BibTeX entries exported from online databases such as IEEExplore have keyword fields containing information that was decided by the authors or editors. However, I want to define my own non-hierarchical classification (i.e., tags or custom keywords) to use in my BibTeX database, without clearing the original keywords field.

What BibTeX field should I use for such classifications? Ideally, I'd like to be able to add tags and query entries of my tags with a tool such as JabRef. There's a video that explains tagging in Mendeley, but I'd like to achieve the same with some BibTeX software.

2 Answers 2


You can use arbitrary keywords that are not yet defined. They will be ignored by bibtex.

In JabRef, you can add those fields in Options/Set up general fields.

  • I edited my question to reflect that "tagging" is an operation to easily add non-hierarchical classification metadata. The suggestion you gave allows me to manually edit those keywords in a field, but "tagging" as I'd like to use it doesn't seem to work in JabRef with that method. Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 14:58
  • 4
    "Tagging" as I want it to work in JabRef is possible! Here are the quick steps: View > Toggle groups interface. Create a New group and name it with the classification you want, e.g., empirical study. Assign Dynamically group entries by searching a field for a keyword and leave Hierarchical context as Independent group. Under Options specify Field with tags (for arbitrary keywords). Under Keyword put the corresponding tag value, e.g., empirical study. Dragging entries to the Group will add the keyword to the tag field. Clicking the group shows tagged entries. Commented Aug 21, 2014 at 15:53
  • @Fuhrmanator Your solution is very hard to follow. Can you please explain in more detail in an answer? Thanks!
    – Fred
    Commented Mar 15, 2017 at 14:46

Adding the answer from a comment here as well:

Tagging in the sense to add non-hierarchical keywords can be achieved with groups. They can be arranged hierarchically, but are non-exclusive.

A different option is to use keywords. However, they seem harder to use, especially when trying to easily access all documents with a certain keyword (can be done with search, but not that easy).

What one can also do is to use keywords together with groups and have all documents with a certain keyword automatically be added to a corresponding group. That would be duplicate work, though.

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