# Error: LaTeX Error: Something's wrong--perhaps a missing \item

I found a lot of posts about the same problem but none could help. Can you please help me figure out why I am getting this error? I am using: IEEEtran.bst and IEEEtran.cls. Both of those files and the main .tex file and the references.bib are in one folder. When I try to compile my script, I get this error:

test.bbl(24): Error: LaTeX Error: Something's wrong--perhaps a missing \item.


Here is test.bbl:

% Generated by IEEEtran.bst, version: 1.12 (2007/01/11)
\begin{thebibliography}{}
\providecommand{\url}[1]{#1}
\csname url@samestyle\endcsname
\providecommand{\newblock}{\relax}
\providecommand{\bibinfo}[2]{#2}
\providecommand{\BIBentrySTDinterwordspacing}{\spaceskip=0pt\relax}
\providecommand{\BIBentryALTinterwordstretchfactor}{4}
\providecommand{\BIBentryALTinterwordspacing}{\spaceskip=\fontdimen2\font plus
\BIBentryALTinterwordstretchfactor\fontdimen3\font minus
\fontdimen4\font\relax}
\providecommand{\BIBforeignlanguage}[2]{{%
\expandafter\ifx\csname l@#1\endcsname\relax
\typeout{** WARNING: IEEEtran.bst: No hyphenation pattern has been}%
\typeout{** loaded for the language #1'. Using the pattern for}%
\else
\language=\csname l@#1\endcsname
\fi
#2}}
\providecommand{\BIBdecl}{\relax}
\BIBdecl

\end{thebibliography}


And my test.tex:

\documentclass[conference]{IEEEtran}
\begin{document}

\section{Test Citation}
\cite{logjam2015}

% ---- Bibliography ----
\bibliographystyle{IEEEtran}
\bibliography{references}

\end{document}


And the references.bib

@inproceedings{logjam2015,
author               = {Adrian, David and Bhargavan, Karthikeyan and Durumeric, Zakir and Gaudry, Pierrick and Green, Matthew and Halderman, J. Alex and Heninger, Nadia and Springall, Drew and Thom{\'e}, Emmanuel and Valenta, Luke and VanderSloot, Benjamin and Wustrow, Eric and Zanella-B{\'e}guelin, Santiago and Zimmermann, Paul},
booktitle            = {Proceedings of the 22nd ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS '15)},
pages                = {5-17},
title                = {{I}mperfect {F}orward {S}ecrecy: {H}ow {D}iffie-{H}ellman {F}ails in {P}ractice},
url                  = {http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/2810103.2813707},
year                 = {2015},
}

• Your bbl file has no \bibitem. Regenerate it running BibTeX; you need at least one \cite (or \nocite) command in your document. Jan 28, 2017 at 18:28
• 0 down vote There is no point in trying to fix this as the reason this is happening is because the IEEE website gives you a template with an old IEEEtran.bst file. Please update it from ctan.org/tex-archive/macros/latex/contrib/IEEEtran/bibtex Aug 21, 2017 at 13:43
• I had similar problems -- which says "LaTeX Error: Something's wrong--perhaps a missing \ite m." in Revtex -- but somehow in my case, I need to remove \center in the \begin{figure} ...\end{figure} Jan 3, 2019 at 20:38
• @egreg you saved my life! Sep 22, 2021 at 0:33

You have generated the .bbl file at a time when your document contained no \cite or \nocite command. The error derives from a bad redefinition made by IEEEtran.cls of the \endthebibliography macro.

The standard classes have something like

\newenvironment{thebibliography}[1]
{[irrelevant code omitted]}
{\def\@noitemerr
{\@latex@warning{Empty thebibliography' environment}}%
\endlist}


which implies

\def\endthebibliography{%
\def\@noitemerr{\@latex@warning{Empty thebibliography' environment}}%
\endlist
}


but IEEEtran.cls has

\let\endthebibliography\endlist


which is plainly wrong.

If you fix it

\documentclass[conference]{IEEEtran}

\makeatletter
\def\endthebibliography{%
\def\@noitemerr{\@latex@warning{Empty thebibliography' environment}}%
\endlist
}
\makeatother

\begin{document}

\section{Test Citation}
\cite{logjam2015}

% ---- Bibliography ----
\bibliographystyle{IEEEtran}
\bibliography{references}

\end{document}


then also an empty .bbl file (that is, with no \bibitem command) will just produce a warning and not an error.

• this saved my sanity while on a deadline for a paper submission :) Mar 22, 2019 at 22:06
• @meetaig You're welcome! Mar 22, 2019 at 22:11
• Note it could also happen when using software and not compiling by yourself when compiling the wrong tex (e.g. supplementary) that has no citations Oct 29, 2019 at 12:54
• Genius! I was searching around for more than 1 hour.. I am pretty new in LaTex/Overleaf Sep 8, 2020 at 16:52
• @QGravity Sorry, but with a different class the problem might be in some other place. Please, open a new question with the details of your setup. Nov 24, 2020 at 8:26

In case the error keeps presenting even you already added a \cite{something} in your paper, then you have to clear the auxiliary files.

In details, delete any files ended with .log .aux .bbl .blg. Then compile the document again and voila.

• Thanks, that solved the problem that i have + i was citing the wrong key Dec 1, 2020 at 4:48

I had exactly the same error message, with an empty .bbl file. If you are using MiKTeX like me, you can try to change \bibliographystyle{IEEEtran} with \bibliographystyle{ieeetran} with all lower case. Then run BibTeX. Finally generate your document running what you are used to. It solved my problem.

I found this solution reading https://ctan.org/pkg/ieeetran, where they provide the latest version of the IEEEtran BibTeX style (which I didn't need to download by the way), and specified that it is contained in TeX Live as IEEE­tran and in MiKTeX as ieee­tran.

• I was searching for the solution to this more than 30 minutes, thx! Jul 1, 2020 at 19:08

For me, there was no content in the latex files so by just including a temporary citation in the paper solved the problem.

In my case, this was in the context of a BibTex BBL file, which, upon inspection was empty.

Apparently, Overleaf reported the .bib file's name as Mendeley.bib and I included \bibliography{Mendeley}, but the file was silently not found.

Solution: I renamed the .bib file to all lower case and updated the \bibliography entry to match and everything worked as expected.