When conference proceedings or journals are published online and papers are not given page numbers but paper numbers, what is the standard way to incorporate this information into a BibTeX entry? I often see it incorporated under the optional field pages, but many bibliography styles render this as 'p. N' which gives the impression it is a one page paper (or the author failed to clean up the references). I could of course use note={24}, which will be visually correct. I am not asking how to produce the desired visual effect, but what is the canonical approach to storing the information for optimal reuse.

Example BibTeX entry:

  title={How May E-Learning Groups Interact?},
  author={Yu, Chia-Ping and Kuo, Feng-Yang},
  booktitle={AMCIS 2007 Proceedings},

Recommended citation style:

Yu, Chia-Ping and Kuo, Feng-Yang, "How May {E}-Learning Groups Interact?" (2007). AMCIS 2007 Proceedings. 24.

Actual format of citation, using bibliography style IEEEtran:

C.-P. Yu and F.-Y. Kuo, "How may E-learning groups interact?," in AMCIS 2007 Proceedings, 2007, p. 24.

Format of the citation with note={24} instead of page={24}, in IEEEtrans:

C.-P. Yu and F.-Y. Kuo, "How may E-learning groups interact?," in AMCIS 2007 Proceedings, 2007, 24.

  • An, admittedly, far from perfect solution (maybe even far from good), would be to add the number in the booktitle field, as in booktitle={AMCIS 2007 Proceedings. 24.}
    – zerzevul
    Jun 22, 2023 at 11:09

3 Answers 3


Unfortunately, there is no canonical solution here. The base BibTeX styles were written back in the late eighties when URLs and electronic journal publishing were not really a thing and journal articles and conference proceedings mostly had page numbers, so there was no need to mark up "article numbers" or "paper numbers".

Since the core styles have no provision for this, many contributed styles also don't — and if they have something, they roll their own solution; there is no standard that would encompass more styles than that of a family or of the same author.

biblatex knows the eid field, but even there I can't promise that all contributed styles make use of it as intended.

You will have to decide if the output looks OK on a case-by-case basis, I'm afraid.

As it so happens, you mention IEEEtran which has a paper field for @inproceedings that can be used here. That field is by no means universal and I have not seen it before, but it should hopefully give the expected output here.

  • 1
    I was afraid that would be the answer, but I was hoping that practitioners had reached a common solution even if the format doesn't support it. I will maintain it as note in my master BibTeX file and tweak it as necessary per paper, although it will pain me almost as much as hardcoding author names when no appropriate \cite style is supplied.
    – Ann
    Aug 13, 2018 at 16:02

The IEEEtran style provides exactly a "paper" field for this purpose, see the documentation IEEEtran_bst_HOWTO.

  title =    {How May E-Learning Groups Interact?},
  author =   {Yu, Chia-Ping and Kuo, Feng-Yang},
  booktitle =    {AMCIS 2007 Proceedings},
  paper =    24,
  year =     2007

in tmp.bib produces

Sample output


  • 1
    Thank you for this suggestion. I appreciate the tip for the IEEEtran style. However, I am not looking for a style-specific formatting technique, but advice on the best approach to maintaining clean BibTeX files.
    – Ann
    Aug 13, 2018 at 16:06

I came across the same problem recently for a paper on a open access journal (here). The automatic citation systems puts the article number into the page section and does not specify the true pages.

After several experiments, I've realized that the IEEETran indeed has the paper field, but I couldn't see it rendered into the final document. It might has something to do with specific settings for a journal (I've tried Transaction on Robotics) and as mentioned before it is not a general solution.
enter image description here

LaTeX code:

\author{Test test}


% The paper headers
% make the title area

Test \cite{camurri2020frontiers}





Bib code:

  author = {Camurri, Marco and Ramezani, Milad and Nobili, Simona and Fallon,
  title = {{Pronto: A Multi-Sensor State Estimator for Legged Robots in
Real-World Scenarios}},
  journal = {Frontiers in Robotics and AI},
  volume = {7},
  paper = {68},
  pages = {1--18},
  year = {2020},
  url = {https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frobt.2020.00068},
  doi = {10.3389/frobt.2020.00068},
  issn = {2296-9144}

So the other two options that are left are:

  1. Use concatenate the article and the page number into the pages field: pages = {68/1--18}
  2. Use the number field. This is explicitly stated as wrong by wikipedia, but an online journal has no issues, so each paper could be treated an issue of its own?

I'm in favor of the second option, it would be always rendered as 7(68):1--18

  • 1
    Strongly against the second solution, as it misrepresents the paper. If a journal does not have an issue, you should not "invent" an issue number with your own semantics. This will be misunderstood by readers. The whole purpose of a citation is to be understandable, rather than uniform. Just use the note field if you do not want to use your first solution. May 26, 2023 at 13:47

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