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Learn how to create a bibliography using modern biblatex and biber - A short tutorial.

This will only be a short overview of the main and most often used features of biblatex and biber to create a bibliography. More detailed information can be found in the package documentation.

The database[edit]

Creating a bibliography using biblatex and biber means storing all of your available bibliographic information in a simple text-based database. The name should be as unique as possible, for example . This is helpful when transferring files with your advisor, students or colleagues. biber is used to deal with the database.

A sample database file could look like this:

@article{wombat2016, author = {Walther Wombat and Klaus Koala}, title = {The true meaning of 42}, journal = {Journal of modern skepticism}, date = {2016}, keywords = {trusted}, } @book{lion2010, author = {Laura Lion and Gabrielle Giraffe and Carl Capybara}, title = {The dangers of asking the wrong question}, publisher = {publishing house}, date = {2010}, keywords = {trusted}, } @online{wikibook, title = {Generating Bibliographies with biblatex and biber}, organization = {Wikibooks}, date = {2016}, urldate = {2016-03-07}, url = {https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/LaTeX/Generating_Bibliographies_with_biblatex_and_biber}, keywords = {untrusted}, }

Every entry in the database starts with an -sign followed by the entry type. More types are available, the package documentation lists all of them. The bibliographic information for each entry are stored in a pair of braces, beginning with a unique keyword for that entry (bibkey). Least complicated way of presenting the data is every field type in a new line, the content in curly braces, followed by a comma. The order in which you give the information is not important.

Please have a close look at the authors, every individual author is separated by the keyword . All dates are written in YYYY-MM-DD, or just the year if the other information is not available. The file which should have been installed with the package contains some sample entries.

Setting up biber[edit]

Biber is the name of the helper program that sorts the entries and provides all the relevant information to package biblatex. If you are not comfortable using the command line (aka the terminal), you should set up your editor to call biber for you. Setting up my editor to use biber shows how to do it for the different editors.

A simple example[edit]

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[backend=biber]{biblatex}\addbibresource{lauraPhd2016.bib}\begin{document} I doubt that there is any useful information here~\cite{wikibook}. All we know is limited, apart from knowing the answer we all know. Or do we? Wombat and Koala have discovered some interesting things~\cite{wombat2016}. Some people are too nosy. What can happen to them is described by Laura Lion~\cite[9]{lion2010}. \printbibliography\end{document}

Now how does it actually work? Package biblatex is loaded with the option followed by adding your database file to the list of bibliographic files using . Please note that the file extension is mandatory and that this is happening in the preamble of the document.

Within the document you can cite one of your database entries using . Your database can contain hundreds of entries, but only cited references will occur in the final list. You can use to add uncited entries to the list. If you want to add all entries from the database use .

Finally, the list of your references is printed with .

Running LaTeX (no matter if , etc.) on the main document will result in the following output.

LaTeX Warning: Citation 'wikibook' on page 1 undefined on input line 5. LaTeX Warning: Citation 'wombat2016' on page 1 undefined on input line 7. LaTeX Warning: Citation 'lion2010' on page 1 undefined on input line 9. LaTeX Warning: Empty bibliography on input line 11. [1{/usr/local/texlive/2017/texmf-var/fonts/map/pdftex/updmap/pdftex.map}] (./lauraPhd2016Main.aux) LaTeX Warning: There were undefined references. Package biblatex Warning: Please (re)run Biber on the file: (biblatex) lauraPhd2016Main (biblatex) and rerun LaTeX afterwards.

We get several warnings about undefined references, no bibliography and instead of proper citations, we see just the cite key in bold.

In order to really get a bibliography and the citations, and not just the infamous warning, you have to run biber after latex to extract the relevant data from the database. After setting up biber as described in Setting up my editor to use biber you should be able to do it by pressing one button while working on your document. To incorporate the bibliography information into your document, LaTeX then has to process the data biber has generated before. To sum it up, if you have a file you (or your editor) will have to do:

  • latex lauraPhdd2016Main
  • biber lauraPhdd2016Main
  • latex lauraPhdd2016Main

Everytime your database is updated, remember to process the database by calling biber.

The full result can be seen in the picture below. Please note that package biblatex adds some small little details. Can you see things that are printed but have not been defined?

Reference Styles[edit]

Different reference styles are in use within the different disciplines of science. Very broadly speaking, you can divide into a numerical referencing sytem (Vancouver) or an author date referencing system (Harvard).

Package biblatex[1] provides different citation commands that generate different output (in-text citation, footnotes and more). A few examples are given below, the package documentation contains and explains the use of the whole set.

Numerical Referencing[edit]

Numerical referencing is the default style. Numbers within brackets are used in text and in the bibliography. Using makes it easy to change the style into footnotes. gives a bibliography that is sorted chronologically, i.e. the numbers increase to the end of the document.

