Skip to Main Content
UC Logo
Libraries | Ask the Libraries

LaTeX Resources


Almost every report/article contains a list of references used. Typing references one by one is a big problem as different programs use different citation patterns. There are two methods to manage the references/citations/bibliography in LaTeX.

  1. Bibliography Environment (to use the citations once)

   This option should be used when you do not want to re-use the citations. The name of the environment is 'thebibliography' and as you know the syntax for this would be:


  Leslie Lamport,
  \emph{\LaTeX: A Document Preparation System}.
  Addison Wesley, Massachusetts,
  2nd Edition,


Here in the environment, an extra feature has been used. The number used after the name of the environment suggests how many citations could be used inside. One interesting thing to note here is that the number inside the braces does not matter much, the number of digits matter. So if you write '\begin{thebibliography}{23}', the number of citations you can include are 99 (maximum number with two digits) and not 23.


Each new citation starts with a '\bibitem' followed by a unique key. The key should be unique because you will be using it to cite the corresponding reference. So, each citation should have a unique key. Once you are done with all citations, do not forget to end the environment i.e., '\end{thebibliography}'.


2. BibTeX (To create and use a database of references)

Although using the environment for the references is pretty easy, the problem arises when you have hundreds of articles to cite. In that case, typing each and every citation becomes a problem. Another drawback of the 'thebibliography' environment is that it does not create a database and thus cannot be re-used in another article/report. Also, since this format is not known to most of the other reference management softwares like RefWorks, EndNote, Mendeley etc., sharing your references or transferring them  to some other account is not possible.

To solve these problems, LaTeX has an inbuilt reference management software called BibTeX which eliminates the undesirable and extensive typing requirements. There is a pattern in which the citations are stored in a BibTeX file:


 author    = "von Hicks, III, Michael",
 title     = "Design of a Carbon Fiber Composite Grid Structure for the GLAST
              Spacecraft Using a Novel Manufacturing Technique",
 publisher = "Stanford Press",
 year      =  2001,
 address   = "Palo Alto",
 edition   = "1st",
 isbn      = "0-69-697269-4"

    author  = "George D. Greenwade",
    title   = "The {C}omprehensive {T}ex {A}rchive {N}etwork ({CTAN})",
    year    = "1993",
    journal = "TUGBoat",
    volume  = "14",
    number  = "3",
    pages   = "342--351"

In the above demo citations, first one is for a book and second is for an article (magazine/Journal). 'hicks2001' and 'greenwade93' are the keys (which will be defined by you). The keys are used when these references are cited in the article/report etc. You should provide all the references a unique key to avoid erroneous outputs.

This citation could then be saved as a 'xyz.bib' file where, xyz is any name that you provide. Now this file is a database for your references which can be easily shared and transferred between multiple accounts. Do not forget to save the file in the same folder as your '.tex' file. To include the 'xyz.bib' file in your .tex file, the following command could be used: \bibliography{xyz} You do not need to use '.bib' extension. When you use '\bibliography' command, the compiler knows the file would have a '.bib' extension and that is why it is important to save the file as '.bib' (otherwise LaTeX will not be able to find the file and the list of references would not be generated) It might look that even BibTeX needs a lot of typing to create the reference database but the GOOD NEWS is that almost all the major journal/conference databases support BibTeX formats.

Some examples on how the citations can be downloaded/exported in BibTeX format from some major databases are:

  • Google Scholar
    • Click on Settings
    • Under Bibliography Manager click on 'Show links to import citations into' and select BibTeX
    • Click on Save
    • Search the required article and click on import into BibTeX
    • Copy the citation and paste it into your .bib file
    • Do not forget to give the citation a unique key which you are comfortable with
  • Scopus
    • Search and Find the article
    • Select the required article(s)
    • Click on Export
    • Select Export Format as BibTeX and Click on Export
    • A .bib file with selected citations will be downloaded on your computer
    • Do not forget to give the citation a unique key which you are comfortable with
  • IEEE Xplore
    • Select the required article(s)
    • Click on Download Citations
    • Select the Format as BibTeX
    • Click on Download Citation
    • Another window will open with the BibTeX formats of the required articles
    • Copy these citations and paste them into your .bib file
    • Do not forget to give the citation a unique key which you are comfortable with

Reference Types

Type Usage
@book A Published Book
@article An article from a magazine/journal
@conference An article in conference proceedings
@inproceedings Same as @conference
@proceedings  Entire proceedings of a conference
@mastersthesis For a Masters Thesis
@phdthesis    To cite a Ph.D. Thesis
@inbook To cite a section of a book      
@techreport For a technical report, documentation, etc.
@misc Miscellaneous

There are some other popular reference types in LaTeX.

Important Resources

Citation Styles and Formats

In BibTeX, there are hundreds of citation formats which could be used. Also, most of the publishers have their own citation formats (which could be downloaded from their website). To use a particular citation format, the command is:

\bibliographystyle{name of the style}



where, xyz is the 'xyz.bib' file that you created. Most common styles used are:

\bibliographystyle{plain}, \bibliographystyle{unsrt}, \bibliographystyle{abbrv}. To find more information on the citation styles please visit:


University of Cincinnati Libraries

PO Box 210033 Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0033

Phone: 513-556-1424

Contact Us | Staff Directory

University of Cincinnati

Alerts | Clery and HEOA Notice | Notice of Non-Discrimination | eAccessibility Concern | Privacy Statement | Copyright Information

© 2021 University of Cincinnati