I noticed recently that the address field in BibTeX inproceedings entries is often abused to store the conference location although the documentation says that it is supposed to be the publisher's address. Of course, these two may coindice, e.g., when the people organizing the conference printed the proceedings themselves at the conference location (e.g., by University press). However, if this is not the case, it seems inconsistent to me. The address of, say, an article entry is always the publisher's address. Is the abuse of the address field in inproceedings entries so common that nobody cares or am I misinterpreting the documentation? I know that some styles support additional fields for the conference location, e.g., the location field, but this is not true in general. Is there a correct way of doing this? If it is relevant, I am from the field of Computer Science.

Best regards

  • I think it depends on how the bib style you use treats the field. If it ends up formatted correctly in the pdf, I don't think it matters does it? I occasionally 'abuse' fields like this if I have one or two references that don't match up with the given style. It's often easier to 'cheat' than dig into the bib style to do things properly.
    – Tyler
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 20:39
  • @Tyler: Of course, if the style limits the output that you want to achieve, abusing fields is o.k. But I thought of my question as a general one: Is it correct to abuse the address field like this if the publisher's address is not the same as the conference location, regardless of the style? Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 20:46
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    Technically and strictly speaking this practice is indeed an abuse of the field. One should always expect the address to contain the address/location of the publisher, just as one would always expect the title to contain the title - especially since the documentation is quite clear on the subject. That said, in my experience @inproceedings and the like are quite tricky to deal with at times and might need some special treatment.
    – moewe
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 21:00
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    @moewe -- sometimes the location of a conference becomes the reference "hook" for an important concept. one such with which i'm personally familiar (i was there and typed up the lecture notes) is the "woods hole fixed point theorem" (see the "history" section of this wikipedia article. don't just automatically assume that the location of a conference is meaningless. Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 21:15
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    Aside from the question of whether this is an abuse of the field (which it certainly seems to me), it is also very much a matter of disciplinary convention as to which 'address' for conference proceedings is more important. In the humanities, IMO, even when the location of the conference is somehow important, which is rare enough, that information is included in the short title or as part of the abbreviation (say, a title like Proc. Cambridge 1984). In the bibliographical reference, the address of the publisher is (always) used more often than the publisher.
    – jon
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 3:14

2 Answers 2


this should really be a comment, but it's too long.

the bibtex manual (texdoc bibtex) contains this statement on p.7:

  1. The PROCEEDINGS and INPROCEEDINGS entry types now use the address field to tell where a conference was held, rather than to give the address of the publisher or organization. If you want to include the publisher's or organization's address, put it in the publisher or organization field.

sad but true.

this conflicts with the statement on p.9:

address Usually the address of the publisher or other type of institution. For major publishing houses, van Leunen recommends omitting the information entirely. For small publishers, on the other hand, you can help the reader by giving the complete address.

in my opinion, this is a misfeature; the abuse is in the design rather than in the use by an author, since it is clearly documented in the canonical reference manual.

edit: also, in my opinion, both addresses should be provided for. sadly, bibtex is woefully out of date; one wishes for a replacement that could be adopted seamlessly by all affected publishers. (biblatex, biber, amsrefs, ..., have exemplary features, but also fatal flaws that prevent their universal acceptance.)

  • Thanks a lot for pointing this out. Since the manual contains conflicting statements, as you said, is there even a right way of doing it? For now, I just use the address field for the publisher's address and add a location field for the conference location, hoping that the style that I need to prepare my document for supports it. Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 21:13
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    @AndreasUnterweger -- i'm not sure there's a single "right" way of doing it. a little exploration on mathscinet has turned up at least one @incollection item that includes the conference location explicitly in parentheses as part of booktitle, and used address for the publisher's address. i haven't tried to process this with common .bst files to see what is actually produced. Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 21:29
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    Strictly speaking, those statements are not inconsistent. The description of the address field is a generic one and is quite explicit: 'Usually the address of the publisher...' [added emph]]. I would read that as admitting of exceptions and then read the discussion of <at>proceedings and <at>inproceedings as specifying such an exception. Do references usually specify the publisher for proceedings anyway? I always thought of them more along the line of journals which include neither publisher nor address.
    – cfr
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 22:02
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    @cfr: Good point. I (personally) always add the publisher and its address (if available) so that the content may be found more easilsy. Of course, the authors and the title are often sufficient to do that, but there are cases (e.g., small conferences and workshops) where the publisher information is actually more helpful for finding the published document. Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 22:08
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    @cfr -- the point you make that this is to enable readers to actually find references is right on, but it is of little use if the .bst file used to generate the published references omits the information. that is the real problem here. the .bst files aren't consistent in how they treat these elements. Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 23:32

Well this is a issue related with two different things. In the first one we have the @proceedings category of BibTeX and the obligatory fields its admit (author, title, booktitle, publisherand year). In fact the issue is with àddress`that is misused the most of times.