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[backend=biber,style=numeric,autocite=plain,sorting=none]{biblatex}\addbibresource{lauraPhd2016.bib}\begin{document} I doubt that there is any useful information here.~\cite{wikibook} All we know is limited, apart from knowing the answer we all know. Or do we? \citeauthor{wombat2016} have discovered some interesting things.~\autocite[compare][80]{wombat2016} What can happen to nosy people is described by \textcite[9]{lion2010}. \printbibliography\end{document}

Using gives a diffferent output. Can you spot all the differences?

Author Date Referencing[edit]

If you want an author-date referencing style, you can use when loading biblatex. The option with the option puts parenthesis around the cite genererated with (which is similar to using . In some cases, may come in handy when the citation is the subject and part of the sentence flow.

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[backend=biber,style=authoryear,autocite=inline]{biblatex}\addbibresource{lauraPhd2016.bib}\begin{document} I doubt that there is any useful information here~\cite{wikibook}. All we know is limited, apart from knowing the answer we all know. Or do we?~\cite{wombat2016} Some people are too nosy. What can happen to them is described by Laura Lion~\autocite[9]{lion2010}. Some people are too nosy. What can happen to them is described by \textcite[9]{lion2010}. \printbibliography\end{document}

APA Citing[edit]

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines a very strict author year style. You can access it using and additionally defining the language mapping.

\usepackage[backend=biber,style=apa,autocite=inline]{biblatex}\DeclareLanguageMapping{english}{english-apa}\addbibresource{lauraPhd2016.bib}

Compare the output with the normal author year style. How many changes can you spot?

Separate Bibliographies by Entry Type[edit]

Suppose you want to have a separate bibliography for all the online resources you are citing. No problem using the optional argument of . You can also change the title (and other stuff).

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[backend=biber,defernumbers=true]{biblatex}\addbibresource{biblatex-examples.bib}\begin{document}\nocite{westfahl:space,aristotle:physics,ctan,baez/online,markey,sigfridsson}\printbibheading\printbibliography[heading=subbibliography,type=online,title={All my online references}]\printbibliography[heading=subbibliography,nottype=online,title={All my non-online references}]\end{document}

Splitting into different topics[edit]

You can split your bibliography into different topics, in trusted and untrusted sources, or in primary and secondary sources. The way to tell biblatex what is what, is by adding a tag to the entries of the database.

@book{lion2010, author = {Laura Lion and Gabrielle Giraffe and Carl Capybara}, title = {The dangers of asking the wrong question}, publisher = {publishing house}, date = {2010}, keywords = {trusted}, }
\documentclass{article}\usepackage[backend=biber,style=authoryear,refsection=section]{biblatex}\addbibresource{lauraPhd2016.bib}\begin{document}\cites[see also][12]{wombat2016}[and][45]{lion2010}\nocite{wikibook}\printbibliography[keyword={trusted},title={All the trusted sources}]\printbibliography[keyword={untrusted},title={All the untrusted sources}]\end{document}

Note, that the entryfield in the dataase is called (plural) because you can have more than one keyword (separated by commas). When calling the command, you have to use the singular. biblatex has a powerful system of filtering data, more can be found in the manual.

Bibliographies per Section or Chapter[edit]

Some people have the need for a reference list at the end of each chapter or section. This can be done using .

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[backend=biber,defernumbers=true,refsection=section]{biblatex}\addbibresource{biblatex-examples.bib}\begin{document}\section{Aster}\cite{ctan,sigfridsson} and some text \printbibliography[heading=subbibliography]\section{Begonia}\cite{aristotle:physics,markey}\printbibliography[heading=subbibliography]\section{Cichorium}\cite{westfahl:space,baez/online}\printbibliography[heading=subbibliography]\end{document}

A bibliography in a presentation[edit]

You can use package with (see the Presentations section) to have citations and a reference list in your presentation. Using full cites right away is recommended, so listeners don't have to wait till the very end to see where information is drawn from.

\documentclass{beamer}\usecolortheme{crane}\usepackage{biblatex}\addbibresource{lauraPhd2016.bib}\begin{document}\begin{frame}{42} Interesting \footfullcite{wombat2016}\end{frame}\nocite{*}\begin{frame}{References}\printbibliography\end{frame}\end{document}

Back to main bibliography page

When it comes to bibliography management in LaTeX the program natbib is an alternative used in several journals. The program is not actively developed, but is very stable and widely used. This article explains how to use natbib to format and cite bibliographic sources.

Note: If you are starting from scratch it's recommended to use biblatex since that package provides localization in several languages, it's actively developed and makes bibliography management easier and more flexible.

[edit]Introduction

A minimal working example is presented below:

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}\usepackage[english]{babel}   \usepackage{natbib}\bibliographystyle{unsrtnat}   \title{Bibliography management: \texttt{natbib} package}\author{Share\LaTeX}\date{}   \begin{document}   \maketitle   This document is an example of \texttt{natbib} package using in bibliography management. Three items are cited: \textit{The \LaTeX\ Companion} book \cite{latexcompanion}, the Einstein journal paper \cite{einstein}, and the Donald Knuth's website \cite{knuthwebsite}. The \LaTeX\ related items are \cite{latexcompanion,knuthwebsite}.   \medskip   \bibliography{sample}   \end{document}

In this example there are four basic commands to manage the bibliography:

Imports the package natbib.
Sets the bibliography style unsrtnat. See the article about bibliography styles for more information.
Prints a reference to the citation entry, what is printed depends on the citation style. The word inside the braces corresponds to a particular entry in the bibliography file.
Imports the file sample.bib that contains bibliography sources. See the bibliography file section.

