after the title page in the manuscript file. The abstract text is also entered in a separate field in the submission system.  

The Abstract should:

  • Describe the main objective(s) of the study
  • Explain how the study was done, including any model organisms used, without methodological detail
  • Summarize the most important results and their significance
  • Not exceed 300 words

Abstracts should not include:

  • Citations
  • Abbreviations, if possible

Introduction

The introduction should:

  • Provide background that puts the manuscript into context and allows readers outside the field to understand the purpose and significance of the study
  • Define the problem addressed and why it is important
  • Include a brief review of the key literature
  • Note any relevant controversies or disagreements in the field
  • Conclude with a brief statement of the overall aim of the work and a comment about whether that aim was achieved

Materials and Methods

The Materials and Methods section should provide enough detail to allow suitably skilled investigators to fully replicate your study. Specific information and/or protocols for new methods should be included in detail. If materials, methods, and protocols are well established, authors may cite articles where those protocols are described in detail, but the submission should include sufficient information to be understood independent of these references.

We encourage authors to submit detailed protocols for newer or less well-established methods as supporting information. Read the supporting information guidelines.

Human or animal subjects and/or tissue or field sampling

Methods sections describing research using human or animal subjects and/or tissue or field sampling must include required ethics statements. See the reporting guidelines for human research, clinical trials, animal research, and observational and field studies for more information.

Data

PLOS journals require authors to make all data underlying the findings described in their manuscript fully available without restriction, with rare exception.

Large data sets, including raw data, may be deposited in an appropriate public repository. See our list of recommended repositories.

For smaller data sets and certain data types, authors may provide their data within supporting information files accompanying the manuscript. Authors should take care to maximize the accessibility and reusability of the data by selecting a file format from which data can be efficiently extracted (for example, spreadsheets or flat files should be provided rather than PDFs when providing tabulated data).
For more information on how best to provide data, read our policy on data availability. PLOS does not accept references to “data not shown.”

Cell lines

Methods sections describing research using cell lines must state the origin of the cell lines used. See the reporting guidelines for cell line research for more information.

New taxon names

Methods sections of manuscripts adding new taxon names to the literature must follow the reporting guidelines below for a new zoological taxon, botanical taxon, or fungal taxon.

Results, Discussion, Conclusions

These sections may all be separate, or may be combined to create a mixed Results/Discussion section (commonly labeled “Results and Discussion”) or a mixed Discussion/Conclusions section (commonly labeled “Discussion”). These sections may be further divided into subsections, each with a concise subheading, as appropriate. These sections have no word limit, but the language should be clear and concise.

Together, these sections should describe the results of the experiments, the interpretation of these results, and the conclusions that can be drawn.

Authors should explain how the results relate to the hypothesis presented as the basis of the study and provide a succinct explanation of the implications of the findings, particularly in relation to previous related studies and potential future directions for research.

PLOS ONE editorial decisions do not rely on perceived significance or impact, so authors should avoid overstating their conclusions. See the PLOS ONE Criteria for Publication for more information.

Copyediting manuscripts

Prior to submission, authors who believe their manuscripts would benefit from professional editing are encouraged to use language-editing and copyediting services. Obtaining this service is the responsibility of the author, and should be done before initial submission. These services can be found on the web using search terms like “scientific editing service” or “manuscript editing service.”

Submissions are not copyedited before publication.

Submissions that do not meet the  PLOS ONE publication criterion for language standards may be rejected.

Acknowledgments

Those who contributed to the work but do not meet our authorship criteria should be listed in the Acknowledgments with a description of the contribution.

Authors are responsible for ensuring that anyone named in the Acknowledgments agrees to be named.

Do not include funding sources in the Acknowledgments or anywhere else in the manuscript file. Funding information should only be entered in the financial disclosure section of the submission system.

References

Any and all available works can be cited in the reference list. Acceptable sources include:

  • Published or accepted manuscripts
  • Manuscripts on preprint servers, if the manuscript is submitted to a journal and also publicly available as a preprint

Do not cite the following sources in the reference list:

  • Unavailable and unpublished work, including manuscripts that have been submitted but not yet accepted (e.g., “unpublished work,” “data not shown”). Instead, include those data as supplementary material or deposit the data in a publicly available database.
  • Personal communications (these should be supported by a letter from the relevant authors but not included in the reference list)

References are listed at the end of the manuscript and numbered in the order that they appear in the text. In the text, cite the reference number in square brackets (e.g., “We used the techniques developed by our colleagues [19] to analyze the data”). PLOS uses the numbered citation (citation-sequence) method and first six authors, et al.

Do not include citations in abstracts or author summaries. 

Make sure the parts of the manuscript are in the correct order before ordering the citations.

Formatting references

Because all references will be linked electronically as much as possible to the papers they cite, proper formatting of the references is crucial. 

