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Referencing, Citing, and Structuring Bibliographies

A beginners' guide to referencing and bibliographies.

Rather than having to edit your BibTeX bibliographic entries manually, you can manage your references with a reference management program, such as Zotero, and then export references in BibTeX format.

Zotero provides LaTeX users with two options for exporting a BibTeX file.

The first is simpler and suitable for users who do not need to make changes to their BibTeX file once generated. The second however enables users to auto-sync their Zotero and BibTeX.

Simple Method:

  1. Create your Zotero reference list. If you require help on how to use Zotero, please refer to this LibGuide
  2. Select your required references by using the Ctrl button and left clicking or select all references by using Ctrl and a 
  3. Click the File tab, then Export Library
  4. Change the format to BibTeX by clicking the drop down File options
  5.  Ensure Export Notes is ticked then click OK
  6. The file will automatically add a .bib extension, change the file name as required then save the file into the same folder as your LaTeX document.

The Second Method:

The benefits of this method include being able to keep your .bib file automatically updating as new references are added to the Zotero manager. In the simple method, the user has to re download the .bib file each time they need to add a new reference.

This method also allows the user to give the reference a custom citation key as the simple method auto generates a very long and sometimes cumbersome key that contains a large amount of characters. 

  1. Zotero does not already contain the files needed for this extension method so the user needs to install and enable the Better BibTeX add-on. 
  2. Installation instructions can be found at the bottom of this step-by-step process.   
  3. Download the latest add-on by clicking on the 'latest .xpi file' link the installation instructions. At the time of writing this guide the full file name is zotero-better-bibtex-1.6.75.xpi but this will change with newer releases. 

Zotero Web

  • Install Better BibTeX by clicking on the xpi file if it does not automatically start

Zotero Standalone

  1. The .xpi file will not automatically run in the standalone Zotero
  2. Open Zotero manager
  3. Click the Tools tab, then Add-ons
  4. Next select Extensions
  5. Click on the gear or the settings icon in the top right hand corner and select Install Add-on From File
  6. Select the .xpi file you just downloaded then click Install
  7. If it does not already prompt you to do so, restart Zotero


  1. For both the web and standalone version, Export the required references similar to the simple method
  2. This time however the Export pop up box will have a fourth option for you to tick Keep Updated
  3. Tick both the Keep updated box and the Export notes box and save as a .bib file in the same folder as your LaTeX document
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