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  • Bibliography management with bibtex
  • 1 Advisory note
  • 2 Introduction
  • 3.1 A note on compilation times
  • 4.1 Some notes on using \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) and .bib files
  • 5.1 Multiple authors in \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\)
  • 5.2 Multiple-word last names
  • 5.3 I tried to use % to comment out some lines or entries in my .bib file, but I got lots of error messages instead?
  • 6.1 Edit the .bib file as plain text
  • 6.2 Help from GUI-based .bib editors
  • 6.3 Export from reference library services
  • 6.4 I’ve already got a reference list in a Microsoft Word/HTML/PDF file; can I somehow reuse the data without re-typing everything?
  • 7.1 Further reading

Advisory note

If you are starting from scratch we recommend using biblatex because that package provides localization in several languages, it’s actively developed and makes bibliography management easier and more flexible.


Many tutorials have been written about what \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) is and how to use it . However, based on our experience of providing support to Overleaf’s users, it’s still one of the topics that many newcomers to \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) find complicated—especially when things don’t go quite right; for example: citations aren’t appearing; problems with authors’ names; not sorted to a required order; URLs not displayed in the references list, and so forth.

In this article we’ll pull together all the threads relating to citations, references and bibliographies, as well as how Overleaf and related tools can help users manage these.

We’ll start with a quick recap of how \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) and bibliography database ( .bib ) files work and look at some ways to prepare .bib files. This is, of course, running the risk of repeating some of the material contained in many online tutorials, but future articles will expand our coverage to include bibliography styles and biblatex —the alternative package and bibliography processor.

Bibliography: just a list of \bibitems

Let’s first take a quick look “under the hood” to see what a \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) reference list is comprised of—please don’t start coding your reference list like this because later in this article we’ll look at other, more convenient, ways to do this.

A reference list really just a thebibliography list of \bibitems :

By default, this thebibliography environment is a numbered list with labels [1] , [2] and so forth. If the document class used is article , \begin{thebibliography} automatically inserts a numberless section heading with \refname (default value: References ). If the document class is book or report, then a numberless chapter heading with \bibname (default value: Bibliography ) is inserted instead. Each \bibitem takes a cite key as its parameter, which you can use with \cite commands, followed by information about the reference entry itself. So if you now write

together with the thebibliography block from before, this is what gets rendered into your PDF when you run a \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) processor (i.e. any of latex , pdflatex , xelatex or lualatex ) on your source file:

Citing entries from a thebibliography list

Figure 1: Citing entries from a thebibliography list.

Notice how each \bibitem is automatically numbered, and how \cite then inserts the corresponding numerical label.

\begin{thebibliography} takes a numerical argument: the widest label expected in the list. In this example we only have two entries, so 9 is enough. If you have more than ten entries, though, you may notice that the numerical labels in the list start to get misaligned:

thebibliography with a label that’s too short

Figure 2: thebibliography with a label that’s too short.

We’ll have to make it \begin{thebibliography}{99} instead, so that the longest label is wide enough to accommodate the longer labels, like this:

thebibliography with a longer label width

Figure 3: thebibliography with a longer label width.

If you compile this example code snippet on a local computer you may notice that after the first time you run pdflatex (or another \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) processor), the reference list appears in the PDF as expected, but the \cite commands just show up as question marks [?] .

This is because after the first \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) run the cite keys from each \bibitem ( texbook , lamport94 ) are written to the .aux file and are not yet available for reading by the \cite commands. Only on the second run of pdflatex are the \cite commands able to look up each cite key from the .aux file and insert the corresponding labels ( [1] , [2] ) into the output.

On Overleaf, though, you don’t have to worry about re-running pdflatex yourself. This is because Overleaf uses the latexmk build tool , which automatically re-runs pdflatex (and some other processors) for the requisite number of times needed to resolve \cite outputs. This also accounts for other cross-referencing commands, such as \ref and \tableofcontents .