PLOS uses the reference style outlined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), also referred to as the “Vancouver” style. Example formats are listed below. Additional examples are in the ICMJE sample references.

A reference management tool, EndNote, offers a current style file that can assist you with the formatting of your references. If you have problems with any reference management program, please contact the source company's technical support.

Journal name abbreviations should be those found in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) databases

Source Format
Published articles

Hou WR, Hou YL, Wu GF, Song Y, Su XL, Sun B, et al. cDNA, genomic sequence cloning and overexpression of ribosomal protein gene L9 (rpL9) of the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). Genet Mol Res. 2011;10: 1576-1588.

Devaraju P, Gulati R, Antony PT, Mithun CB, Negi VS. Susceptibility to SLE in South Indian Tamils may be influenced by genetic selection pressure on TLR2 and TLR9 genes. Mol Immunol. 2014 Nov 22. pii: S0161-5890(14)00313-7. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2014.11.005


Note: A DOI number for the full-text article is acceptable as an alternative to or in addition to traditional volume and page numbers.
Accepted, unpublished articles Same as published articles, but substitute “In press” for page numbers or DOI.
Web sites or online articles

Huynen MMTE, Martens P, Hilderlink HBM. The health impacts of globalisation: a conceptual framework. Global Health. 2005;1: 14. Available: http://www.globalizationandhealth.com/content/1/1/14.

Books

Bates B. Bargaining for life: A social history of tuberculosis. 1st ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1992.

Book chapters Hansen B. New York City epidemics and history for the public. In: Harden VA, Risse GB, editors. AIDS and the historian. Bethesda: National Institutes of Health; 1991. pp. 21-28.
Deposited articles (preprints, e-prints, or arXiv) Krick T, Shub DA, Verstraete N, Ferreiro DU, Alonso LG, Shub M, et al. Amino acid metabolism conflicts with protein diversity; 1991. Preprint. Available: arXiv:1403.3301v1. Accessed 17 March 2014.
Published media (print or online newspapers and magazine articles) Fountain H. For Already Vulnerable Penguins, Study Finds Climate Change Is Another Danger. The New York Times. 29 Jan 2014. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/science/earth/climate-change-taking-toll-on-penguins-study-finds.html. Accessed 17 March 2014.
New media (blogs, web sites, or other written works) Allen L. Announcing PLOS Blogs. 2010 Sep 1 [cited 17 March 2014]. In: PLOS Blogs [Internet]. San Francisco: PLOS 2006 - . [about 2 screens]. Available: http://blogs.plos.org/plos/2010/09/announcing-plos-blogs/.
Masters' theses or doctoral dissertations Wells A. Exploring the development of the independent, electronic, scholarly journal. M.Sc. Thesis, The University of Sheffield. 1999. Available: http://cumincad.scix.net/cgi-bin/works/Show?2e09
Databases and repositories (Figshare, arXiv) Roberts SB. QPX Genome Browser Feature Tracks; 2013. Database: figshare [Internet]. Accessed: http://figshare.com/articles/QPX_Genome_Browser_Feature_Tracks/701214.
Multimedia (videos, movies, or TV shows) Hitchcock A, producer and director. Rear Window [Film]; 1954. Los Angeles: MGM.

Supporting Information

Authors can submit essential supporting files and multimedia files along with their manuscripts. All supporting information will be subject to peer review. All file types can be submitted, but files must be smaller than 10 MB in size.

Authors may use almost any description as the item name for a supporting information file as long as it contains an “S” and number. For example, “S1 Appendix” and “S2 Appendix,” “S1 Table” and “S2 Table,” and so forth.  

Supporting information files are published exactly as provided, and are not copyedited.

Supporting information captions

List supporting information captions at the end of the manuscript file. Do not submit captions in a separate file.

The file number and name are required in a caption, and we highly recommend including a one-line title as well. You may also include a legend in your caption, but it is not required.

Example caption

S1 Text. Title is strongly recommended.
 Legend is optional.

In-text citations

We recommend that you cite supporting information in the manuscript text, but this is not a requirement. If you cite supporting information in the text, citations do not need to be in numerical order.

Read the supporting information guidelines for more details about submitting supporting information and multimedia files.

Figures and Tables

Figures

Do not include figures in the main manuscript file. Each figure must be prepared and submitted as an individual file.

Cite figures in ascending numeric order upon first appearance in the manuscript file.

Figure captions

Figure captions must be inserted in the text of the manuscript, immediately following the paragraph in which the figure is first cited (read order). Do not include captions as part of the figure files themselves or submit them in a separate document.

