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Preprint citations

Status: Published 
Version: 1
License: this recommendation document is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0 UK
ISBN: 978-1-950980-07-9


JATS4R sub-group*. Members (listed in alphabetical order):

Brooke Begin, Silverchair; Lauren Fischer, The JAMA Network, Michael Jensen, Westchester Publishing Services, August Muench, American Astronomical Society, Stephen Laverick (Chair), Green Fifteen Publishing Consultancy, Wei Zhao, OCUL/Scholars Portal

*Additional Review was provided by the ASAPBio preprint working group members:

Hannah Hope, Wellcome, Richard Sever, bioRxiv, Michael Markie, F1000, Brooks Hanson, AGU, Jessica Polka, ASAPbio, Melissa Harrison, eLife, Emily Marchant, CUP


In order to differentiate cited preprint articles from journal articles we recommend that a value of “preprint” is used to populate the @publication-type attribute when citing the article as it was published on the preprint server. 

Preprints have not been certified by journal-organized peer review. Most preprint servers apply some screening before a preprint is posted. Also, some preprints receive some form of review (e.g., Review Commons) and may have improved as a result, but the important difference is that the preprint version precedes journal acceptance. 

Note, JATS4R does not have a position on publishing practices; whether a journal updates preprint citations to journal citations should the article be subsequently published in a journal is up to the individual journal policy.

This recommendation applies to JATS 1.0 and forward.


<ref>, <element-citation>,  <mixed-citation>, <person-group>, <name>, <string-name>, <collab>, <surname>, <given-names>, <article-title>, <source>, <pub-id>, <ext-link>, <year>, <date>, <date-in-citation>, <day>, <month>, @publication-type, @person-group-type, @pub-id-type, @assigning-authority, @iso-8601-date, @date-type, @content-type


  1. @publication-type=”preprint”. Use “preprint” as the value of @publication-type on <mixed-citation> or <element-citation> to indicate that the citation is a preprint.  
  1. @person-group-type on <person-group> is required.

    [[Validator tool result: if @person-group-type not present and @publication-type=”preprint” ERROR]] 
  1. <name> / <string-name> / <collab>. As per existing JATS4R recommendations on general citations, the <name> or <string-name> element should be used for an individual named author. Use <name> when the parent element is <element-citation>, and <string-name> when the parent is <mixed-citation>. When groups of authors (consortia) are cited under a group name or an institution is cited as the contributor, the <collab> element should be used.
  1. <article-title>. This is used for the title of the preprint article.

    [[Validator tool result:  if <article-title> not present and @publication-type=”preprint” ERROR]] 
  1. <source>. This is used for the preprint platform name.

    [[Validator tool result: if <source> not present and @publication-type=”preprint” ERROR]] 
  1. <pub-id>. Preprint articles should have a persistent identifier (PID). If there is no PID then the URL of the preprint article (see <ext-link> below) should be present

    [[Validator tool result: if no <pub-id> or <ext-link> present ERROR]] 
  1. @pub-id-type on <pub-id>. A typical id type will be “doi” or, for example “arxiv”.
  1. @assigning-authority on <pub-id>. It is not necessary to add this information but if the publisher chooses to they must ensure the assigning-authority is correct. For example, not all DOIs are minted by Crossref, DataCite is another popular DOI provider.
  1. <ext-link>. This should be used to capture the URL of the cited preprint ONLY if no PID is provided. The @xmlns:xlink attribute should be used to capture the full URL without the use of entities. As per the JATS Tag Library, the @ext-link-type attribute should indicate the type of resource to which the link points. A list of commonly used values can be found in the PMC Tagging Guidelines.
  1. <year> is sufficient detail when providing a date for citations. It’s recommended that as much detail as possible is recorded in <date>

    [[Validator tool result: if year is non-integer and there is no @iso-8601-date ERROR]]
  1. @iso-8601-date attribute on <date> is only required if the element content of <year> is non-integer. Otherwise it is recommended.

    [[Validator tool result: if the year extracted from @iso-8601-date attribute does not match the numeric digits in the <year> element ERROR]]
  1. <date date-type=”published”>. If you have more details than just the year, this should be used for full publication date of the preprint instead of <year>

    [[Validator tool result: if both year and date present ERROR]]
    [[Validator tool result: if both year and date absent ERROR]]
  1. <date-in-citation content-type=”access-date”>. It’s recommended that for preprint citations an access date be recorded with <year>, <month>, and <day>. If an access time is available, it can be included in the @iso-8601-date.