A note on compilation times

Processing \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) reference lists or other forms of cross-referencing, such as indexes, requires multiple runs of software—including the \(\mathrm{\TeX}\) engine (e.g., pdflatex ) and associated programs such as \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\), makeindex , etc. As mentioned above, Overleaf handles all of these mulitple runs automatically, so you don’t have to worry about them. As a consequence, when the preview on Overleaf is refreshing for documents with bibliographies (or other cross-referencing), or for documents with large image files (as discussed separately here ), these essential compilation steps may sometimes make the preview refresh appear to take longer than on your own machine. We do, of course, aim to keep it as short as possible! If you feel your document is taking longer to compile than you’d expect, here are some further tips that may help.

Enter \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\)

There are, of course, some inconveniences with manually preparing the thebibliography list:

  • It’s up to you to accurately format each \bibitem based on the reference style you’re asked to use—which bits should be in bold or italic? Should the year come immediately after the authors, or at the end of the entry? Given names first, or last names first?
  • If you’re writing for a reference style which requires the reference list to be sorted by the last names of first authors, you’ll need to sort the \bibitem s yourself.
  • For different manuscripts or documents that use different reference styles you’ll need to rewrite the \bibitem for each reference.

This is where \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) and bibliography database files ( .bib files) are extremely useful, and this is the recommended approach to manage citations and references in most journals and theses. The biblatex approach, which is slightly different and gaining popularity, also requires a .bib file but we’ll talk about biblatex in a future post.

Instead of formatting cited reference entries in a thebibliography list, we maintain a bibliography database file (let’s name it refs.bib for our example) which contains format-independent information about our references. So our refs.bib file may look like this:

You can find more information about other \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) reference entry types and fields here —there’s a huge table showing which fields are supported for which entry types. We’ll talk more about how to prepare .bib files in a later section.

Now we can use \cite with the cite keys as before, but now we replace thebibliography with a \bibliographystyle{...} to choose the reference style, as well as \bibliography{...} to point \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) at the .bib file where the cited references should be looked-up.

This is processed with the following sequence of commands, assuming our \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) document is in a file named main.tex (and that we are using pdflatex ):

  • pdflatex main
  • bibtex main

and we get the following output:

BibTeX output with plain bibliography style

Figure 4: \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) output using the plain bibliography style.

Whoah! What’s going on here and why are all those (repeated) processes required? Well, here’s what happens.

During the first pdflatex run, all pdflatex sees is a \bibliographystyle{...} and a \bibliography{...} from main.tex . It doesn’t know what all the \cite{...} commands are about! Consequently, within the output PDF, all the \cite{...} commands are simply rendered as [?], and no reference list appears, for now. But pdflatex writes information about the bibliography style and .bib file, as well as all occurrences of \cite{...} , to the file main.aux .

It’s actually main.aux that \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) is interested in! It notes the .bib file indicated by \bibliography{...} , then looks up all the entries with keys that match the \cite{...} commands used in the .tex file. \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) then uses the style specified with \bibliographystyle{...} to format the cited entries, and writes a formatted thebibliography list into the file main.bbl . The production of the .bbl file is all that’s achieved in this step; no changes are made to the output PDF.

When pdflatex is run again, it now sees that a main.bbl file is available! So it inserts the contents of main.bbl i.e. the \begin{thebibliography}....\end{thebibliography} into the \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) source, where \bibliography{...} is. After this step, the reference list appears in the output PDF formatted according to the chosen \bibliographystyle{...} , but the in-text citations are still [?].

pdflatex is run again, and this time the \cite{...} commands are replaced with the corresponding numerical labels in the output PDF!

As before, the latexmk build tool takes care of triggering and re-running pdflatex and bibtex as necessary, so you don’t have to worry about this bit.