At a minimum, include the following in your figure captions:

  • A figure label with Arabic numerals, and “Figure” abbreviated to “Fig” (e.g. Fig 1, Fig 2, Fig 3, etc). Match the label of your figure with the name of the file uploaded at submission (e.g. a figure citation of “Fig 1” must refer to a figure file named “Fig1.tif”).
  • A concise, descriptive title

The caption may also include a legend as needed.

Read more about figure captions.

Tables

Cite tables in ascending numeric order upon first appearance in the manuscript file.

Place each table in your manuscript file directly after the paragraph in which it is first cited (read order). Do not submit your tables in separate files.

Tables require a label (e.g., “Table 1”) and brief descriptive title to be placed above the table. Place legends, footnotes, and other text below the table. 

Data reporting

All data and related metadata underlying the findings reported in a submitted manuscript should be deposited in an appropriate public repository, unless already provided as part of the submitted article.

Repositories may be either subject-specific (where these exist) and accept specific types of structured data, or generalist repositories that accept multiple data types. We recommend that authors select repositories appropriate to their field. Repositories may be subject-specific (e.g., GenBank for sequences and PDB for structures), general, or institutional, as long as DOIs or accession numbers are provided and the data are at least as open as CC BY. Authors are encouraged to select repositories that meet accepted criteria as trustworthy digital repositories, such as criteria of the Centre for Research Libraries or Data Seal of Approval. Large, international databases are more likely to persist than small, local ones.

To support data sharing and author compliance of the PLOS data policy, we have integrated our submission process with a select set of data repositories. The list is neither representative nor exhaustive of the suitable repositories available to authors. Current repository integration partners include Dryad and FlowRepository. Please contact data@plos.org to make recommendations for further partnerships.

Instructions for PLOS submissions with data deposited in an integration partner repository:

  • Deposit data in the integrated repository of choice.
  • Once deposition is final and complete, the repository will provide you with a dataset DOI (provisional) and private URL for reviewers to gain access to the data.
  • Enter the given data DOI into the full Data Availability Statement, which is requested in the Additional Information section of the PLOS submission form. Then provide the URL passcode in the Attach Files section.

If you have any questions, please email us.

Accession numbers

All appropriate data sets, images, and information should be deposited in an appropriate public repository. See our list of recommended repositories.

Accession numbers (and version numbers, if appropriate) should be provided in the Data Availability Statement. Accession numbers or a citation to the DOI should also be provided when the data set is mentioned within the manuscript.

In some cases authors may not be able to obtain accession numbers of DOIs until the manuscript is accepted; in these cases, the authors must provide these numbers at acceptance. In all other cases, these numbers must be provided at submission.

Identifiers

As much as possible, please provide accession numbers or identifiers for all entities such as genes, proteins, mutants, diseases, etc., for which there is an entry in a public database, for example:

Identifiers should be provided in parentheses after the entity on first use.

Striking image

You can choose to upload a “Striking Image” that we may use to represent your article online in places like the journal homepage or in search results.

The striking image must be derived from a figure or supporting information file from the submission, i.e., a cropped portion of an image or the entire image. Striking images should ideally be high resolution, eye-catching, single panel images, and should ideally avoid containing added details such as text, scale bars, and arrows.

If no striking image is uploaded, we will designate a figure from the submission as the striking image.

Striking images should not contain potentially identifying images of people.  Read our policy on identifying information.

The PLOS content license also applies to striking images.  Read more about the content license

Additional Information Requested at Submission

Competing interests

This information should not be in your manuscript file; you will provide it via our submission system.

All potential competing interests must be declared in full. If the submission is related to any patents, patent applications, or products in development or for market, these details, including patent numbers and titles, must be disclosed in full.

Funding statement

This information should not be in your manuscript file; you will provide it via our submission system.

This information will be published with the final manuscript, if accepted, so please make sure that this is accurate and as detailed as possible. You should not include this information in your manuscript file, but it is important to gather it prior to submission, because your financial disclosure statement cannot be changed after initial submission.

Your statement should include relevant grant numbers and the URL of any funder's web site. Please also state whether any individuals employed or contracted by the funders (other than the named authors) played any role in: study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. If so, please name the individual and describe their role.

Manuscripts disputing published work

For manuscripts disputing previously published work, it is PLOS ONE policy to invite input from the disputed author during the peer review process. This procedure is aimed at ensuring a thorough, transparent, and productive review process.

If the disputed author chooses to submit a review, it must be returned in a timely fashion and contain a full declaration of all competing interests. The Academic Editor will consider any such reviews in light of the competing interest.

Authors submitting manuscripts disputing previous work should explain the relationship between the manuscripts in their cover letter, and will be required to confirm that they accept the conditions of this review policy before the manuscript is considered further.

 

Related manuscripts

Upon submission, authors must confirm that the manuscript, or any related manuscript, is not currently under consideration or accepted elsewhere. If related work has been submitted to PLOS ONE or elsewhere, authors must include a copy with the submitted article. Reviewers will be asked to comment on the overlap between related submissions.

