Say I have a bibliography entry that looks like this:

  author = {Eric Foxlin and Michael Harrington and Yury Altshuler},  
  title = {Miniature 6-DOF intertial system for tracking HMDs},
  booktitle = {Helmet and Head-Mounted Displays III},
  year = {1998},
  volume = {3362},
  organization = {SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering},

Biblatex requires the fields author, title, booktitle, year/date and editor for the @inproceedings type, and I am currently omitting the editor field. I'm now asking myself, if leaving out certain fields is considered "bad" or, even worse, an attempt of plagiarism? I'm not talking about things like author, title or date (if they are available) that are needed for correct citations and finding the corresponding sources , but in some cases I feel I would overly bloat my bibliography with over-comprehensive entries.

  • What reason, other than inertia, might you have for not entering information in the "editor" field, especially for entries where this field is required? Not showing the editor-related information probably doesn't rise to the level of outright plagiarism, but it's almost certainly a mark of sloppiness.
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 15:31
  • 1
    For example if this information isn't available anywhere. I have several papers that are published on the authors webpage and orignally appeared in an (old) journal that I don't have access to or don't have all required information on the conferences' website.
    – Lennart
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 15:43
  • If the contents of an otherwise-required field cannot be determined, it may be better to designate the field's contents with something like "n.a." (for "Not Available) than to omit it entirely.
    – Mico
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 16:04
  • 2
    If the information truly isn't available, there's not much you can do. However, if an article in indexed in a database you can often find the information there. Or you could find other articles in the same Proceedings which might have fuller information.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 16:07
  • This is a real problem. The IEEE, for example, does not normally list an editor for conference proceedings. What is one to do then? Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 19:44

4 Answers 4


Not entering the required fields will likely just require more work in the future. The bibliographic standards are set mainly by your particular field and/or the journals that you publish in. If you're writing a thesis the same sorts of requirements apply. It's better to enter all the required fields, and suppress printing them if you want shorter references, rather than leave them out of your .bib file.

  • 2
    This is sound advice, but technically the standard biblatex styles can often get by with just title. They also make use of unit punctuation and special fields to form citation labels. Section 2.3.2 of the manual discusses some of this.
    – Audrey
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 15:49
  • Adding the required fields to the bib file and suppressing the output in the document seems reasonable, thanks.
    – Lennart
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 15:49

I cannot think of any reason why you would not want a bloated bib file. I believe, you should put all the information about the source into the bib file and then chose/customize your bibliography style to only use the fields you want. For example, some BibLaTeX styles now include the DOI by default, but it is pretty easy to tell BibLaTeX to ignore some common fields, and it is always possible to write your own format.

  • 1
    Note: My bib file can be as bloated as it needs to be, but the resulting bibliography in the document can get very long even for a small number of entries. But the idea to add everything to the bib file and changing the output in the document is a good alternative, thanks.
    – Lennart
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 15:54

Preventing "overbloated" bibliographies in your papers should not be a reason for an intentionally incomplete bib database. A third alternative (when letting BibLaTeX ignore some fields is not enough, but writing your own bibliography format seems to be overkill) is to use aux2bib to generate a paper-specific .bib database, which can then be tweaked as much as necessary without disturbing your real .bib database. (Naturally, this should be done when the paper is finished and the list of references is complete.)

This approach is particularly useful, if the compacting process does not just involve removing certain fields, but additional customizations. In my field (operating systems) it is, for instance, commonly accepted to abbreviate proceedings titles if the venue is well known: "Proceedings of the Sixth European Conference on Computer Systems, EuroSys 2011" just becomes "EuroSys '11" if space does matter.

The (little known) aux2bib utility is part of the bibtex2html tool suite. (Note: you have to look for the PDF documentation, the HTML documentation does not discuss aux2bib!) I generates a bibtex database (.bib) from your papers .aux-file.


Remember what the purpose of a bibliography is: to help your reader identify and read the works you have referenced or consulted.

The bibliography should therefore have enough information to allow your reader to go to the exact document (and location within the document) as easily as possible.

  • So basically the DOI is all we need these days...
    – Daniel
    Commented Feb 10, 2012 at 22:16
  • i wouldn't go that far. You still want to give the reader a sense of what the document is you're referring to, such as author, date, title, pub
    – rbp
    Commented Feb 21, 2012 at 23:07

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