Some notes on using \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) and .bib files

A few further things to note about using \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) and .bib files :

  • You may have noticed that although refs.bib contained five \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) reference entries, only two are included in the reference list in the output PDF. This is an important point about \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\): the .bib file’s role is to store bibliographic records, and only entries that have been cited (via \cite{...} ) in the .tex files will appear in the reference list. This is similar to how only cited items from an EndNote database will be displayed in the reference list in a Microsoft Word document. If you do want to include all entries—to be displayed but without actually citing all of them—you can write \nocite{*} . This also means you can reuse the same .bib file for all your \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) projects: entries that are not cited in a particular manuscript or report will be excluded from the reference list in that document.
  • \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) requires one \bibliographystyle{...} and one \bibliography{...} to function correctly—in future posts we’ll see how to create multiple bibliographies in the same document. If you keep getting “undefined citation” warnings, check that you have indeed included those two commands, and that the names are spelled correctly. File extensions are not usually required, but bear in mind that file names are case sensitive on some operating systems—including on Overleaf! Therefore, if you typed \bibliographystyle{IEEetran} (note the typo: “e”) instead of \bibliographystyle{IEEEtran} , or wrote \bibliography{refs} when the actual file name is Refs.bib , you’ll get the dreaded [?] as citations.
  • In the same vein, treat your cite keys as case-sensitive, always. Use the exact same case or spelling in your \cite{...} as in your .bib file.
  • The order of references in the .bib file does not have any effect on how the reference list is ordered in the output PDF: the sorting order of the reference list is determined by the \bibliographystyle{...} . For example, some readers might have noticed that, within my earlier example, the first citation in the text latex2e is numbered [2], while the second citation in the text ( texbook ) is numbered [1]! Have \(\mathrm{\LaTeX}\) and \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) lost the plot? Not at all: this is actually because the plain style sorts the reference list by alphabetical order of the first author’s last name . If you prefer a scheme where the numerical citation labels are numbered sequentially throughout the text, you’ll have to choose a bibliography style which implements this. For example, if instead we had used \bibliographystyle{IEEEtran} for that example, we’d get the following output. Notice also how the formatting of each cited item in the reference list has automatically updated to suit the IEEE’s style:

IEEEtran bibliography style output

Figure 5: IEEEtran bibliography style output.

We’ll talk more about different bibliography styles, including author–year citation schemes, in a future article. For now, let’s turn our attention to .bib file contents, and how we can make the task of preparing .bib files a bit easier.

Taking another look at .bib files

As you may have noticed earlier, a .bib file contains \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) bibliography entries that start with an entry type prefixed with an @ . Each entry has a some key–value \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) fields , placed within a pair of braces ( {...} ). The cite key is the first piece of information given within these braces, and every field in the entry must be separated by a comma :

As a general rule, every bibliography entry should have an author , year and title field, no matter what the type is. There are about a dozen entry types although some bibliography styles may recognise/define more; however, it is likely that you will most frequently use the following entry types:

  • @article for journal articles (see example above).
  • @inproceedings for conference proceeding articles:
  • @book for books (see examples above).
  • @phdthesis , @masterthesis for dissertations and theses:
  • @inbook is for a book chapter where the entire book was written by the same author(s): the chapter of interest is identified by a chapter number:
  • @incollection is for a contributed chapter in a book, so would have its own author and title . The actual title of the entire book is given in the booktitle field; it is likely that an editor field will also be present:
  • you will often find it useful to add \usepackage{url} or \usepackage{hyperref} in your .tex files’ preamble (for more robust handling of URLs);
  • not all bibliography styles support the url field: plain doesn’t, but IEEEtran does. All styles support note . More on this in a future post;
  • you should be mindful that even web pages and @misc entries should have an author , a year and a title field:

Multiple authors in \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\)

In a .bib file, commas are only used to separate the last name from the first name of an author—if the last name is written first. Individual author names are separated by and . So these are correct:

But none of the following will work correctly —you’ll get weird output, or even error messages from \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\)! So take extra care if you are copying author names from a paper or from a web page.

