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Michigan State University


A basic introduction to writing and managing citations in LaTex.

Introduction to BibTeX

LaTex allows you to manage citations within your document through the use of a separate bibtex file (filename.bib). Bibtex files follow a standard syntax that allow you to easily reference the citations included in that file through the use of a bibliography management package. There are multiple bibliography management packages that you can use to manage citations. This guide will demonstrate how to use biblatex which allows for the most customization.

Example BibTeX file:

   author = {Grimberg, Bruna Irene and Hand, Brian},
   title = {Cognitive Pathways: Analysis of students' written texts for science understanding},
   journal = {International Journal of Science Education},
   volume = {31},
   number = {4},
   pages = {503-521},
   ISSN = {0950-0693},
   DOI = {10.1080/09500690701704805},
   url = {},
   year = {2009},
   type = {Journal Article}

Creating a BibTeX file

You can always create BibTeX files manually. However, many databases and citation managers allow you to export bibtex files that can then be uploaded into your LaTeX environment.

Adding a BibTeX Library to your Document

To add a bibtex file to your LaTex document, you can either create a new file in your Overleaf environment or upload a .bib file to the environment.

Using the Biblatex package to Cite

To start using the biblatex package to cite, we first need to add the package and establish the BibTex file we are using in the preamble of the document.



To create in text citation within your document, we can use the cite command (\cite{citationkey}) and include the citation key in the argument. The citation key can be found by looking up the first word included in the relevant citation within the BibTex file. These can always be updated by editing the BibTex file.

You can cite authors in line by using the cite command \cite{grimberg}.

We can then simply print the bibliography at the end of the document.


Changing Citation Styles

Biblatex supports most common citation styles. To change the citation style in your document you have to edit the citestyle command of the biblatex package in the preamble.


Biblatex syntax for common citation styles
ACS chem-acs
AIP phys
APA apa
Chicago chicago-authordate
IEEE ieee
MLA mla
Nature nature
Science science

You can also update the way the bibliography is sorted by adding a sorting command of the biblatex package.


Biblatex syntax for sorting styles
nty name, title, year
nyt name, year, title
nyvt name, year, volume, title
ydtn year (descending), title, name
none citations appear in the order they are cited within the document

For more information on editing biblatex citation styles, see:

Michigan State University