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LaTeX Guide : Citing with BibTeX

LaTeX Guide


LaTeX uses the BibTeX (.bib) file format to manage and process lists of references in order to produce in-text citations and formatted bibliographies. It is possible to create a BibTeX file from scratch using a text editor, but many literature databases and most modern citation managers can export directly to this format.

Citation Managers and LaTeX/BibTeX


Jabref is a free reference manager with native BibTeX and BibLaTeX support—it's designed for use with systems like LaTeX and includes cite-while-you-write functionality for LaTeX editors like Kile, LyX, and TeXstudio.


Zotero is a free, open source citation manager. To create a BibTeX file with Zotero:

  1. Save all your references into a single collection folder
  2. Right click that collection in Zotero (Ctrl + click for Mac OS)
  3. Choose Export Collection...
  4. Change the format from RIS to BibTeX
  5. Click OK

This will create a .bib file for you. Because Zotero is open source, there are a number of third-party plugins you can get to add or improve functionality. Better BibTeX for Zotero is highly recommended if you will be using Zotero for citation management for a LaTeX project.


EndNote is a powerful citation manager, but the full version cannot be used without the purchase of a software license. The paid version of EndNote can produce a BibTeX file for your references, with some limitations. To do this:

  1. Save all your references into a single EndNote group
  2. Select the references in EndNote (use Ctrl +A for Windows or Cmd + A for Mac OS to select all)
  3. From the main menu choose File > Export...
  4. Choose BibTeX Export as the file output style (this may require installing the BibTeX Export style from the Style Manager)
  5. Save the file
  6. EndNote creates a plain text (.txt) file with BibTeX formatting inside; you will need to manually change it to .bib

Note: these instructions were created using EndNote 20. The process may not be exactly the same for other versions of EndNote.


Mendeley is a free citation manager. Follow the directions below to create a BibTeX file containing the references from a Mendeley collection.

  1. Save all your references into a single folder
  2. Navigate to that folder in Mendeley Reference Manager
  3. Choose File > Export All from the main menu
  4. Choose BibTeX (*.bib) and save your file

Note: the steps may vary depending on the version of Mendeley being used.