Multiple-word last names

If an author’s last name is made up of multiple words separated by spaces, or if it’s actually an organisation, place an extra pair of braces around the last name so that \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) will recognise the grouped words as the last name:

Alternatively, you can use the Lastname, Firstname format; some users find that clearer and more readable:

Remember: Whether the first or last name appears first in the output (“John Doe” vs “Doe, John”), or whether the first name is automatically abbreviated “J. Doe” or “Doe, J.” vs “John Doe” “J. Doe”), all such details are controlled by the \bibliographystyle .

I tried to use % to comment out some lines or entries in my .bib file, but I got lots of error messages instead?

% is actually not a comment character in .bib files! So, inserting a % in .bib files not only fails to comment out the line, it also causes some \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) errors. To get \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) to ignore a particular field we just need to rename the field to something that \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) doesn’t recognise. For example, if you want to keep a date field around but prefer that it’s ignored (perhaps because you want \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) to use the year field instead) write Tdate = {...} or the more human-readable IGNOREdate = {...} .

To get \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) to ignore an entire entry you can remove the @ before the entry type. A valid reference entry always starts with a @ followed by the entry type; without the @ character \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) skips the lines until it encounters another @ .

How/where do I actually get those .bib files?

Edit the .bib file as plain text.

Because .bib files are plain text you can certainly write them by hand—once you’re familiar with \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\)’s required syntax. Just make sure that you save it with a .bib extension, and that your editor doesn’t surreptitiously add a .txt or some other suffix. On Overleaf you can click on the “Files…” link at the top of the file list panel, and then on “Add blank file” to create a fresh .bib file to work on.

Pro tip: Did you know that Google Scholar search results can be exported to a \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) entry? Click on the “Cite” link below each search result, and then on the “\(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\)” option search. You can then copy the \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) entry generated. Here’s a video that demonstrates the process. Note that you should always double-check the fields presented in the entry, as the automatically populated information isn’t always comprehensive or accurate!

Help from GUI-based .bib editors

Many users prefer to use a dedicated \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) bibliography database editor/manager, such as JabRef or BibDesk to maintain, edit and add entries to their .bib files. Using a GUI can indeed help reduce syntax and spelling errors whilst creating bibliography entries in a \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) file. If you prefer, you can prepare your .bib file on your own machine using JabRef, BibDesk or another utility, and then upload it to your Overleaf.

Pro tip: If you’d like to use the same .bib for multiple Overleaf projects, have a look at this help article to set up a “master project”, or this one for sharing files from Google Drive (the instructions apply to other cloud-based storage solutions, such as Dropbox).

Export from reference library services

If you click on the Upload files button above the file list panel, you'll notice some options: Import from Mendeley, and Import from Zotero. If you’re already using one of those reference library management services, Overleaf can now hook into the Web exporter APIs provided by those services to import the .bib file (generated from your library) into your Overleaf project. For more information, see the Overleaf article How to link your Overleaf account to Mendeley and Zotero .

For other reference library services that don’t have a public API, or are not yet directly integrated with Overleaf, such as EndNote or Paperpile , look for an “export to .bib ” option in the application or service. Once you have a .bib file, you can then add it to your Overleaf project.

I’ve already got a reference list in a Microsoft Word/HTML/PDF file; can I somehow reuse the data without re-typing everything?

It used to be that you would have to hand-code each line into a \bibitem or an @article{...} entry (or another entry type) in a .bib file. As you can imagine, it’s not exactly a task that many people look forward to. Fortunately, these days some tools are available to help. They typically take a plain text file, e.g.

and attempt to parse the lines, converting it into a structured bibliography as a \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) .bib file. For example, have a look at text2bib or Edifix . Be sure to go through the options of these tools carefully, so that they work well with your existing unstructured bibliography in plain text.

Summary and further reading

We’ve had a quick look at how \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\) processes a .bib bibliography database file to resolve \cite commands and produce a formatted reference list, as well as how to prepare .bib files.

Happy \(\mathrm{Bib\TeX}\)ing!

