How can I write a BibTeX entry for a special issue of a journal? I've tried using @book, but then I get

Warning--can't use both volume and number fields in <entry>

I use natbib with abbrvnat, and I have the following fields for my entry:

  • editor
  • title
  • publisher
  • year
  • volume
  • number
  • 4
    This is a function of the bibliography style, not of BiBTeX itself. If I use another bibstyle the warning doesn't arise, with a @Book entry.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 1:12
  • use @article or @proceedings for this entry
    – user2478
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 10:38
  • 2
    @Herbert using @proceedings won't help here, since it also is formatted as a book volume, and disallows both volume and number in abbrvnat.bst. And @article isn't ideal either, since it expects an author field, not an editor field.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 17:04

5 Answers 5


biblatex offers the entry type @periodical for a "complete issue of a periodical, such as a special issue of a journal" (manual, section 2.1.1).





  editor = {Fischel, William A.},
  year = {1990},
  title = {Land Economics},
  issuetitle = {Private Markets, Public Decisions: An Assessment of Local Land-Use Controls for the 1990s},
  volume = {66},
  number = {3},
  url = {http://www.jstor.org/stable/i357971},





  • 2
    @Thomas (and others) should be aware that the @periodical entry type also exists in standard BiBTeX, but with a different semantics (essentially the same as @article) so this is truly a biblatex-only solution, and won't work with natbib at all.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 20:55
  • 1
    @Alan: I re-checked Patashnik, BibTeXing, and Markey, Tame the BeaST, and neither source lists a @periodical type.
    – lockstep
    Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 21:01
  • 4
    You're right. I was making assumptions based on BibDesk, which I shouldn't have done. So the basic point remains: this is a biblatex-only solution. (As you know; I'm just adding the comment for clarity.)
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 21:38

Here's something quick-and-dirty I did (in standard Bibtex) in order to cite a special issue and it produced a result that was good for my purposes.

   title = {Special issue on 50 years of {B}ell's theorem},  
    author  =  {Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical},  
  volume  = {47(42)},  
  month   = {October},  
  year    = {2014},  
  publisher = {IOP Science},  
  url     = { -- OMITTED -- },  
  note    = {\url{  -- OMITTED -- }}  
% Volume 47, Number 42, 24 October 2014  

[[I had remove the url's so that the tex.stackexchange session manager would allow me to post this.]]

Here's the result it produced with the "plain" bibliography style.

[17] Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical. Special issue on 50 years of Bell's theorem, volume 47(42). IOP Science, October 2014. http://iopscience.iop.org/1751-8121/47/42.

Where the title "Special issue on 50 years of Bell's theorem" was emphasized (in italics).

  • 1
    Using this method, volume={18 Issue 3} produced Volume 18 Issue 3.
    – delrocco
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 17:26

If it's a special issue that happens to be the proceedings of a conference, then there is the @proceedings type which (according to emacs reftex) takes the following arguments:

  title =    {},
  year =     {},
  OPTkey =   {},
  OPTbooktitle = {},
  OPTeditor =    {},
  OPTvolume =    {},
  OPTnumber =    {},
  OPTseries =    {},
  OPTaddress =   {},
  OPTmonth =     {},
  OPTorganization = {},
  OPTpublisher = {},
  OPTnote =      {},
  OPTannote =    {}

Note the optional ones are prefaced by OPT and you will need to remove the OPT and all the fields you are not using to get this to work.

  • 1
    This doesn't solve the problem. The issue is not with the entry-type or the available fields, it's with the way the abbrvnat.bst style decides to format those entries. The @Book entry has basically the same fields.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 13:55

I found that online bibtex snippets are often faulty. Especially for inproceedings, the number may actually be issue.


