Latex Bibliography Title Capital Letters Game

Your LaTeX file needs to include
  • a reference to a label in your BibTeX file whenever you want to cite an item in the file
  • a reference to the bibliography style file you want to use, which determines how the references you cite are formatted in the bibliography of your document (and possibly a LaTeX style file associated with the bibliography style)
  • a LaTeX command to generate the bibliography at the point in your document where you want it to appear.

Example using

Here is an example using the bibliography style , which produces citations in "author (year)" format. This file is available on this page (which has instructions on where to put the file once you get it). The lines related to BibTeX are highlighed. It requires the LaTeX style file to produce citations in the right style in the text (matching the format of the references produced by ). You probably have this file already (assuming you have some implementation of TeX on your computer). If you don't, you can get it on this CTAN page. Hover over orangetext to see explanations.

When you run the LaTeX file through LaTeX and BibTeX (instructions below), you'll get output for the body of the document that looks roughly like this:

This document illustrates the use of BibTeX. You may want to refer to Arrow et al. (1961) or Aliprantis and Border (1994) or Maskin (1985). Or you may want to cite a specific page in a reference, like this: see Maskin (1985, p. 199). Or perhaps you want to cite more than one paper by Maskin: Maskin (1985, 1999). Or you want to make a parenthetical reference to one or more articles, in which case the \citealt command omits the parentheses around the year (Arrow et al. 1961).
A few more options for the command are available. Here they are:
Jones et al. (1990)
Jones, Baker, and Smith (1990)
(Jones et al. 1990)
(Jones, Baker, and Smith 1990)
(Jones et al., 1990, p. 99)
(e.g. Jones et al., 1990)
(e.g. Jones et al., 1990, p. 99)
Jones et al.
Jones, Baker, and Smith
*Jones et al.'s (1990)

*Assumes \citeapos is defined in your style or document like this:

(Thanks to Christopher M. Duncombe Rae for pointing out this simple way of generating a possessive citation.)

The list of references will look like this:

Aliprantis, Charalambos D. and Kim C. Border (1994), Infinite Dimensional Analysis. Springer, Berlin.

Arrow, Kenneth J., Leonid Hurwicz, and Hirofumi Uzawa (1961), "Constraint qualifications in maximization problems." Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, 8, 175–191.

Maskin, Eric S. (1985), "The theory of implementation in Nash equilibrium: a survey." In Social Goals and Social Organization (Leonid Hurwicz, David Schmeidler, and Hugo Sonnenschein, eds.), 173–204, Cambridge University Press.

Maskin, Eric S. (1999), "Nash equilibrium and welfare optimality." Review of Economic Studies, 66, 23–38.

Example using

Here is an example using the bibliography style , which in included in many LaTeX systems.

When you run the LaTeX file through LaTeX and BibTeX (instructions below), you'll get output for the body of the document that differs from the output when you use only in that the names of all three authors of Arrow, Hurwicz, and Uzawa (1961) are listed in the first citation to that work, although not in the second, parenthetical, citation.

The list of references differs more significantly from the list produced by : only authors' initials, not their full first names, are included, and "&" rather than "and" is used as a separator; numbers in page ranges are separated by hyphens, rather than the conventional en-dashes. Precisely, the list of references produced by looks like this:

Aliprantis, C. D. & K. C. Border (1994), Infinite Dimensional Analysis. Berlin: Springer.

Arrow, K. J., Hurwicz, L., & Uzawa, H. (1961), Constraint qualifications in maximization problems. Naval Research Logistics Quarterly, 8, 175-191.

Maskin, E. S. (1985), The theory of implementation in Nash equilibrium: a survey. In L. Hurwicz, D. Schmeidler, & H. Sonnenschein (Eds.), Social Goals and Social Organization (p. 173-204). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Maskin, Eric S. (1999), Nash equilibrium and welfare optimality. Review of Economic Studies, 66, 23-38.

Other bibliography styles for author-year citations

A family of styles that produce author-year citations is available on this page.

Creating your own bibliography style

A BibTeX style file is plain text, which in principle you can edit. However, the language used is arcane, and changes that are more than trivial are tricky. A better way to proceed is to create a new style file from scratch, using the custom-bib package (that's how I created ). You run TeX on a file, which asks you a long list of questions about the features of the style you would like. You'll probably not be completely clear about your preferred answers to all the questions on your first attempt, but two or three runs should produce a format to your liking.

First: Issues in text: how to cite properly.

  • Citations as words: Huge pet peeve: Using citations as words. van Leunen: “Brackets are not words. A bracketed number is just a pointer, not a word. Never, ever, use a bracketed number as if it were the name of an author or a work.” (p. 20). So instead of “A similar strategy is described in [15].”), use instead “A similar strategy is discussed by AuthorOne et al. [15]”. The way you can get this right in your head is considering a journal that does citations as superscripts (like the old Graphics Hardware style). It looks really stupid to say “A similar strategy is discussed by 15.” I don't like this particular style for citation, but it does make sure citations aren't used as words.

  • Citing with LaTeX: When writing citations in LaTeX, do them in this form:

    The ~ means non-breaking space (which is what you want—you don't want a linebreak between the text and the citation).

    Also, do

    instead of

    Always alphabetize grouped citations so they appear in numerical order (instead of [8, 6, 10], arrange the citations so it looks like [6, 8, 10]). supposedly puts them in proper order for you automatically (!) and also changes [1,2,3,4,6] to [1–4,6] which is handy.

