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Custom LaTeX bibliography style files: Part 1/4

October 13th, 2007 by Mark · 10 Comments

As part of an ongoing series of articles on BibTeX, I will present examples of using BibTeX to generate and format custom bibliography style files to suit a wide range of biomedical journals. This article builds on some the basic knowledge included in an introductory text here on this site.

Those with a suspicious nature may wonder why someone would have suddenly required so many different bibliography styles and may make unfounded assumptions about my (in)ability to get articles into press. Any suggestion that said articles have had to be submitted to multiple journals before any one would accept them will be strictly denied. On the other hand, such repeated failures at article submission highlights the superb facilities built into LaTeX/BibTeX for formatting and managing bibliographies!

There are two issues to consider when writing an article or thesis: how articles are cited in the text, and how entries are formatted and ordered in the bibliography at the end. LaTeX can obviously handle both, but do remember they are managed separately. The “instructions for authors” for most journals will make journal requirements explicit.

Citation in the text

I use the LaTeX package natbib to control citations: natbib provides a variety of methods to fine-tune and customise the citation format. I suggest you read the documentation available.

Bibliography formatting/ordering

Depending on journal requirements you may be able to use a built-in or already created BibTeX style file. If you are submitting to a particularly enlightened journal then it is sometimes as easy as downloading their already generated style file! However, this seems (in my experience) to be rare in the biomedical field, most of which ask for manuscripts to be submitted as Microsoft Word documents, even though they are almost always converted to PDF subsequently during the submission process.

If a style file is not available, then one can make use of custom.bib, very powerful but slightly difficult-to-use custom bibliography style manager.

Where are the style files?

In part 2 of this series, I will demonstrate how to create an article suitable for submission to Brain, an Oxford journals publication. The instructions for authors are available here. The style file may be suitable for many other journals from the Oxford Journals.

Tags: LaTeX · Research

10 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Luis // Dec 24, 2007 at 12:44 am

    I guess you are not updating your blog any more… I miss the LaTeX tips, what’s going on? Hope all is fine…

  • 2 Mark // Dec 24, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    More posts coming in the New Year!

  • 3 Adrian // Mar 21, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I’m working on a manuscript for submission to the journal “Brain” using LateX. However, I haven’t succeeded in getting the citations right. I’ve tried the vancouver.bst file and got the bibligraphy going, but citing in the text only works with numbers, while I need author’s names.

    I’d be highly interested in part II of this blog entry. It would also be awesome if you could send me a .bst file which meets the requirements of “Brain”.

    Thanks for maintaining such a helpful blog 🙂
    Regards, Adrian

  • 4 Adrian // Mar 21, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    BTW: I’m still a student and this is my first attempt at publishing. So, I’m still a bit lost with all the requirements for a manuscript (especially in LateX). If you could support me with a .tex manuscript of yours published in “Brain”, I’d be very happy. Of course, I’d mention your help in the aknowledgements section.

  • 5 Mark // Mar 21, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Adrian: Beware: the BST file does not determine the citation format used in the text. Have you tried using and configuring natbib?

    I will post article 2 in this series tomorrow. This will include the custom.bib logfile and the resulting .bst file for Brain.

  • 6 Hi! // Aug 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    For own .bst file You can try BibIt (jawa, free, open, cross-platform)… it have GUI for this (Tools->Style generator)

  • 7 Iliya Lefterov, MD, PhD // Nov 17, 2009 at 11:06 am

    You did a great job, Mark.
    We have changed our mind at the very last moment, and decided to submit to Brain… You know how it “works” at the last moment…

    Tanks once again.

  • 8 Iliya Lefterov // Nov 17, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Thanks Mark.
    The problem is that Brain does not accept LaTex files. Even worse – the authors have to submit old version .doc files.


  • 9 Vinay // Mar 27, 2010 at 4:01 am

    Consider this as an SOS!

    I have to submit a paper to a conference whose format needs the citation to be in author-year style. And it needs the references to be numbered and arranged in an alphabetical order of the surname of the 1st author.

    I generated a custom bibliography file, following the instructions on your blog, but I am not able to put a numbered list to the references.

    Please help me, it’s urgent!!

  • 10 Jav // May 25, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Where is part 2?

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