Skip to Main Content

Referencing, Citing, and Structuring Bibliographies

A beginners' guide to referencing and bibliographies.

What is Natbib?

The natbib package allows more flexibility in terms of citing and referencing styles, including Harvard style. Please see this video for more information:

My references are not appearing right - why?

Much time and effort can be saved by automatically generating BibTeX files through bulk export of multiple references either direct from databases or from reference management software. This automatic process may cause some issues and require you to tidy up the BibTeX files.

Here are some suggestions to help with this:

  • LaTeX special characters (e.g. $, %, &, \,) present in a BibTeX file can create problems during typesetting. To avoid this, all these characters should be prefixed with the ‘\’ character. Use a text editor such as Notepad or TeXworks to Find and Replace e.g. replace $ with \$
  • The BibTeX file is likely to contain extra fields of information not required for the actual reference. This information may pull through into the reference e.g. Notes field. It is recommended to remove this information from the BibTeX file
  • Retaining capitalization. Some bibliography styles strip out capitalization in fields such as the title field; this can be a problem if you want to preserve e.g. acronyms. To preserve capitalization, edit the BibTeX file and enclose the specific text (whole not partial words) in curly brackets:

e.g. title={Study of incompressible {MHD} flow in a circular pipe with transverse magnetic field using a spectral/finite element solver},


Thanks to Imperial College's guide for this information.

Citing and referencing in LaTex - using BibTeX

You can manage your references and bibliography in LaTex using the BibTex system. BibTex allows you to automatically generate and format a bibliography in a LaTeX document. You can do this by storing them in separate BibTeX database files (.bib extension). Advantages to doing this include:

  • Once stored in a BibTeX file, a reference can be re-used in future documents (you may choose to maintain one master or a series of BibTeX files)
  • Many databases and reference management software allows automatic export of reference details as BibTeX files

You can then use the following commands in your LaTeX document:

  • \cite{label}
    • To insert a citation where label is the label of a bibliographic entry in a .bib file.
  • \bibliography{bibfilename}
    • To insert a bibliography where bibfilename is the name of a .bib file.
  • \bibliographystyle{bstfilename}
    • To choose a BibTeX bibliographic style file with the extension .bst.

There is a wealth of guides on how to do this available on the web, including LaTeX's own guide on bibliography management here.

This is also a really helpful guide on how BibTex works: 


Creative Commons License
Royal Holloway Library LibGuide by Royal Holloway Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.