Is there a standard for the fields which are required to be included for a reference in scientific journal/conference papers? For instance BibTeX has a lot of fields for an @article entry, but which of them are required?

4 Answers 4


No, there is no universally accepted standard for this.

That doesn't mean there aren't standards you should follow, though. Usually, the set of required fields is dictated by the journal or conference you are publishing in. Many journals have BibTeX styles that will include the required fields for you (as long as they are present in your library, of course). It should go without saying that if your journal offers a BibTeX style (possibly as part of a LaTeX class), you should use it. Otherwise, check on the journal's website to see if they have a description of the kind of references they are looking for. Any self-respecting journal should have this information accessible somewhere in its submission instructions.

If you do find yourself having the freedom to choose which fields to include, I would suggest following one common-sense guideline: Include enough information to uniquely identify the reference. You'd be surprised how often I find citations which do not uniquely identify a paper, and it's really annoying. At a minimum, I would suggest the following for citing a published paper (not necessarily in this order):

  • Authors' names
  • Journal title (abbreviated if standard practice), issue, and volume
  • Year of publication
  • Page number
  • A DOI if there is one
  • An eprint identifier if there is one (for fields in which papers are pre-published on arXiv)
  • In other fields, any sort of widely recognized identifier, if there is one

If citing a book:

  • Authors' names
  • Book title
  • Edition
  • Year of publication
  • ISBN

Also, keep the references short enough to be quickly digestible. In particular, the full title of a scientific paper can often be omitted. The aim is that one should be able to pick out the key identifying information at a glance. Using font styles to distinguish different fields helps; most BibTeX styles will do this.


The Chicago Manual of Style specifies Author(s), Year of Publication, Article Title (sentence case, not title case), Journal (italicized), Issue Number followed by a colon followed by the page number(s), thus:

Anholt, B. R. and E. E. Werner. 1995. Interaction between food availability and predation mortality mediated by adaptive behavior. Ecology 76:2230-34

Journal titles are normally abbreviated, so Journal becomes J., Record becomes Rec. and so on.


A tool like Jabref can help you about this. According to Jabref Article type's required fields are

  • Author
  • Title
  • Journal
  • Year
  • Volume
  • Pages

Jabref Editing Type Article

  • But is it accepted as a standard or convention? Is it the predominantly used alternative? Because even I am seriously interested to know.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 11:36
  • I do not know really. I am using Jabref since it is convenient. Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 11:41
  • BibTeX itself has some required fields. For a journal article these fields are author, title, journal, year; but almost everyone includes volume, number/month and pages. Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 12:00
  • @MohammadHedayati This, I guess, is the answer OP seeks. Could you provide some reference and preferably post this as an answer?
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 12:48
  • @Kris, I am the original poster. This is just what I have perceived from other papers, yet I don't have any reference that have stated this. Even IEEE BibTeX style only enumerates possible fields but not required ones. Commented Dec 16, 2011 at 14:46

AFAIK for each bibtex entry there are required fields (if they are missing you get a warning when compiling with bibtex/latex), and they are specified, for instance, here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BibTeX


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