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First of all, I know it may be a very dump question, but I really don't understand why I got wrong after lots of google search...

I'd like to submit a paper to a conference which requires AAAI format. I download the template from here: http://www.aaai.org/Publications/Templates/AuthorKit18.zip I then unzip the LaTeX folder. Under the same folder, I create a file named ref.bib, and add the following commands to formatting-instructions-latex-2018.tex right before \end{document}:

\bibliography{ref}

\bibliographystyle{aaai}

The ref.bib file only contains one reference for test purpose:

@BOOK{DUMMY:1,
    AUTHOR="John Doe",
    TITLE="The Book without Title",
    PUBLISHER="Dummy Publisher",
    YEAR="2100",
}

I tried to compile the formatting-instructions-latex-2018.tex, and every time I got the error message:

Something's wrong--perhaps a missing \item. \end{thebibliography}

I checked the formatting-instructions-latex-2018.bbl and found there are only two lines as following:

\begin{thebibliography}{}

\end{thebibliography}

However, when I create a simple test.tex still under same folder with following commands: (based on a tutorial here: https://www.latex-tutorial.com/tutorials/bibtex/ and I changed bibliographystyle to aaai)

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{aaai18}

\begin{document}

Random citation \cite{DUMMY:1} embeddeed in text.

\newpage

\bibliography{ref} 
\bibliographystyle{aaai}

\end{document}

Compiling test.tex is successful. I checked test.bbl and the following lines are there:

\begin{thebibliography}{1}

\bibitem{DUMMY:1}
J.~Doe, {\em The Book without Title}.
\newblock Dummy Publisher, 2100.

\end{thebibliography}

I even tried to copy above code to formatting-instructions-latex-2018.bbl and it still didn't work.

I really don't understand why this error can happen, while the test.tex in the same directory does not have any issue. I believe it's supposed to be a simple stuff and I'm very frustrated that it kept failing.

Any advice is much appreciated, thank you very much!

2

You said that

I tried to compile the formatting-instructions-latex-2018.tex, and every time I got the error message: Something's wrong--perhaps a missing \item. \end{thebibliography}

and the result was

\begin{thebibliography}{}

\end{thebibliography}

If you think about it, makes sense. The bibliography environment is just an itemize in disguise, and you can't have an itemize without items (try it, make a document with an empty itemize environment).

However, when you compiled your test.tex, there was not problems, and the bibliography environment had something in it. And this something was there because of the \cite{DUMMY:1} that you inserted, that did not exist in the previous document.

So to make the original document work, either:

  1. Remove the \bibliography{ref} or don't compile bibTeX, or;

  2. Add a \cite{DUMMY:1} anywhere in the document.

Furthermore, you said that

I even tried to copy above code to formatting-instructions-latex-2018.bbl and it still didn't work.

The .bbl file is automatically generated by bibTeX, so when you compiled the document, the one you put there was replaced by the correct, empty one.

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