Author-year bibliographies in LaTeX

For submission to some conferences and journals, you can’t use BibTeX, as they may want one single (La)TeX file containing everything: the text of the article, and the bibliography, for easy typesetting and inclusion in the proceedings. Standard LaTeX use produces a numbered bibliography. Here is a mini file which includes two citations:

documentclass{article}

begin{document}

This is a test of the bibliography system of LaTeX.   It cites
two works.  Ant & Bee~cite{adam15} investigate how insects
can annoy humans, while another work~cite{rhin20} investigates
how big animals can annoy humans.

begin{thebibliography}{9}
bibitem{adam15}Ant, A. & Bee, B. (2015). The busy ant and
   bee guide to being a nuisance, emph{Human-Insect Interaction},
   100(1), 1--1000

bibitem{rhin20}Rhino, R. & Elephant, E. (2020). emph{Theory
   and Practice of Ruining Big Game Expeditions}, Safari Press
end{thebibliography}
end{document}

which typesets to produce

Note that each bibitem contains two fields: a “key” (in braces), and the publication details. This method of citation and referencing is fine for many scientific documents, and many journals and conferences. However, some conferences prefer their citations to be in “author year” style, similar to that prescribed by the APA.

This can be easily obtained by using the natbib style, which provides a new implementation of the standard LaTeX cite command. Here is the above article again:

documentclass[a4paper]{article}
usepackage{natbib}

begin{document}

This is a test of the texttt{natbib} author-year system.  It cites
two works.  citet{adam15} investigate how insects can annoy humans,
while another work~citep{rhin20} investigates how big animals can
annoy humans.

begin{thebibliography}{}
bibitem[Ant & Bee(2015)]{adam15}Ant, A. & Bee, B. (2015). The
  busy ant and bee guide to being a nuisance, emph{Human-Insect
  Interaction}, 100(1), 1--1000

bibitem[Rhino & Elephant(2020)]{rhin20}Rhino, R. & Elephant, E.
  (2020). emph{Theory and Practice of Ruining Big Game
  Expeditions}, Safari Press
end{thebibliography}
end{document}

Note that here the bibitem entries have three fields:

bibitem[authors(year)]{key}publication details

and there are two versions of cite. Actually there are many more; see the natbib documentation for details. Or have a look at this page for a summary. The command citet produces “Authors (Year)” in the text, whereas citep produces “(Author, Year)”. This is why the first field in a bibitem must be of the form [Author(Year)] so that the natbib parser can separate the authors and the year, and typeset the citation accordingly.

And the result is:

This is all very simple and straightforward, but for some reason I found it very hard to find all this information in one place.

One thought on “Author-year bibliographies in LaTeX

  1. I believe you can still use BibTeX. Just look in the .bbl file that it creates. Cut and paste its contents into the bibliography section of your LaTeX file. Voilà, you’ll have what you have above.

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