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4. The bibliography

The most general and flexible method for citing references in LaTeX is to use the BibTeX system. You'll find this system especially valuable if you plan to continue your research to the M.S. or Ph.D. level. Here's the general procedure.

  1. Using a plain text editor such as Notepad or emacs or vim, create a file whose name ends in .bib. For example, if your extended abstract is named jornada.tex, you might name your bibliography file jornada.bib.

  2. As you find promising literature, accumulate entries in your .bib file by cutting and pasting them into your text editor.

    Entries in this file use the BibTeX format for describing the author, title, year, and other pertinent information. See Section 4.2, “An example BibTeX file” to familiarize yourself with the format of these entries.

    There are many ways to find literature references. You can use EndNote or Google Scholar to find suitable references.

    • EndNote is a program that can help you search many huge literature databases for suitable references. If you are currently student, faculty, or staff at New Mexico Tech, see the TCC help system EndNote page for free downloads.

    • Google Scholar is an online literature search facility. See Section 4.1, “Using Google Scholar”.

  3. To cite a work in your paper, see Section 4.3, “How to cite a reference”.

  4. Once you have at least one literature citation in your work, remove the “%%%%” comment symbols from the \bibliographystyle and \bibliography lines in your .tex file.

    The argument to the \bibliographystyle command is {apalike} by default; this uses the APA format for bibliography entries. There are many other options for other preferences; refer to Kopka's book for details.

  5. In the \bibliography command, change myab.bib to the name of your bibliography database file.

    For example, if your database file is jornada.bib, change that line to look like this:

  6. Once you are using BibTeX, it is necessary to run your file through these four steps to insure that all citations and cross-references are correct:

    1. Run the file through pdflatex.

    2. Run the file through BibTeX. This process takes note of which references you have cited so that they can be included in your bibliography.

    3. Run the file through the pdflatex application twice more. The first run resolves all the cross-references. In a few rare cases, this may change the page numbering, so the second run insures that all the page numbers are correct.

    Most of the integrated development environments such as TeX Live will do these four steps automatically. For example, in TeXworks, pull down the menu at the top left corner and select pdfLaTeX+MakeIndex+BibTeX.


You don't have to worry about removing entries in your .bib file that aren't cited in your paper. Your paper's bibliography will contain only entries for works that you have actually cited.

As a matter of fact, you must have at least one citation or you will get an error message about an empty bibliography.


Sometimes the BibTeX entries you get from EndNote and Google Scholar are not correctly formatted. If your citations and bibliography are not coming out the way you want them, incorrectly formatted BibTeX entries may be causing the problem. In that case, examine the log file produced by BibTeX, which has the same file name as your bibliography file except that the name ends in .blg.

If the .blg file complains of errors, edit your .bib file to repair them. Kopka's book, again, is a valuable resource for helping you clean up these entries.

4.1. Using Google Scholar

A good source of BibTeX entries for literature references is Google Scholar.

Here is the general procedure.

  1. In your Web browser, bring up this URL:
  2. Click on the Scholar Preferences link just to the right of the Search button.

  3. Scroll down to the Bibliography Manager section and click the radiobutton labeled Show links to import citations into.

  4. Pull down the menu next to that radiobutton and select BibTeX.

  5. Click on Save Preferences. Depending on your browser settings, Google Scholar may remember this setting in the future so you won't have to do these steps every time.

  6. Back on the Google Scholar start page, use the search box to find suitable sources. The About Google Scholar link will assist you in learning to search more efficiently.

  7. When you find a source that you think you might use, click the Import into BibTeX link in that source. This will bring up a page containing the complete BibTeX entry for that source. See Section 4.2, “An example BibTeX file” for an example.

  8. Cut and paste the entry into your .bib file.