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I think I remember seeing some papers using symbolic names (i.e. [AuthorXXX2006]) instead of numeric indices (i.e. [1]), but obviously I'm too stupid to find a (more or less standard) biblatex-style that does this.

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    Do you use BibLaTeX or BibTeX? (your text says biblatex, the tag says bibtex). – Caramdir Mar 6 '11 at 17:53
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The natbib package for BibTeX provides many citation styles, including one that uses author's names.

In particular, using natbib you can cite a paper like in "Miller et al. (2003) showed …", that is, you can use references like nouns. This leads to much more readable citations compared to classic styles, although at the expense of some space which might be too valuable in academic papers.

I'm not familiar with BibLaTeX so I don't know about the availability of natbib there.

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    There are some natbib-like commands, see section 3.6.9 of the biblatex manual, but I think biblatex-apa would be appropriate for the example you gave in your 2nd paragraph. – chl Mar 7 '11 at 9:46

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