We strongly discourage the unnecessary division of related work into separate manuscripts, and we will not consider manuscripts that are divided into “parts.” Each submission to PLOS ONE must be written as an independent unit and should not rely on any work that has not already been accepted for publication. If related manuscripts are submitted to PLOS ONE, the authors may be advised to combine them into a single manuscript at the editor's discretion.

Guidelines for Specific Study Types

Human subjects research

All research involving human participants must have been approved by the authors’ Institutional Review Board (IRB) or by equivalent ethics committee(s), and must have been conducted according to the principles expressed in the Declaration of Helsinki. Authors should be able to submit, upon request, a statement from the IRB or ethics committee indicating approval of the research. We reserve the right to reject work that we believe has not been conducted to a high ethical standard, even when formal approval has been obtained.

Subjects must have been properly instructed and have indicated that they consent to participate by signing the appropriate informed consent paperwork. Authors may be asked to submit a blank, sample copy of a subject consent form. If consent was verbal instead of written, or if consent could not be obtained, the authors must explain the reason in the manuscript, and the use of verbal consent or the lack of consent must have been approved by the IRB or ethics committee.

All efforts should be made to protect patient privacy and anonymity. Identifying information, including photos, should not be included in the manuscript unless the information is crucial and the individual has provided written consent by completing the  Consent Form for Publication in a PLOS Journal (PDF). More information about patient privacy, anonymity, and informed consent can be found in the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Privacy and Confidentiality guidelines.

Manuscripts should conform to the following reporting guidelines:

  • Studies of diagnostic accuracy: STARD
  • Observational studies: STROBE
  • Microarray experiments: MIAME
  • Other types of health-related research: Consult the EQUATOR web site for appropriate reporting guidelines

Methods sections of papers on research using human subjects or samples must include ethics statements that specify:

  • The name of the approving institutional review board or equivalent committee(s). If approval was not obtained, the authors must provide a detailed statement explaining why it was not needed
  • Whether informed consent was written or oral. If informed consent was oral, it must be stated in the manuscript:
    • Why written consent could not be obtained
    • That the Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved use of oral consent
    • How oral consent was documented

For studies involving humans categorized by race/ethnicity, age, disease/disabilities, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, or other socially constructed groupings, authors should:

  • Explicitly describe their methods of categorizing human populations
  • Define categories in as much detail as the study protocol allows
  • Justify their choices of definitions and categories, including for example whether any rules of human categorization were required by their funding agency
  • Explain whether (and if so, how) they controlled for confounding variables such as socioeconomic status, nutrition, environmental exposures, or similar factors in their analysis

In addition, outmoded terms and potentially stigmatizing labels should be changed to more current, acceptable terminology. Examples: “Caucasian” should be changed to “white” or “of [Western] European descent” (as appropriate); “cancer victims” should be changed to “patients with cancer.”

For papers that include identifying, or potentially identifying, information, authors must download the Consent Form for Publication in a PLOS Journal (PDF), which the individual, parent, or guardian must sign once they have read the paper and been informed about the terms of PLOS open-access license. The signed consent form should not be submitted with the manuscript, but authors should securely file it in the individual's case notes and the methods section of the manuscript should explicitly state that consent authorization for publication is on file, using wording like:

The individual in this manuscript has given written informed consent (as outlined in PLOS consent form) to publish these case details.

For more information about PLOS ONE policies regarding human subjects research, see the Publication Criteria and Editorial Policies.

Clinical trials

Clinical trials are subject to all policies regarding human researchPLOS ONE follows the World Health Organization's (WHO) definition of a clinical trial:

A clinical trial is any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes [...] Interventions include but are not restricted to drugs, cells and other biological products, surgical procedures, radiologic procedures, devices, behavioural treatments, process-of-care changes, preventive care, etc.

All clinical trials must be registered in one of the publicly-accessible registries approved by the WHO or ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors). Authors must provide the trial registration number. Prior disclosure of results on a clinical trial registry site will not affect consideration for publication. We reserve the right to inform authors' institutions or ethics committees, and to reject the manuscript, if we become aware of unregistered trials.

PLOS ONE supports prospective trial registration (i.e. before participant recruitment has begun) as recommended by the ICMJE's clinical trial registration policyWhere trials were not publicly registered before participant recruitment began, authors must:

  • Register all related clinical trials and confirm they have done so in the Methods section
  • Explain in the Methods the reason for failing to register before participant recruitment

Clinical trials must be reported according to the relevant reporting guidelines, i.e. CONSORT for randomized controlled trials, TREND for non-randomized trials, and other specialized guidelines as appropriate. The intervention should be described according to the requirements of the TIDieR checklist and guide. Submissions must also include the study protocol as supporting information, which will be published with the manuscript if accepted.