In the other hand, perhaps part of the problem is the own design of BibTeX. I don't mean that it's wrong or bad but it has certain limitations. And I guess that the existence of many packages such as as NatBib is for overcome these deficiencies and expand what BibTeX itself is able to do, which is no small matter. I guess that's the origin of biblatex that improves and expand the arsenal of fields available for the entry types and also creates more flexible ones. In fact, in the case of @proceedings and @inproceedings exists a new entry field for the address of the conference: location that you can now use correctly without usurp the address field.

By what I see, move from bibtex to biblatex can help solve some problems like that. However, in my opinion that does not solve the underlying problem: (almost) nobody knows to cite right the references, many people can not distinguish between a system of bibliographic citation and bibliographic style. Moreover, many of these people do not even know what bibliographical style they are using and why, does it simply because someone else told them (including many academics and researchers). And as it is something that they ignore, of course do not give it importance. At least that's the sad reality that I live.

However, although many authors and researchers ignore these topics and are engaged to employ styles that are assigned to them according to the journal which will publish, it is something that publishers are not overlooked.

And of course there is more scrupulous (such as participating in this forum) and maybe picky people by the difficulties inherent or otherwise begins to ask questions like this.

But ... To what extent this is relevant? Many times, because the rush is sometimes better to make an unorthodox use of the entry fields rather than redefining the bibliographic style to use, however if you take a look at google Academic see that many of the books and references that appear, when you downloaded in .bib format are incomplete at best, or the data does not fit at all. Sometimes instead of using @proceedings, merely use @book.

Whom should care about this? How important is the accuracy of the references? Besides the aforementioned editors I think any author who cares that your readers can successfully access their references.

Similarly any researcher seeking to have their well catalogued references will invest time that they are accurate as far as possible with the data he/she have available. At the end will save a lot of time and may be efficient and time off from work citing his/her references. For the rest of mortals may be just too picky or a waste of time, I don't know.

Finally about the correct way to do this... There are manuals that can guide us in this regard, in English one basic and would be highly recommend is The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS or CMS) (16th edition). I don't know about others, but I do know that there are rules and norms about it. One that maybe you should check out is the ISO 690:2010. There is also the NLM (National Library of Medicine) and others.


Well the references I wrote yesterday are not available freely in the web as many other books I cited before. Actually had not seen any problem with it, they are probably available in your university library or somewhere close if you are not interested in paying for the book or document.

Just as an author is not obliged to provide its potential readers all references used, simply refer them well, I'm not going to provide access to the mine, less even if this can be considered a crime in some places.

But I'll take the comment to make a more precise references, in the case of CMS, well isn't free, but you can search in the official web site and you can buy an online subscription or register for a free trial of 30 days and reaad what you need. In fact my suggestions is to read the chapter 14 that treats about references. Specifically sections 14.133 to 14.138 and the chapter 15.

In regard to the ISO norm I'm afraid that I don't have it, I could only view it with no option to copy or duplicate by any digital or mechanical device. I also want to thank Moewe for his correction about what I said before about using biblatex and @location.

Finally I want to emphasize that the CMS is a reference manual designed for English style, so if English is not usually the language you use to create your documents, maybe their standards, suggestions and rules inside are not the most advisable.

  • Since the two manuals that you mention are not available for free, would you mind letting us know what they say on the matter of publisher address vs. conference location in conference proceeding references? Thanks. Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 9:17
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    In biblatex, address is deprecated in favour of location (address is an alias for location). The field for a conference location is venue, as stated in the biblatex documentation §2.2.2, p. 23 venue: "The location of a conference, a symposium, or some other event in @proceedings and @inproceedings entries. [...] Note that the location list holds the place of publication. It therefore corresponds to the publisher and institution lists. The location of the event is given in the venue field."
    – moewe
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 16:02
  • @Aradnix: Maybe my request for the references was not formulated well. Of course you cannot make non-public documents available which are not yours, but I wanted to know what they actually say on the matter at hand, since you seem to have them available. I think that it would be nice to have the information here in order to be able to discuss it. Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 9:55
  • @AndreasUnterweger well, as you could see, it is a norm with a lot of suggestions and recomendations for cite and build references and your own bibliographic style. So I can't summarize a nomr in a comment, also there is a long time that I checked, and not exactly to resolve the question that you raised. Meanwhile, Javier Bezos (the creator of titlesec package and who currently maintains the Babel package) is working on a very interesting guide to compose properly bibliographies from a orthotypographical view, the problem is that it is still a draft and is in Spanish.
    – Aradnix
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 4:11
  • @AndreasUnterweger Let me see if I can access the norm again (because now I'm not a student) for check it better.
    – Aradnix
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 4:12

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