    [[Validator tool result: if date-in-citation[@content-type eq ‘access-date’] is absent WARNING]]


Preprint citation with DOI

<ref id="bib3">
       <element-citation publication-type="preprint">
           <person-group person-group-type="author">
           <year iso-8601-date="2016">2016</year>
           <article-title>A prospective randomized trial examining health care utilization in individuals using multiple smartphone-enabled biosensors</article-title>
   <pub-id pub-id-type="doi">10.1101/029983</pub-id>

Preprint citation with DOI and full date

<ref id="bib3">
       <element-citation publication-type="preprint">
           <person-group person-group-type="author">
           <date date-type="published" iso-8601-date="2020-03-02">
           <article-title>Low Serum Cholesterol Level Among Patients with COVID-19 Infection in Wenzhou, China</article-title>
           <pub-id pub-id-type="doi">10.2139/ssrn.3544826</pub-id>

Citation to a version of a preprint where the versions have separate DOIs

<ref id="bib3">
       <element-citation publication-type="preprint">
           <person-group person-group-type="author">
           <year iso-8601-date="2019">2019</year>
           <article-title>Who Will Defend Democracy? Evaluating Tradeoffs in Candidate Support Among Partisan Donors and Voters</article-title>
           <source>APSA Preprints</source>
           <pub-id pub-id-type="doi">10.33774/apsa-2019-wjva3-v3</pub-id>

Citation to a new version of a preprint where the versions do not have separate DOIs

<ref id="bib3">
       <element-citation publication-type="preprint">
           <person-group person-group-type="author">
<year iso-8601-date="2019">2019</year>
                     <article-title>Comparison of solitary and collective foraging strategies of Caenorhabditis elegans in patchy food distributions</article-title>
           <pub-id pub-id-type="doi">10.1101/744649</pub-id>
<date-in-citation content-type=”access-date” iso-8601-date="2020-02-03">February 3, 2020</date-in-citation>

Citation to a preprint that does not have a DOI, but a PID

<ref id="bib3">
    <element-citation publication-type="preprint">
        <person-group person-group-type="author">
            <name><surname>von Molnár </surname><given-names>S</given-names></name>
        <year iso-8601-date="2001">2001</year>
        <article-title>Spin selectivity through chiral polyalanine monolayers on semiconductors</article-title>
        <pub-id pub-id-type="arxiv">2001.00097</pub-id>

Preprint that does not have a PID

<ref id="bib3">
    <element-citation publication-type="preprint">
        <person-group person-group-type="author">
        <year iso-8601-date="2017">2017</year>
        <article-title>A philosophy for Opening Biotechnology Collaboration for Therapeutics</article-title>
        <ext-link ext-link-type="uri" xlink:href="https://https://therapoid.net/en/preprint/manuscript-21/">https://therapoid.net/en/preprint/manuscript-21/</ext-link>

Preprint with a full date using <mixed-citation>

<ref id="cit0040">
    <mixed-citation publication-type="preprint">
        <person-group person-group-type="author">
                <surname>Gazal</surname>, <given-names>S.</given-names>
                <surname>Marquez-Luna</surname>, <given-names>C.</given-names>
                <surname>Finucane</surname>, <given-names>H. K.</given-names>
            </string-name>, and 
                <surname>Price</surname>, <given-names>A. L.</given-names>
        (<date date-type="published" iso-8601-date="2018-08-16">
        <article-title>Reconciling S-LDSC and LDAK models and functional enrichment estimates</article-title>.
        <pub-id pub-id-type="doi">10.1101/256412</pub-id>.

Mixed-citation example without DOI

<ref id="bib1">
    <mixed-citation publication-type="preprint">
        <person-group person-group-type="author">
                <surname>Jana</surname>, <given-names>S.</given-names>
            </string-name>, and
                <surname>Mandal</surname>, <given-names>S.</given-names>
        <article-title>A comparative study of endoscopic and conventional septoplasty</article-title>. 
        <ext-link ext-link-type="uri" xlink:href="https://therapoid.net/en/preprint/manuscript-27/">https://therapoid.net/en/preprint/manuscript-27/</ext-link>


Working: September 27, 2017 – Jan 3, 2020
JATS4R Steering Committee review: Jan 3 – Feb 2, 2020
Additional Review*: Feb 2 – Feb 12, 2020 
JATS4R Steering Committee review: Feb 13 – March 25, 2020
Public review: April 1 – April 30, 2020
JATS4R Steering Committee review: May 6 – May 13, 2020
NISO: June 9 – June 12, 2020
Published: 17 June 2020

*ASAPBio preprint working group members (Hannah Hope, Wellcome; Richard Sever, bioRxiv; Michael Markie, F1000; Brooks Hanson, AGU; Jessica Polka, ASAPbio; Melissa Harrison, eLife; Emily Marchant, CUP)

Updated on October 18, 2023

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