I'm using a journal publisher's custom class for the preparation of a manuscript; elsarticle.cls which is often referenced on this forum (e.g. see this post, as well as, this one)

I understand that elsarticle uses bibtex. I prefer to use biblatex with biber as a back-end.

My typical workflow involves calling one to five .bib databases which are typically associated with specific projects with an \addbibresource command.

Can anyone suggest a way to cite items from multiple bibliographies in a manuscript calling elsarticle.cls while still generating valid file outputs for submission to the publisher?


1 Answer 1


If you want to submit your paper to Elsevier (and this is the only good reason to use elsarticle.cls, I believe) you should follow their instructions as much as possible, use their template as-is and should definitely not modify it to use a package that is incompatible with the defaults loaded by the class (for elsarticle that would be natbib).

Publisher classes are usually meant to enable a simple and smooth workflow for the publisher. The workflow for citations and the bibliography with biblatex is significantly different from the workflow with BibTeX. For starters biblatex does not produce typesettable TeX code in a thebibliography environment. That means that publishers, whose workflow uses \bibitem/thebibliography as produced by BibTeX or used in manual bibliographies, will in all likeliness not be able to process submissions with biblatex bibliographies properly. See also Biblatex: submitting to a journal.

It is possible to make elsarticle use biblatex (see biblatex instead of natbib in elsarticle, how?), but I'm almost certain that Elsevier won't like that (cf. for example I cannot make my biblatex work). If you need something in your paper that the provided template can't do and that can't be implemented in a compatible way, you should contact the editor and ask for further instructions.

  • well put and thank you for the interest. I certainly agree. At the risk of shifting the discussion off-topic, what about a solution which is just an easy / semi-automated way to build a single bibliography from multiple .bib databases? This would be step in the writer's workflow that occurs before citing a new work.
    – John Chris
    Jan 2, 2019 at 13:27
  • 1
    @JohnChris It is already possible to take entries from several .bib files, see tex.stackexchange.com/q/84099/35864. If the publisher wants to you to upload the .bib file and lets you upload several files that should work. If they want you to upload the .bbl, this is guaranteed to be OK. Of course you could also write a script to combine several .bibs into one larger .bib. But I'm not sure that is what you were thinking about.
    – moewe
    Jan 2, 2019 at 15:49
  • You're right. Seems this is a non-issue. If I do, say, \def\bibnamea{<database a>}% and \def\bibnameb{<database b>}% in the preamble and my bibliography call looks like: \bibliography{bibnamea,bibnameb}% I can successfully reference citations from multiple databases using bibtex. Note that the database file name is the full filepath excluding the .bib extension.
    – John Chris
    Jan 2, 2019 at 22:16

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