The citation style guide of MDPI suggests to use BibTeX for citations and the bibliography (see: https://www.mdpi.com/authors/references). Is it also possible to use biblatex instead of BibTeX for an MDPI paper?

Since biblatex is an alternative of BibTeX, it would be interesting to know.

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    Do you have a link to the MDPI guidelines? Do they have an official template?
    – moewe
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 9:26
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    In general I would advise not to go against the explicit recommendations of the venue you want to submit to. Additionally the way biblatex works makes for a very different workflow than BibTeX/thebibliography, that's why very few publishers can accept biblatex submissions (if they want the source that is, if they only ever want the PDF they probably don't care): tex.stackexchange.com/q/12175/35864
    – moewe
    Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 9:28
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    Be careful about the "biblatex is the replacement of bibtex" argument. In one sense, it is: there are some citation styles that are in common use for which bibtex simply will not work. But in many fields and for many purposes, there's nothing wrong with bibtex! Using an (older) program isn't like wearing flares and a polyester shirt. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 9:35
  • Thanks for your comments! I think you are right! For now I'll just use Zotero with retorque.re/zotero-better-bibtex plugin. This way I dont have any problems with citation keys and so on. So I only have to change \parencite to \citep.. Commented Jan 18, 2019 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


Avoid going against the express advice of the venue to which you want to submit.

The guidelines from https://www.mdpi.com/authors/references mentioned in the question are

For LaTeX users we strongly recommend to prepare references with BibTeX. If references are prepared manually, the authors should check them for completeness and correctness.

Knowing the differences between biblatex and BibTeX for the citation workflow (see Biblatex: submitting to a journal) that already strongly suggests biblatex is out (even if you use BibTeX instead of Biber as backend).

A search for MDPI LaTeX template leads to https://www.mdpi.com/authors/latex where one can download a .zip file containing template.tex showcasing manual thebibliography and BibTeX, but not biblatex.

% References, variant A: internal bibliography
% Reference 1
Author1, T. The title of the cited article. {\em Journal Abbreviation} {\bf 2008}, {\em 10}, 142--149.
% Reference 2
Author2, L. The title of the cited contribution. In {\em The Book Title}; Editor1, F., Editor2, A., Eds.; Publishing House: City, Country, 2007; pp. 32--58.

% The following MDPI journals use author-date citation: Arts, Econometrics, Economies, Genealogy, Humanities, IJFS, JRFM, Laws, Religions, Risks, Social Sciences. For those journals, please follow the formatting guidelines on http://www.mdpi.com/authors/references
% To cite two works by the same author: \citeauthor{ref-journal-1a} (\citeyear{ref-journal-1a}, \citeyear{ref-journal-1b}). This produces: Whittaker (1967, 1975)
% To cite two works by the same author with specific pages: \citeauthor{ref-journal-3a} (\citeyear{ref-journal-3a}, p. 328; \citeyear{ref-journal-3b}, p.475). This produces: Wong (1999, p. 328; 2000, p. 475)

% References, variant B: external bibliography

Furthermore mdpi.cls loads natbib and uses \bibliographystyle, and is therefore completely incompatible with biblatex.

On the technical side it might be possible to patch the mdpi.cls class in such a way that it can be used with biblatex even though it loads natbib. But that requires dangerous manual interventions, see Is it possible to load biblatex with a class that has already loaded natbib?, biblatex instead of natbib in elsarticle, how?, How to use biblatex with Wiley templates?, elsarticle.cls and multiple bibliographies. And it is very doubtful that the journal will be happy with the required changes to their workflow should you submit with biblatex.

I'd like to echo Paul Stanley's comment. For most intents and purposes BibTeX (which has been stable for years) works absolutely fine. There is some fancy stuff only biblatex can do (or at least, can do easily), but in the STEM fields BibTeX still provides almost everything people need. The relative stability of BibTeX and its workflow mean that BibTeX is often much more compatible across systems than biblatex, which is actively being developed.

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