  • Shortcite: Use when appropriate. is used in sentences like “AuthorOne discusses this point further in her dissertation [AuthorOne 2002].” It looks silly to put AuthorOne's name twice. Instead, use , which makes the sentence “AuthorOne discusses this point further in her dissertation [2002].” Of course this only makes sense if you are using a citation format that lists author name / year (like Siggraph or most dissertation formats).

    I always use in my text even when my bib style doesn't support it, in which case I use the following fix in my LaTeX preamble (this defines if it's not already defined, otherwise it has no effect):

    If you don't have this command, you'll see an error like:

  • Sorting your references: If at all possible, arrange your reference list in alphabetical order by author's last name. Going in cited order is much less useful to readers of your paper. The only reason I've heard that cited-order is useful is in a survey article where nearby (and presumably related) citations from the paper are next to each other in the bibliography. I don't find this argument particularly compelling.

  • Next: issues with bibliographies (your .bib file). Big picture: Don't trust the digital library to give you a perfect .bib file. Both ACM and IEEE (as well as many others) screw up bibliography entries in delightfully creative ways.

  • Names: Make the names in the bibliography match what is printed on the paper. If the paper has as the author, put that in your bibliography. If it has initials, use those. If it has crazy umlauts and accents, use those too. If it has initials, make sure they are separated by spaces: use rather than . The latter leads bibtex to believe the first name is with no middle name/initial. (And then if your bibstyle abbreviates first names, you'll just get the initial without the middle initial, since bibtex doesn't think you have a middle name.)

    For hyphenated names with the second half uncapitalized (Wu-chun Feng, Wen-mei Hwu), put the hyphen and second half in brackets: , .

  • Capitalization in titles: Just like with authors, the capitalization on titles in your bibtex file should match what's on the paper. The bib style should enforce capitalization, not your bibliography—your bib should faithfully represent what's printed on the paper.

    Also, make sure, in your BibTeX file, that you properly bracket words in titles that must be capitalized, like GPU or PDE, or proper names. Example (the “Loop” should always be capitalized since it's a last name):

    You don't have to do this with venues (or anything else), just the title.

    Resist the temptation to double-brace the entire title as a manner of course: . This guarantees your title will always be capitalized. But many bib styles downcase all titles, in which case your title will stick out like a sore thumb. Instead, just put your title in single-braces or quotes and let the bib style do the right thing.

    (What is the right thing? In the US, publishers capitalize most words in titles [title case]; in the UK, publishers use the same capitalization rules as normal sentences [sentence case]. [Wikipedia link.] Markus Kuhn's thoughts on the subject are congruent with mine, that sentence case is preferable from an information-theoretic point of view, but in practice, authors should follow the conventions of their publication venue.)

    If the title is in all-caps, I usually rewrite it in title case.

    [ Capitalisation in BibTeX, from the TeX FAQ ]

  • Venues: Both ACM and IEEE screw up venue names in different ways. Here's how IEEE formatted a recent venue name in a recent paper of mine:

    Never use the ACM or IEEE digital library's citations without fixing them. For some reason the First Society of Computing and the World's Largest Professional Association for the Advancement of Technology have zero interest in making their capitalization correct. For instance, the first paper I ever wrote, according to ACM, has the following title and booktitle:

    when the paper has the major words in the title capitalized, and “workshop” and “hardware” should both be capitalized in the booktitle. I often review papers where citations have been taken directly from ACM with bizarre capitalization particularly in the booktitle. Fix these before you submit a paper.

  • Months: Include the month of publication in your bibliographies (simply for your own records: when you have two papers talking about a similar idea, one in January and one in November of the same year, maintaining the month lets you determine which came first).

    Always use three-letter abbreviations without quotes for months. These are built into bibtex. They allow the bib style to actually know what month it is, so the bib style can enforce a consistent style across all citations (1/2012? Jan. 2012? January 2012? Januar 2012 [foreign language]?).

    Digital libraries often get these wrong (IEEE uses ).

  • Pages: Always include pages if pages are available. Ranges of pages use the en-dash to separate them (that's two dashes): . Some non-printed proceedings only assign a paper number, so for those I typically see (and use) something like , where is the paper number and the paper has pages.

    Also, if the bib source says that your paper starts on page 1, double-check it. Make sure that it doesn't list every paper in the conference/journal starting on page 1 (like the rocket scientists at IPDPS 2009 who decided it would be a good idea to assign neither page numbers nor paper IDs [example]). It's a little embarrassing when you cite two papers in your article and they both start on page 1 of the same conference. (Usually, you should figure out the paper number in the conference and use . If you can't make your page numbers unique, leave them out entirely.)

  • DOIs: DOIs uniquely identify a paper. Even if your style doesn't use them, you should record them in your bibtex file. Store them as the numbers only (DOIs have the format ; store the part after only). Bibliography tools seem to use this format predominantly.

  • URLs: If you're putting a URL into your bibliography, wrap it in (and put in your LaTeX preamble) so it wraps nicely. If you add a DOI with a tag, you don't need to add the DOI as as well.

  • Let's see where digital libraries get these things wrong! Corrections are in blue.


    Problems with IEEE: Did not use the names that were printed on the paper; did not put accents on proper characters; did not separate first initial and middle initial with a space; venue title is strangely wrapped around with the comma; did not capitalize paper title as it was on the paper; did not use bibtex month abbreviations; did not use en-dash to separate out page numbers.


    Problems with ACM: Did not capitalize paper title as it was on the paper; added a URL that's redundant with the DOI; did not store DOI as numbers only. Notable: On this paper, ACM got the venue capitalization correct!

    Also see Dan Wallach's thoughts on the matter.

    John Owens | Last updated .

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