Authors of manuscripts describing the results of clinical trials must adhere to the CONSORT reporting guidelines appropriate to their trial design, available on the CONSORT Statement web site. Before the paper can enter peer review, authors must:

  • Provide the registry name and number in the methods section of the manuscript
  • Provide a copy of the trial protocol as approved by the ethics committee and a completed CONSORT checklist as supporting information (which will be published alongside the paper, if accepted). This should be named S1 CONSORT Checklist.
  • Include the CONSORT flow diagram as the manuscript's “Fig 1”

Any deviation from the trial protocol must be explained in the paper. Authors must explicitly discuss informed consent in their paper, and we reserve the right to ask for a copy of the patient consent form.

The methods section must include the name of the registry, the registry number, and the URL of your trial in the registry database for each location in which the trial is registered.

Animal research

We work in consultation with the PLOS ONE Animal Research Advisory Group to develop policies. Animal Research Advisory Group members may also be consulted on individual submissions.

All research involving vertebrates or cephalopods must have approval from the authors' Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) or equivalent ethics committee(s), and must have been conducted according to applicable national and international guidelines. Approval must be received prior to beginning research.

If we note differences between an IACUC-approved protocol and the methods reported in a submitted manuscript, we may report these discrepancies to the relevant institution or committee.

Methods sections of manuscripts reporting results of animal research must include required ethics statements that specify:

  • The full name of the relevant ethics committee that approved the work, and the associated permit number(s). Where ethical approval is not required, the manuscript should include a clear statement of this and the reason why.
  • Relevant details for efforts taken to ameliorate animal suffering
Example ethics statement


This study was carried out in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. The protocol was approved by the Committee on the Ethics of Animal Experiments of the University of Minnesota (Permit Number: 27-2956). All surgery was performed under sodium pentobarbital anesthesia, and all efforts were made to minimize suffering.

The organism(s) studied should always be stated in the abstract. Where research may be confused as pertaining to clinical research, the animal model should also be stated in the title.

Where unregulated animals are used or ethics approval is not required, authors should make this clear in submitted articles and explain why ethical approval was not required. Relevant regulations that grant exemptions should be cited in full. It is the authors' responsibility to understand and comply with all relevant regulations.

We reserve the right to reject work that the editors believe has not been conducted to a high ethical standard, even if authors have obtained formal approval or approval is not required under local regulations.

We encourage authors to follow the Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guidelines for all submissions describing laboratory-based animal research and to upload a completed ARRIVE Guidelines Checklist to be published as supporting information. Please note that inclusion of a completed ARRIVE Checklist may be a formal requirement for publication at a later date.

Non-human primates

Manuscripts describing research involving non-human primates must include details of animal welfare, including information about housing, feeding, and environmental enrichment, and steps taken to minimize suffering, including use of anesthesia and method of sacrifice if appropriate, in accordance with the recommendations of the Weatherall report, The use of non-human primates in research (PDF).

Humane endpoints

Manuscripts describing studies that use death as an endpoint will be subject to additional ethical considerations, and may be rejected if they lack appropriate justification for the study or consideration of humane endpoints.

Observational and field studies

Methods sections for submissions reporting on any type of field study must include ethics statements that specify:

  • Permits and approvals obtained for the work, including the full name of the authority that approved the study; if none were required, authors should explain why
  • Whether the land accessed is privately owned or protected
  • Whether any protected species were sampled
  • Full details of animal husbandry, experimentation, and care/welfare, where relevant

Paleontology and archaeology research

Manuscripts reporting paleontology and archaeology research must include descriptions of methods and specimens in sufficient detail to allow the work to be reproduced. Data sets supporting statistical and phylogenetic analyses should be provided, preferably in a format that allows easy re-use.

Specimen numbers and complete repository information, including museum name and geographic location, are required for publication. Locality information should be provided in the manuscript as legally allowable, or a statement should be included giving details of the availability of such information to qualified researchers.

If permits were required for any aspect of the work, details should be given of all permits that were obtained, including the full name of the issuing authority. This should be accompanied by the following statement:

All necessary permits were obtained for the described study, which complied with all relevant regulations.

If no permits were required, please include the following statement:

No permits were required for the described study, which complied with all relevant regulations.

Manuscripts describing paleontology and archaeology research are subject to the following policies:

  • Sharing of data and materials. Any specimen that is erected as a new species, described, or figured must be deposited in an accessible, permanent repository (i.e., public museum or similar institution). If study conclusions depend on specimens that do not fit these criteria, the article will be rejected under PLOS ONE's data availability criterion.
  • Ethics. PLOS ONE will not publish research on specimens that were obtained without necessary permission or were illegally exported

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses

A systematic review paper, as defined by The Cochrane Collaboration, is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses explicit, systematic methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. These reviews differ substantially from narrative-based reviews or synthesis articles. Statistical methods (meta-analysis) may or may not be used to analyze and summarize the results of the included studies.