Further reading

For more information see:

  • Bibtex bibliography styles
  • Bibliography management with natbib
  • Bibliography management with biblatex
  • BibTeX documentation at CTAN web site
  • tocbind package documentation
  • Table of contents
  • Management in a large project
  • Multi-file LaTeX projects
  • Documentation Home
  • Learn LaTeX in 30 minutes

Overleaf guides

  • Creating a document in Overleaf
  • Uploading a project
  • Copying a project
  • Creating a project from a template
  • Using the Overleaf project menu
  • Including images in Overleaf
  • Exporting your work from Overleaf
  • Working offline in Overleaf
  • Using Track Changes in Overleaf
  • Using bibliographies in Overleaf
  • Sharing your work with others
  • Using the History feature
  • Debugging Compilation timeout errors
  • How-to guides
  • Guide to Overleaf’s premium features

LaTeX Basics

  • Creating your first LaTeX document
  • Choosing a LaTeX Compiler
  • Paragraphs and new lines
  • Bold, italics and underlining


  • Mathematical expressions
  • Subscripts and superscripts
  • Brackets and Parentheses
  • Fractions and Binomials
  • Aligning equations
  • Spacing in math mode
  • Integrals, sums and limits
  • Display style in math mode
  • List of Greek letters and math symbols
  • Mathematical fonts
  • Using the Symbol Palette in Overleaf

Figures and tables

  • Inserting Images
  • Positioning Images and Tables
  • Lists of Tables and Figures
  • Drawing Diagrams Directly in LaTeX
  • TikZ package

References and Citations

  • Natbib bibliography styles
  • Natbib citation styles
  • Biblatex bibliography styles
  • Biblatex citation styles
  • Multilingual typesetting on Overleaf using polyglossia and fontspec
  • Multilingual typesetting on Overleaf using babel and fontspec
  • International language support
  • Quotations and quotation marks

Document structure

  • Sections and chapters
  • Cross referencing sections, equations and floats
  • Nomenclatures
  • Lengths in L a T e X
  • Headers and footers
  • Page numbering
  • Paragraph formatting
  • Line breaks and blank spaces
  • Text alignment
  • Page size and margins
  • Single sided and double sided documents
  • Multiple columns
  • Code listing
  • Code Highlighting with minted
  • Using colours in LaTeX
  • Margin notes
  • Font sizes, families, and styles
  • Font typefaces
  • Supporting modern fonts with X Ǝ L a T e X


  • Environments

Field specific

  • Theorems and proofs
  • Chemistry formulae
  • Feynman diagrams
  • Molecular orbital diagrams
  • Chess notation
  • Knitting patterns
  • CircuiTikz package
  • Pgfplots package
  • Typesetting exams in LaTeX
  • Attribute Value Matrices

Class files

  • Understanding packages and class files
  • List of packages and class files
  • Writing your own package
  • Writing your own class

Advanced TeX/LaTeX

  • In-depth technical articles on TeX/LaTeX

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Referencing, Citing, and Structuring Bibliographies

  • Referencing Styles
  • EndNote Basic
  • Using Zotero with LaTeX
  • Using Mendeley with LaTeX

What is Natbib?

The natbib package allows more flexibility in terms of citing and referencing styles, including Harvard style. Please see this video for more information:

My references are not appearing right - why?

Much time and effort can be saved by automatically generating BibTeX files through bulk export of multiple references either direct from databases or from reference management software. This automatic process may cause some issues and require you to tidy up the BibTeX files.

Here are some suggestions to help with this:

  • LaTeX special characters (e.g. $, %, &, \,) present in a BibTeX file can create problems during typesetting. To avoid this, all these characters should be prefixed with the ‘\’ character. Use a text editor such as Notepad or TeXworks to Find and Replace e.g. replace $ with \$
  • The BibTeX file is likely to contain extra fields of information not required for the actual reference. This information may pull through into the reference e.g. Notes field. It is recommended to remove this information from the BibTeX file
  • Retaining capitalization. Some bibliography styles strip out capitalization in fields such as the title field; this can be a problem if you want to preserve e.g. acronyms. To preserve capitalization, edit the BibTeX file and enclose the specific text (whole not partial words) in curly brackets:

e.g. title={Study of incompressible {MHD} flow in a circular pipe with transverse magnetic field using a spectral/finite element solver},

Thanks to Imperial College's guide for this information.