  Open an example of the natbib package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]Basic usage

A simple working example was shown at the introduction, there are more bibliography-related commands available.

\documentclass{article}\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}\usepackage[english]{babel}   \usepackage[square,numbers]{natbib}\bibliographystyle{abbrvnat}   \title{Bibliography management: \texttt{natbib} package}\author{Share\LaTeX}\date{}   \begin{document}   \maketitle   This document is an example of \texttt{natbib} package using in bibliography management. Three items are cited: \textit{The \LaTeX\ Companion} book \cite{latexcompanion}, the Einstein journal paper \citet{einstein}, and the Donald Knuth's website \cite{knuthwebsite}. The \LaTeX\ related items are \cite{latexcompanion,knuthwebsite}.   \medskip   \bibliography{sample}   \end{document}

There are a few changes in this example:

  • The options and in enable squared brackets and numeric citations respectively. See the reference guide for a list of package options
  • The command adds the name of the author to the citation mark, regardless of the citation style.

  Open an example of the natbib package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]The bibliography file

The bibliography files must have the standard bibtex syntax and the extension .bib. They contain a list of bibliography sources and several fields with information about each entry.

This file contains records in a special format, for instance, the first bibliographic reference is defined by:

This is the first line of a record entry, tells BibTeX that the information stored here is about an article. The information about this entry is enclosed within braces. Besides the entry types shown in the example (, and there are a lot more, see the reference guide.
The label is assigned to this entry, is a unique identifier that can be used to refer this article within the document.
This is the first field in the bibliography entry, indicates that the author of this article is Albert Einstein. Several comma-separated fields can be added using the same syntax , for instance: title, pages, year, URL, etc. See the reference guide for a list of possible fields.

The information in this file can later be printed and referenced within a LaTeX document, as shown in the previous sections, with the command . Not all the information in the .bib file will be displayed, it depends on the bibliography style set in the document.

  Open an example of the natbib package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]Adding the bibliography in the table of contents

If you want the bibliography to be included in the table of contents, importing the package tocbibind in the preamble will do the trick:

\documentclass[a4paper,10pt]{article}\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}\usepackage[english]{babel}   \usepackage[nottoc]{tocbibind}   \begin{document}   \tableofcontents   \section{First Section} This document ...   \bibliographystyle{unsrt}\bibliography{sample}   \end{document}

Adding the line


to the preamble will print the "References" or "Bibliography" in the table of contents, depending on the document type. Be careful, it will also add other elements like the Index, Glossary and list of Listings to the table of contents. For more information see the tocbibind package documentation.

  Open an example of the natbib package in ShareLaTeX

[edit]Reference guide

natbib package options

  • for round parentheses
  • uses square brackets
  • curly braces
  • angle braces or chevrons
  • separates multiple citations with semicolons
  • same as
  • separate multiple citations with commas
  • for author-year citations
  • for numerical citations
  • superscripts for numerical citations, as in Nature
  • orders multiple citations according to the list of references
  • same as but multiple numerical citations are compressed if possible
  • compress without sorting
  • the full name of the author will appear in the first citation of any reference
  • To be used with the package chapterbib to add the bibliography to the table of contents as a unnumbered section instead of an unnumbered chapter
  • prevents hyphenation of author names
  • to omit common elements of merged references

Standard entry types

Article from a magazine or journal
A published book
A work that is printed but have no publisher or sponsoring institution
An article in a conference proceedings
A part of a book (section, chapter and so on)
A part of a book having its own title
An article in a conference proceedings
Technical documentation
A Master's thesis
Something that doesn't fit in any other type
A PhD thesis
The same as
Report published by an institution
Document not formally published, with author and title


Most common fields used in BibTeX

address annote author
booktitle chaper crossref
edition editor institution
journal key month
note number organization
pages publisher school
series title type
volume year URL
ISBN ISSN LCCN
abstract keywords price
copyright language contents

[edit]Further reading

For more information see

@article{einstein, author = "Albert Einstein", title = "{Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter K{\"o}rper}. ({German}) [{On} the electrodynamics of moving bodies]", journal = "Annalen der Physik", volume = "322", number = "10", pages = "891--921", year = "1905", DOI = "http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/andp.19053221004" }   @book{latexcompanion, author = "Michel Goossens and Frank Mittelbach and Alexander Samarin", title = "The \LaTeX\ Companion", year = "1993", publisher = "Addison-Wesley", address = "Reading, Massachusetts" }   @misc{knuthwebsite, author = "Donald Knuth", title = "Knuth: Computers and Typesetting", url = "http://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/\~{}uno/abcde.html" }
\usepackage[nottoc]{tocbibind}

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