Reports of systematic reviews and meta-analyses must include a completed PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) checklist and flow diagram to accompany the main text. Blank templates are available here:

Authors must also state in their “Methods” section whether a protocol exists for their systematic review, and if so, provide a copy of the protocol as supporting information and provide the registry number in the abstract.

If your article is a systematic review or a meta-analysis you should:

  • State this in your cover letter
  • Select “Research Article” as your article type when submitting
  • Include the PRISMA flow diagram as Fig 1 (required where applicable)
  • Include the PRISMA checklist as supporting information

Meta-analysis of genetic association studies

Manuscripts reporting a meta-analysis of genetic association studies must report results of value to the field and should be reported according to the guidelines presented in Systematic Reviews of Genetic Association Studies by Sagoo et al.

On submission, authors will be asked to justify the rationale for the meta-analysis and how it contributes to the base of scientific knowledge in the light of previously published results. Authors will also be asked to complete a checklist (DOCX) outlining information about the justification for the study and the methodology employed. Meta-analyses that replicate published studies will be rejected if the authors do not provide adequate justification.

Personal data from third-party sources

For all studies using personal data from internet-based and other third-party sources (e.g., social media, blogs, other internet sources, mobile phone companies), data must be collected and used according to company/website Terms and Conditions, with appropriate permissions. All data sources must be acknowledged clearly in the Materials and Methods section.

In the Ethics Statement, authors should declare any potential risks to individuals or individual privacy, or affirm that in their assessment, the study posed no such risks. In addition, the following Ethics and Data Protection requirements must be met.

For interventional studies, which impact participants’ experiences or data, the study design must have been prospectively approved by an Ethics Committee, and informed consent is required. The Ethics Committee may waive the requirement for approval and/or consent.

For observational studies in which personal experiences and accounts are not manipulated, consultation with an Ethics or Data Protection Committee is recommended. Additional requirements apply in the following circumstances:

  • If information used could threaten personal privacy or damage the reputation of individuals whose data are used, an Ethics Committee should be consulted and informed consent obtained or specifically addressed.
  • If authors accessed any personal identifying information, an Ethics or Data Protection Committee should oversee data anonymization. If data were anonymized and/or aggregated before access and analysis, informed consent is generally not required.
Note that Terms of Use contracts do not qualify as informed consent, even if they address the use of personal data for research. 

Cell lines

Authors reporting research using cell lines should state when and where they obtained the cells, giving the date and the name of the researcher, cell line repository, or commercial source (company) who provided the cells, as appropriate.

Authors must also include the following information for each cell line:

For de novo (new) cell lines, including those given to the researchers a gift, authors must follow our policies for human subjects research or animal research, as appropriate. The ethics statement must include:

  • Details of institutional review board or ethics committee approval; AND
  • For human cells, confirmation of written informed consent from the donor, guardian, or next of kin

For established cell lines, the Methods section should include:

  • A reference to the published article that first described the cell line; AND/OR
  • The cell line repository or company the cell line was obtained from, the catalogue number, and whether the cell line was obtained directly from the repository/company or from another laboratory

Authors should check established cell lines using the ICLAC Database of Cross-contaminated or Misidentified Cell Lines to confirm they are not misidentified or contaminated. Cell line authentication is recommended – e.g., by karyotyping, isozyme analysis, or short tandem repeats (STR) analysis – and may be required during peer review or after publication.

Blots and gels

Manuscripts reporting results from blots (including Western blots) and electrophoretic gels should follow these guidelines:

  • In accordance with our policy on image manipulation, the image should not be adjusted in any way that could affect the scientific information displayed, e.g. by modifying the background or contrast. 
  • All blots and gels that support results reported in the manuscript should be provided.
  • Original uncropped and unadjusted blots and gels, including molecular size markers, should be provided in either the figures or the supplementary files.
  • Lanes should not be overcropped around the bands; the image should show most or all of the blot or gel. Any non-specific bands should be shown and an explanation of their nature should be given.
  • The image should include all relevant controls, and controls should be run on the same blot or gel as the samples.
  • A figure panel should not include composite images of bands originating from different blots or gels. If the figure shows non-adjacent bands from the same blot or gel, this should be clearly denoted by vertical black lines and the figure legend should provide details of how the figure was made.

Antibodies

Manuscripts reporting experiments using antibodies should include the following information:

  • The name of each antibody, a description of whether it is monoclonal or polyclonal, and the host species.
  • The commercial supplier or source laboratory.
  • The catalogue or clone number and, if known, the batch number.
  • The antigen(s) used to raise the antibody.
  • For established antibodies, a stable public identifier from the Antibody Registry.