Citing and referencing in LaTex - using BibTeX

You can manage your references and bibliography in LaTex using the BibTex system. BibTex allows you to automatically generate and format a bibliography in a LaTeX document. You can do this by storing them in separate BibTeX database files (.bib extension). Advantages to doing this include:

  • Once stored in a BibTeX file, a reference can be re-used in future documents (you may choose to maintain one master or a series of BibTeX files)
  • Many databases and reference management software allows automatic export of reference details as BibTeX files

You can then use the following commands in your LaTeX document:

  • To insert a citation where  label  is the label of a bibliographic entry in a  .bib  file.
  • To insert a bibliography where  bibfilename  is the name of a  .bib  file.
  • To choose a BibTeX bibliographic style file with the extension  .bst .

There is a wealth of guides on how to do this available on the web, including LaTeX's own guide on bibliography management here .

This is also a really helpful guide on how BibTex works:  

  • LaTeX/Bibliography Management Wiki Book
  • Share LaTeX YouTube Channel

  • << Previous: Zotero
  • Next: Using Zotero with LaTeX >>
  • Last Updated: Oct 2, 2023 12:30 PM
  • URL:

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Bibliography in latex with bibtex/biblatex, learn how to create a bibliography with bibtex and biblatex in a few simple steps. create references / citations and autogenerate footnotes., creating a .bib file, using bibtex.

  • Autogenerate footnotes with BibLaTeX
  • BibTeX Format

BibTeX Styles

  • New Post! Export Bibliographic Database (BibTeX) Entries from Online Databases

We have looked at many features of LaTeX so far and learned that many things are automated by LaTeX. There are functions to add a table of contents, lists of tables and figures and also several packages that allow us to generate a bibliography. I will describe how to use bibtex and biblatex (both external programs) to create the bibliography. At first we have to create a .bib file, which contains our bibliographic information.

A .bib file will contain the bibliographic information of our document. I will only give a simple example, since there are many tools to generate the entries automatically. I will not explain the structure of the file itself at this point, since i suggest using a bibtex generator (choose one from google). Our example will contain a single book and look like this:

If you don’t want to use a BibTeX generator or a reference management tool like Citavi (which generates BibTeX files automatically for you), you can find more examples of BibTeX formats here.

After creating the bibtex file, we have to tell LaTeX where to find our bibliographic database. For BibTeX this is not much different from printing the table of contents. We just need the commands \bibliography  which tells LaTeX the location of our .bib file and \bibliographystyle which selects one of various bibliographic styles.

By using this code, we will obtain something like this:


I named my .bib file lesson7a1.bib, note that I did not enter the .bib extension. For the style, I’ve choosen the ieeetr style, which is very common for my subject, but there are many more styles available. Which will change the way our references look like. The ieeetr style will mark citations with successive numbers such as [1] in this example. If I choose the style to apalike instead, i will get the following result:


Most editors will let you select, to run bibtex automatically on compilation. In TeXworks (MiKTeX) for example, this should be selected by default.


If you use a different editor, it can be necessary to execute the bibtex command manually. In a command prompt/shell simply run:

It is necessary to execute the pdflatex command, before the bibtex command, to tell bibtex what literature we cited in our paper. Afterwards the .bib file will be translated into the proper output for out references section. The next two steps merge the reference section with our LaTeX document and then assign successive numbers in the last step.

