Using BibTeX with LaTeX

There are many ways to use BibTeX with LaTeX.

Why should I use BibTeX ?

There are several long-term benefits of using this system.

  1. Once you have added one reference to a BibTeX database, you can cite it in any article/book/report using the same cite-key. You only input the reference information once and for all (title, author, publisher, date, etc.). If you have to add/change something to the reference, you only have to change it once in your database for the change to be applicable to any file which uses that database, saving you time and effort.
  2. If you want to change the output style, all you have to do is simply select another package (the example above uses the jurabib package) or other options in your .tex file. You do not have to change the formatting of the reference yourself — LaTeX and BibTeX will format your references for you. If you want to use a system which recognizes recurring citations, that’s possible too: you don’t have to check whether you’ve already quoted a reference 10 pages earlier, BibTeX/LaTeX will do that for you.
  3. Customizing styles and options makes it possible to make the best of your bibliographic references. You can even automatically include cited authors in the index and create hyperlinks between a bibliographic record and the citation in your text.
  4. BibTeX/LaTeX is open-source, which means that there is no need to purchase expensive updates to keep your references database up-to-date. This is good for a long-term investment : you don’t want to be stuck with a database with thousands of references you cannot use 5 years from now.

In short, using this system is an investment which will make you save a lot of time and energy in the final stages of your work, when you want to include fully-formatted footnotes and your bibliography. This way, you can concentrate on the actual writing and let the computer sort out the paperwork and formatting details of hundreds and thousands of references and cross-references.

Sample output using the ‘oxford’ style and jurabib:

For the moment, I’m happy using the jurabib package from which the following examples are taken.

Notice the use of Idem in this example.

What you put in your .TEX file to produce the example above:





Though the above code might seem incomprehensible, it’s rather simple:

  1. \footcite means that the citation should be a footnote, instead of having something like (Bergmeier 1980) in the text itself.
  2. Then come the square brackets which indicate which pages are quoted (in this case: [23--67]).
  3. Then, between curly braces is the unique cite-key which refers to the BibTeX database entry for that reference (for instance{helm72}). Each reference has its own cite-key so that it is not confused with another reference (in this case {helm72} and {helm82} for instance).
  4. The options for the jurabib package appear in the document preamble (what comes before \begin{document}). The complete list and description of options used to be available on the jurabib website, but the same can be found on the CTAN repository of all LaTeX-related packages. In the example above, for instance, we want jurabib to recognize recurrent citations (ibidem=strict) and to print the full reference the first time a citation appears (citefull=first).

If you choose the jurabib package, I suggest you download the documentation which contains an overview of useful commands and options: jurabib docs.

jurabib is not longer being updated, so you may want to use other styles that are useful for the Humanities, such as natbib, combined with chicago or oxford output. See the online documentation for details.