Authors names
Acronyms in title
Journals vs. conferences
Chapter in a book
The note field
Other fields
Tech Report
Other entries

Things to know when using bibtex

In this page, I'm putting the most common bibtex errors I observe, why they appear, and how to fix them.

Authors names

Author names should be separated by and, not by a comma. Otherwise bibtex will think they're all part of the same author, with a very long name.

author = {John Doe, Jack Doe, William Doe and Averell Doe}
will be typeset as:
[DD03] Doe A., Doe J.D.J.D.W.: ...
Which is not what you meant. The proper way to enter it is:
author = {John Doe and Jack Doe and William Doe and Averell Doe}
Note that it happens more often that you'd think, especially when copy-pasting names from a web page or a paper.

Editors names are typeset exactly as authors.

Acronyms in titles

When you typeset the title of the paper, remember that bibtex converts it to lowercase. So 3D becomes "3d", PCA becomes "pca" and so on. For acronyms, you must protect them against lower-case conversion, by enclosing them in braces:

title = "The use of {PCA} for {3D} algorithms in the {XXI}st century",

Articles: Conference proceedings or Journal?

Articles in a conference proceedings should go in an @inproceedings. Articles in a journal should go in an @article.

In an @article, bibtex expects a journal, a volume, a number and a year (which makes sense, if you think about it: this information is what is required to locate the actual journal in the library).

In an @inproceedings, bibtex expects a booktitle (the title of the conference) and the year. If you give it a volume, it will print it. But it means you're referring to volume n of the conference proceedings --- usually not what you meant.

Why is that so important? Because sometimes you realise there's a mistake and this reference has been entered as a @article when it is actually an @inproceedings, and you just change the type of the entry. Well, it won't work, unless you also rename journal to booktitle, or reciprocally.

In all those cases, bibtex will issue a warning (empty journal name, or can't use both volume and number). Reading and understanding these warnings is very important. A good bibliographic file causes no warnings when you send it through bibtex.

Chapter in a book

When you're referencing a specific chapter in a book (such as the chapter about "Dynamic Ambient Paradigms" in the book "Paradigm Gems 2"), you should use @incollection:

  author     = 	 {John Doe},
  title      = 	 {Dynamic Ambient Paradigms},
  booktitle  = 	 {Paradigm Gems 2},
  pages      =	 {223--233},
  publisher  =	 {Addison Wesley},
  year       =	 2005,
  editor     =	 {Averell Doe}
It will be typeset as:
[Doe05] Doe J.: Dynamic Ambient Paradigms. In Paradigm Gems 2, Doe A. (Ed), Addison Wesley, 2005, pp. 223-233.

The Note field

The content of the field note will be always added by bibtex at the end of the entry. It must be used wisely, only in exceptional circumstances. It is better if you can avoid using it entirely.

Additional fields

Additional fields are simply ignored by bibtex. You can have as many as you want. For example, in my bibtex files, I have a summary field, a comment and a WhereToFindIt...

You can also use that feature to deactivate certain fields without removing them from the bibtex file. For example, an address field will be printed, something I may not want. In that case, I rename it to alt_address, for example.

Tech reports and other hard-to-find items

When you cite a paper with small diffusion (for example a tech report), it is a good idea to give a URL to your readers, so they can read it too. This can go into the note field, unless your bibliographic file honors the url field. For URLs, use the url LaTeX package, or the hypertext package.

Non-conventional entries

For non-conventional entries, such as a web site, or a poster at a conference, or a personal communication... bibtex has the @misc entry. How the thing was published goes into the howpublished field:

  title      = 	 {Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia},
  howpublished = "\url{}",

  author = {Donald E. Knuth},
  howpublished      = 	 {personal communication},
  year = 1991