The manuscript should also report the following experimental details:

  • The final antibody concentration or dilution.
  • A reference to the validation study if the antibody was previously validated. If not, provide details of how the authors validated the antibody for the applications and species used. 
We encourage authors to consider adding information on new validations to a publicly available database such as Antibodypedia or CiteAb.

Methods, software, databases, and tools

PLOS ONE will consider submissions that present new methods, software, or databases as the primary focus of the manuscript if they meet the following criteria:


Utility
The tool must be of use to the community and must present a proven advantage over existing alternatives, where applicable. Recapitulation of existing methods, software, or databases is not useful and will not be considered for publication. Combining data and/or functionalities from other sources may be acceptable, but simpler instances (i.e. presenting a subset of an already existing database) may not be considered. For software, databases, and online tools, the long-term utility should also be discussed, as relevant. This discussion may include maintenance, the potential for future growth, and the stability of the hosting, as applicable.

Validation
Submissions presenting methods, software, databases, or tools must demonstrate that the new tool achieves its intended purpose. If similar options already exist, the submitted manuscript must demonstrate that the new tool is an improvement over existing options in some way. This requirement may be met by including a proof-of-principle experiment or analysis; if this is not possible, a discussion of the possible applications and some preliminary analysis may be sufficient.

Availability
Software should be open source, deposited in an appropriate archive, and conform to the Open Source Definition. Databases must be open-access and hosted somewhere publicly accessible, and any software used to generate a database should also be open source. If relevant, databases should be open for appropriate deposition of additional data. Dependency on commercial software such as Mathematica and MATLAB does not preclude a paper from consideration, although complete open source solutions are preferred. Authors should provide a direct link to the deposited software or the database hosting site from within the paper.

Software submissions

Manuscripts describing software should provide full details of the algorithms designed. Describe any dependencies on commercial products or operating system. Include details of the supplied test data and explain how to install and run the software. A brief description of enhancements made in the major releases of the software may also be given. Authors should provide a direct link to the deposited software from within the paper.

Database submissions

For descriptions of databases, provide details about how the data were curated, as well as plans for long-term database maintenance, growth, and stability. Authors should provide a direct link to the database hosting site from within the paper.

New taxon names

Zoological names

When publishing papers that describe a new zoological taxon name, PLOS aims to comply with the requirements of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). Effective 1 January 2012, the ICZN considers an online-only publication to be legitimate if it meets the criteria of archiving and is registered in ZooBank, the ICZN's official registry.

For proper registration of a new zoological taxon, we require two specific statements to be included in your manuscript.

In the Results section, the globally unique identifier (GUID), currently in the form of a Life Science Identifier (LSID), should be listed under the new species name, for example:

Anochetus boltoni Fisher sp. nov. urn:lsid:zoobank.org:act:B6C072CF-1CA6-40C7-8396-534E91EF7FBB

You will need to contact Zoobank to obtain a GUID (LSID). Please do this as early as possible to avoid delay of publication upon acceptance of your manuscript. It is your responsibility to provide us with this information so we can include it in the final published paper.

Please also insert the following text into the Methods section, in a sub-section to be called “Nomenclatural Acts”:

The electronic edition of this article conforms to the requirements of the amended International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, and hence the new names contained herein are available under that Code from the electronic edition of this article. This published work and the nomenclatural acts it contains have been registered in ZooBank, the online registration system for the ICZN. The ZooBank LSIDs (Life Science Identifiers) can be resolved and the associated information viewed through any standard web browser by appending the LSID to the prefix “http://zoobank.org/”. The LSID for this publication is: urn:lsid:zoobank.org:pub: XXXXXXX. The electronic edition of this work was published in a journal with an ISSN, and has been archived and is available from the following digital repositories: PubMed Central, LOCKSS [author to insert any additional repositories].

All PLOS articles are deposited in PubMed Central and LOCKSS. If your institute, or those of your co-authors, has its own repository, we recommend that you also deposit the published online article there and include the name in your article.

Botanical names

When publishing papers that describe a new botanical taxon, PLOS aims to comply with the requirements of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). The following guidelines for publication in an online-only journal have been agreed such that any scientific botanical name published by us is considered effectively published under the rules of the Code. Please note that these guidelines differ from those for zoological nomenclature, and apply only to seed plants, ferns, and lycophytes.

Effective January 2012, the description or diagnosis of a new taxon can be in either Latin or English. This does not affect the requirements for scientific names, which are still to be Latin.

Also effective January 2012, the electronic PDF represents a published work according to the ICN for algae, fungi, and plants. Therefore the new names contained in the electronic publication of PLOS article are effectively published under that Code from the electronic edition alone, so there is no longer any need to provide printed copies.

Additional information describing recent changes to the Code can be found here.