Google scholar snippet:

  title={The pyramid-technique: towards breaking the curse of dimensionality},
  author={Berchtold, Stefan and B{\"o}hm, Christian and Kriegal, Hans-Peter},
  booktitle={ACM SIGMOD Record},

However, according to ACM it is:

Volume 27 Issue 2, June 1998 Pages 142-153

  • But how do you specify the issue? I am not sure about what is the right bibtex field. Thanks in advance. Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 14:19
  • 1
    There is no 'issue' field. For the example, apparently ACM changed it to use 'number' instead of 'issue'.
    – TilmannZ
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 22:50
  • You can also write text in the field. volume={18 Issue 3} produced Volume 18 Issue 3 for me using Overleaf BibTeX and natbib.
    – delrocco
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 17:28
  • I just change number to issue and leave everything else untouched, it does the trick, no warning anymore
    – Jason
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 20:36

Further to answer #4 above (this won't fit as a comment) some notes to help those trying to address this issue and using as ACM's acmart package. (As I write, I'm trying to write better docs due to author's complaints in the ACM Conference where I submit—so this on my desk right now)

Sadly the ACM style is poorly documented. The basic style page doesn't explain the part of a reference and conflicts with the supposed BibTeX versions. The cited items differ and some BibTeX code either won't compile or used the wrong field for `acmart'. At the same time, DL.ACM doesn't appear to use ACM styles (as per the style guide) or the attendant BibTeX.

Though acmart can be configured (by an expert user) to use BibLaTeX processing, it uses natbib by default—and the documents seems to assume that too. The acmart BST file defines a custom @periodical type, though ACM style pages do not document the approved output style of that (I've not tested how the ACM and BiBLaTeX @periodical do/don't align).

Asking for a citation of Communications of The ACM Volume 50, Issue 1, DL.ACM's offered BibTeX is this:

year = {2007},
issue_date = {January 2007},
publisher = {Association for Computing Machinery},
volume = {50},
number = {1},
issn = {0001-0782},
journal = {Commun. ACM}

which compiles with errors (missing fields) and is the wrong type anyway. Using the acmart @periodical and dumping fields unused for actual referencing we get:

    year = {2007},
    volume = {50},
    number = {1},
    journal = {Commun. ACM}

That errors on compile (I'm using Overleaf and acmart 1.9.2) for having no title and for no editor or organization. This does work:

    year = {2007},
    organization = {Association for Computing Machinery},
    editor = {Diane Crawford},
    volume = {50},
    number = {1},
    title = {January 2007},
    journal = {Commun. ACM}

Note that if both editor and organization are supplied, only editor is used. I had to trawl the magazine's front-matter to find the editor: most people might want to just use the org name instead, being less effort.

Now, at last, the point about styling the issue number. The default ACM-supplied code is:

    volume = {50},
    number = {1},

or we can substitute an 'issue' field for 'number'

    volume = {50},
    issue = {1},

or leverage the fact (uncodumented formally) the 'volume' data is used verbatim

    volume = {50 Issue 1},

This, on order as above, output like:

Diane Crawford (Ed.). 2007. January 2007. Commun. ACM 50, 1 (2007).

Diane Crawford (Ed.). 2007. January 2007. Commun. ACM 50 (2007).

Diane Crawford (Ed.). 2007. January 2007. Commun. ACM 50 Issue 1 (2007).

So whilst an 'issue' field works in some types, it doesn't get used at all in ACM's version of @pereiodical.

Now, compare this with the first two lines of content on the Issue's page at DL.ACM. Line #1 uses "Vol. 50, No. 1" and line #2 uses "Volume 50, Issue 1". The first is akin to variant #1 above, and the second to variant #3. Going with variant #1 makes most sense as it doesn't need editing of the 'volume' field which might mess up use of the same code for other output (publisher) styles.

So unless/until the ACM steadies on a stated preference, close enough is probably good enough for referencing. Sigh.

One other ACM BibTeX 'gotcha' is access dates for online references. natbib pre-dates the we so has no notion of URL-based online resources. acmart maps @online to @misc type but doesn't support the now general use of the urldate field for the access data. Instead, ACM accepts such dates only a custom field lastaccessed. An alternative hack is to put the access dates in the 'note' field.

Hopefully that saves some others a lot of wasted time trying to fix their BibTeX for ACM submissions.

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