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Making a Bibliography in LaTeX Manually

If you have only a few entries or you need to follow a special style exactly, you may want to use the manual bibliography abilities built into LaTeX. Although the manual method makes it easy to follow a bibliographic style exactly, you cannot customize how the citations within the document itself appear. Another drawback is if you wish to change your bibliographic style, you must change each entry by hand. For a large bibliography, this can take some time. If you would like to use LaTeX's automated bibliography system, BibTeX, check out how to use BibTeX to make a bibliography.

Constructing the Bibliography

The bibliography should follow this format:

\begin{thebibliography}{ widest_entry}
\bibitem[ label1]{ cite_key1} bibliographic entry
\bibitem[ label2]{ cite_key2} bibliographic entry
. . .

The widest_entry field should be a number with the same number of digits as your longest label. For example, if you expect to list up to a 3-digit number, type 111 (or anything else with three digits) in place of size. The label1 field is the number or word prefacing each bibliographic entry. The cite_key field is the word or number you use in the \cite command to refer to each entry. Each cite_key must be unique, but should also be something easy to remember and refer to, like the author's last name or last name and year if you have multiple entries by the same author. The bibliographic entry is the EXACT way, including LaTeX formatting, that you want each entry to appear. The following is an example bibliography with how it appears below it.

\bibitem{Azuela} Mariano Azuela, \textit{The Underdogs: A Novel of the Mexican Revolution}, trans. Beth Jorgensen (New York: The Modern Library, 2002).

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If you have a larger bibliography or have a style file (.bst) that you would like to use, it is not necessary to define formatting like this. Instead, you can use BibTeX, which formats the bibliography for you based on a preexisting style. You can find more information about making a bibliography in BibTeX on our BibTeX page.

Using the Bibliography

To cite an entry within your document, you will want to use the command \ \cite[page_number]{cite_key}. So, for the above example, you would write:

Assertion, assertion, yadda yadda \cite[45]{Azuela}.

And the result would be:

Assertion, assertion, yadda yadda [1, 45].

This method uses numbers to keep track of the citations, and future citations of Azuela will also be labeled 1. If you would like to have citations show up in parentheses or in other formats, you will want to use BibTeX or instead of using \cite just write the citation manually (Azuela, 45).