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The package biblatex-ieee provides a style for BibLaTeX which follows the guidelines of the IEEE (citations are numeric and unsorted). Unlike the IEEEtran.bst file, it provides only the bibliographic style, and not the text formatting of the bibliography section.

What happens is that with BibLaTeX the font size of the References section is the same of the other regular sections. It should be smaller, instead.

In other words, if I use the BibTeX approach

\bibliographystyle{IEEEtran}
\bibliography{IEEEabrv,references}

I get both the proper bibliographic style and text formatting (smaller font size).

With the BibLaTeX approach instead, I have to format the bibliography text by myself, with something like

\usepackage[style=ieee]{biblatex}
\addbibresource{references}
[...]

\renewcommand*{\bibfont}{\footnotesize}
\printbibliography

Which is the right fontsize (that is, the second argument for \renewcommand*) to be used with the IEEEtran class? (and, by the way, why cannot a BibLaTeX syle specify the text formatting, too?)

As a reference:

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    ieeetran is a suggestive document class. That's why you only need to get sufficiently close to the article. Then the printing office will retype your article as they see fit including the fact that they will remove biblatex parts and retype in their own in-house style. So you don't need to bother whether you match the style exactly or not. Also note that your example IEEE paper is for conferences. but biblatex style is for article – percusse Aug 16 '17 at 21:20
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    I agree with the remarks of your comment: fussing over the precise formatting of the document when we all know that IEEE rewrites it completely is indeed unnecessary. But in practice, when one prepares an article for the submission, the formatting is rendered as close as possible to the final version, in order to fit the page limits that some journals impose. (this is based on my personal experience, btw) – Alessandro Cuttin Aug 17 '17 at 7:48
  • and yes, the sample paper is for conferences, but it's the only one that I found with the font size specifications. I'm rather confident that the same font sizes apply also to journals. – Alessandro Cuttin Aug 17 '17 at 7:49
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A quick look into IEEEtran.cls reveals that the definition of thebibliography contains \footnotesize. Since IEEEtran.bst (and many other .bsts) uses thebibliography your bibliography in IEEEtran will be set \footnotesize. If you use biblatex, however, the bibliography is not set in thebibliography. The environment for a biblatex bibliography is defined by biblatex and not the document class.

With

\renewcommand*{\bibfont}{\footnotesize}

You will get the same font size, but a few minor spacing details will still be different.

As to why biblatex-ieee does not automatically set \bibfont to \footnotesize you already got your answer from the developer at https://github.com/josephwright/biblatex-ieee/issues/37. I can follow his argument especially since - as explained above - it is actually the document class that forces the bibliography font size and not the particular .bst style you use. You could argue that in a way it is just because the document class does not fully support biblatex (in the way it supports BibTeX) that you get different output for biblatex and BibTeX.

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