Bibliographies in LaTeX

For me bibliographies are the one thing that makes LaTeX worthwhile. However, linguistics bibliography styles are apparently unusual in the LATEX world (like so much else) and require a bit of work.

If you’ve already started learning LATEX and ran into problems, see Common tasks.

Getting started with bibliographies

There are two methods of getting bibliographies in LATEX.

  1. thebibliography is the easiest way to start if you are still having trouble making your first LATEX document compile. The Wikibook chapter gives a clear and simple introduction.
  2. BibTeX lets you reuse references and easily change their formatting by keeping them in a separate .bib file, neutrally formatted. Start with this simple introduction and refer to the Wikibook chapter when you need more clarification.
    • Make sure you run pdflatex texfilename twice, then bibtex texfilename (minus .tex), then pdflatex texfilename twice more.
    • Your .bib file should be in the same directory as the .tex file, or in texlive\texmf-local\bibtex\bib (which may have a slightly different name on your system). Note: When I move/add any subfolders/files I have to run mktexlsr and sometimes other programs to inform LATEX of the change.

Linguistics bibliography styles

Note: Bibliography styles come in .bst files, and the command is \bibliographystyle{bstfilename}. Often a given bibliography style will recommend or require a package as well. I recommend the natbib package wherever possible because it modifies the commands in useful ways and is required for the newer bibliography styles designed for linguistics.

Standard LATEX doesn’t come with bibliography styles which enable the standard linguistics convention of listing the first author as Last Name, First Name and subsequent authors as First Name Last Name. If you’re not fussy about that, you can use one of the many styles imitating APA format. I recommend the following:

  • The apalike bibliography style, the simplest and most venerable APA-like bibliography style. Requires the apalike or natbib package. I can’t find formal documentation, but there is a history/overview of all the APA alternatives in the natbib manual.

If you need to match a journal’s citation format exactly, you can use the makebst tool to generate a custom bibliography style. But why not check if someone else has done the work already? See Importing from outside standard LATEX if you’re not sure how to import someone else’s code.

It’s also worth searching the LATEX Bibliography Styles Database to see if a new bibliography style has been added for a journal you’re interested in.

Other tools

Reference management

It’s easy to make mistakes typing all the braces in BibTeX files. Google Scholar can generate BibTeX, but it’s inaccurate half the time. Most people use one of the following tools; also see the long list at Wikipedia.

  • BibDesk (Mac only) – program
  • JabRef (Windows, Mac, Linux) – program
  • Zotero (Windows, Mac, Linux) – browser plugin
  • RefTeX (Linux, Mac, Windows) – for Emacs users