Autogenerate footnotes in \(\LaTeX\) using BibLaTeX

The abilities of BibTeX are limited to basic styles as depicted in the examples shown above. Sometimes it is necessary to cite all literature in footnotes and maintaining all of them by hand can be a frustrating task. At this point BibLaTeX kicks in and does the work for us. The syntax varies a bit from the first document. We now have to include the biblatex package and use the \autocite and \printbibliography  command. It is crucial to move the \bibliography{lesson7a1} statement to the preamble of our document:

The \autocite command generates the footnotes and we can enter a page number in the brackets \autocite[1]{DUMMY:1} will generate a footnote like this:


For BibLaTeX we have to choose the citation style on package inclusion with:

The backend=bibtex  part makes sure to use BibTeX instead of Biber as our backend, since Biber fails to work in some editors like TeXworks. It took me a while to figure out how to generate footnotes automatically, because the sources I found on the internet, didn’t mention this at all.

BibTeX Formats

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of BibTeX formats, but rather give you an idea of how to cite various sources properly. If you’re interested in an extensive overview of all BibTeX formats, I suggest you to check out the resources on Wikibooks.


Inbook (specific pages)


This is a list of the formats that I have most commonly used. If you think some important format is missing here, please let me know.

Here’s a quick overview of some popular styles to use with BibTeX.


I’m trying to keep this list updated with other commonly used styles. If you’re missing something here, please let me know.

  • Generate a bibliography with BibTeX and BibLaTeX
  • First define a .bib file using: \bibliography{BIB_FILE_NAME} (do not add .bib)
  • For BibTeX put the \bibliography statement in your document , for BibLaTeX in the preamble
  • BibTeX  uses the \bibliographystyle command to set the citation style
  • BibLaTeX chooses the style as an option like:  \usepackage[backend=bibtex, style=verbose-trad2]{biblatex}
  • BibTeX uses the \cite command, while BibLaTeX uses the \autocite command
  • The \autocite command takes the page number as an option: \autocite[NUM]{}

Next Lesson: 08 Footnotes

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Making a Bibliography in LaTeX Manually

If you have only a few entries or you need to follow a special style exactly, you may want to use the manual bibliography abilities built into LaTeX. Although the manual method makes it easy to follow a bibliographic style exactly, you cannot customize how the citations within the document itself appear. Another drawback is if you wish to change your bibliographic style, you must change each entry by hand. For a large bibliography, this can take some time. If you would like to use LaTeX's automated bibliography system, BibTeX, check out how to use BibTeX to make a bibliography.

Constructing the Bibliography

The bibliography should follow this format:

\newpage \begin{thebibliography}{ widest_entry } \bibitem[ label1 ]{ cite_key1 } bibliographic entry \bibitem[ label2 ]{ cite_key2 } bibliographic entry . . . \end{thebibliography}

The widest_entry field should be a number with the same number of digits as your longest label. For example, if you expect to list up to a 3-digit number, type 111 (or anything else with three digits) in place of size. The label1 field is the number or word prefacing each bibliographic entry. The cite_key field is the word or number you use in the \cite command to refer to each entry. Each cite_key must be unique, but should also be something easy to remember and refer to, like the author's last name or last name and year if you have multiple entries by the same author. The bibliographic entry is the EXACT way, including LaTeX formatting, that you want each entry to appear. The following is an example bibliography with how it appears below it.

\newpage \begin{thebibliography}{9} \bibitem{Azuela} Mariano Azuela, \textit{The Underdogs: A Novel of the Mexican Revolution}, trans. Beth Jorgensen (New York: The Modern Library, 2002). \end{thebibliography}

references image

If you have a larger bibliography or have a style file (.bst) that you would like to use, it is not necessary to define formatting like this. Instead, you can use BibTeX, which formats the bibliography for you based on a preexisting style. You can find more information about making a bibliography in BibTeX on our BibTeX page .

Using the Bibliography

To cite an entry within your document, you will want to use the command \ \cite[page_number]{cite_key} . So, for the above example, you would write:

Assertion, assertion, yadda yadda \cite[45]{Azuela}.

And the result would be:

Assertion, assertion, yadda yadda [1, 45].

This method uses numbers to keep track of the citations, and future citations of Azuela will also be labeled 1. If you would like to have citations show up in parentheses or in other formats, you will want to use BibTeX or instead of using \cite just write the citation manually (Azuela, 45).


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