For proper registration of the new taxon, we require two specific statements to be included in your manuscript.

In the Results section, the globally unique identifier (GUID), currently in the form of a Life Science Identifier (LSID), should be listed under the new species name, for example:

Solanum aspersum S.Knapp, sp. nov. [urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:77103633-1] Type: Colombia. Putumayo: vertiente oriental de la Cordillera, entre Sachamates y San Francisco de Sibundoy, 1600-1750 m, 30 Dec 1940, J. Cuatrecasas 11471 (holotype, COL; isotypes, F [F-1335119], US [US-1799731]).

Journal staff will contact IPNI to obtain the GUID (LSID) after your manuscript is accepted for publication, and this information will then be added to the manuscript during the production phase

In the Methods section, include a sub-section called “Nomenclature” using the following wording:

The electronic version of this article in Portable Document Format (PDF) in a work with an ISSN or ISBN will represent a published work according to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, and hence the new names contained in the electronic publication of a PLOS article are effectively published under that Code from the electronic edition alone, so there is no longer any need to provide printed copies.

In addition, new names contained in this work have been submitted to IPNI, from where they will be made available to the Global Names Index. The IPNI LSIDs can be resolved and the associated information viewed through any standard web browser by appending the LSID contained in this publication to the prefix http://ipni.org/. The online version of this work is archived and available from the following digital repositories: [INSERT NAMES OF DIGITAL REPOSITORIES WHERE ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT WILL BE SUBMITTED (PubMed Central, LOCKSS etc)].

All PLOS articles are deposited in PubMed Central and LOCKSS. If your institute, or those of your co-authors, has its own repository, we recommend that you also deposit the published online article there and include the name in your article.

Fungal names

When publishing papers that describe a new botanical taxon, PLOS aims to comply with the requirements of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). The following guidelines for publication in an online-only journal have been agreed such that any scientific botanical name published by us is considered effectively published under the rules of the Code. Please note that these guidelines differ from those for zoological nomenclature.

Effective January 2012, the description or diagnosis of a new taxon can be in either Latin or English. This does not affect the requirements for scientific names, which are still to be Latin.

Also effective January 2012, the electronic PDF represents a published work according to the ICN for algae, fungi, and plants. Therefore the new names contained in the electronic publication of PLOS article are effectively published under that Code from the electronic edition alone, so there is no longer any need to provide printed copies.

Additional information describing recent changes to the Code can be found here.

For proper registration of the new taxon, we require two specific statements to be included in your manuscript.

In the Results section, the globally unique identifier (GUID), currently in the form of a Life Science Identifier (LSID), should be listed under the new species name, for example:

Hymenogaster huthii. Stielow et al. 2010, sp. nov. [urn:lsid:indexfungorum.org:names:518624]

You will need to contact either Mycobank or Index Fungorum to obtain the GUID (LSID). Please do this as early as possible to avoid delay of publication upon acceptance of your manuscript. It is your responsibility to provide us with this information so we can include it in the final published paper. Effective January 2013, all papers describing new fungal species must reference the identifier issued by a recognized repository in the protologue in order to be considered effectively published.

In the Methods section, include a sub-section called “Nomenclature” using the following wording (this example is for taxon names submitted to MycoBank; please substitute appropriately if you have submitted to Index Fungorum):

The electronic version of this article in Portable Document Format (PDF) in a work with an ISSN or ISBN will represent a published work according to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, and hence the new names contained in the electronic publication of a PLOS article are effectively published under that Code from the electronic edition alone, so there is no longer any need to provide printed copies.

In addition, new names contained in this work have been submitted to MycoBank from where they will be made available to the Global Names Index. The unique MycoBank number can be resolved and the associated information viewed through any standard web browser by appending the MycoBank number contained in this publication to the prefix http://www.mycobank.org/MB/. The online version of this work is archived and available from the following digital repositories: [INSERT NAMES OF DIGITAL REPOSITORIES WHERE ACCEPTED MANUSCRIPT WILL BE SUBMITTED (PubMed Central, LOCKSS etc)].

All PLOS articles are deposited in PubMed Central and LOCKSS. If your institute, or those of your co-authors, has its own repository, we recommend that you also deposit the published online article there and include the name in your article.

Qualitative research

Qualitative research studies use non-quantitative methods to address a defined research question that may not be accessible by quantitative methods, such as people's interpretations, experiences, and perspectives. The analysis methods are explicit, systematic, and reproducible, but the results do not involve numerical values or use statistics. Examples of qualitative data sources include, but are not limited to, interviews, text documents, audio/video recordings, and free-form answers to questionnaires and surveys.

Qualitative research studies should be reported in accordance to the Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ) checklist. Further reporting guidelines can be found in the Equator Network's Guidelines for reporting qualitative research.