I'm gradually getting used to using BibTeX for citing references in my LaTeX documents, but I've run into a bit of a problem. I'm using natbib so that I get Harvard-style citations, but I get a warning saying that my references cannot be resolved when I try and cite a reference. I've done some investigation of this and found that when my references are in the form below:

    Annote = {10.1038/304337a0},
    Author = {Wasson, R. J. and Hyde, R.},
    Date = {1983/07/28/print},
    Date-Added = {2010-10-29 10:34:27 +0100},
    Date-Modified = {2010-10-29 10:36:13 +0100},
    Day = {28},
    Journal = {Nature},
    M3 = {10.1038/304337a0},
    Number = {5924},
    Pages = {337--339},
    Title = {Factors determining desert dune type},
    Ty = {JOUR},
    Url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/304337a0},
    Volume = {304},
    Year = {1983},
    Bdsk-Url-1 = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/304337a0}}

It gives an error, but when I change the contents to have quotes around them rather than curly braces it works fine. The problem is that most sources (for example Google Scholar, and all of the output from BibDesk) appear to use braces.

Does anyone have any idea what's going on here? Is there a setting I can change somewhere to deal with this?

  • I removed the 'pdftex' and 'latex' tags Oct 29 '10 at 10:12
  • If the answer bellow doesn't solve your problem, consider posting an example of an entry that produces the error you describe. Oct 29 '10 at 10:48
  • @Juan - my question has an example in it already, which produces an error when I use it. Does anyone else get an error when using that bit of BibTex?
    – robintw
    Oct 29 '10 at 10:54
  • Nop. It compiles fine for me. I created a .bib file with your example as the single entry and then cited it from a minimal LaTeX document (using natbib as you said). Oct 29 '10 at 11:07
  • Same here, works fine. Oct 29 '10 at 11:08

It is perfectly normal for bibtex fields to be enclosed in braces, but it is possible that there is a stray { or } inside the field, and that is not allowed: the content should have balanced braces. I can't quite explain why it works if you use ", but in any case I suspect something is broken in the bib file.

See this link for a good, readable description of what is and is not allowed in a bib file.


Can you provide an example with a minimal tex file as well? This bit of BibTeX does not produce any errors for me, may be it is related to your LaTeX file and/or something peculiar with your natbib.

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