Format of references with BibTex

With Bibtex one can add references to other articles in the text that by adding numbers in square brackets (e.g [2]).

As explained in this post, it is also possible to format the reference in the standard author (year) with natbib citation management package and the plainnat bibliography style.

Example of having two different formats in one article

However, there is often a need for two different reference formats in the same article. A format that is used when the authors are subject or objects of a sentence and a format when the references are added in parentheses. Consider for example an extrait from Charlesworth et al. 1997:

[..] frequency of the common allele (Nordborg et al., 1996b). As discussed by Nordborg et al. (1996b), the exact model of [..]

Here there are two formats for the (same) reference

  • author (year)
  • author, year


Is it possible to have a system that allow to specify at each \cite{} what format we want to use (without messing up with the bibliography at the end)?

I suggest to use the above two formats (author (year) and author, year) as example.


Both citation call-out formats are examples of author-year style. The first,

(Nordborg et al., 1996b)

is called "parenthetic" citation call-out style. With natbib, it's produced with


The second call-out style, viz.,

Nordborg et al. (1996b),

is known as a "textual" style; with natbib it's generated via


The natbib package provides additional citation-related macros; do familiarize yourself with the package's user guide.

  • Great! Thanks for this nice explanation +1. I think you meant \citet{<key>} for the textual style. – Remi.b Feb 3 '16 at 17:03
  • @Remi.b - Thanks for pointing out this typo: Indeed, it should have been \citet; fixed the typo in the meantime. – Mico Feb 3 '16 at 18:05

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