With natbib (and bibtex) I have the option of using either \citet{foo2019} or \citeb{bar2019} and I think I'm pretty clear on their use. I.e. "as Foo (2019) has shown, ducks tend to quack" vs "Previous experiments have shown that ducks tend to quack (Bar, 2019)"

But what do I use when I want to make a statement such as

According to various authors, quackiness is correlated with duckiness (see e.g. cite?{foo2019, bar2019}).

\citet{} appears to be to be the correct one, since I'm directly addressing the authors, but this will result in double brackets at the end, which feels off.

According to various authors, quackiness is correlated with duckiness (see e.g. Foo (2019) and Bar (2019)).

\citep{} solves this problem, but its use seems incorrect to me in this case:

According to various authors, quackiness is correlated with duckiness (see e.g. Foo, 2019 and Bar, 2019).

Is there any typographic rule on what to use?

  • I'd definitely go with \citep here. This is a parenthetical remark after all and the excessive parentheses in \citet don't make the remark easier to parse. The "addressing the author" rule is syntactic rather than semantic I would say. So it does not play a role whether you try to refer to the author or their work in the parenthetical remark, what matters is that you don't want the author to be the subject or object of your sentence. – moewe Mar 18 '19 at 8:42
  • BTW: Should the "and bibtex" be "and biblatex"? BibTeX itself does not define any new citation commands. biblatex, on the other hand, has \parencite (~\citep) and \textcite (~\citet). – moewe Mar 18 '19 at 8:43
  • I agree with your preference for \citep, but I would be interested if there's some hard rules for it. bibtex was just an addition to specify that I am NOT using biblatex, where I'm not sure about the commands and outputs. If you are certain that your list above works/results equal, I can also edit it in, so make the question applicable to biblatex too. – JC_CL Mar 18 '19 at 8:51
  • I see, I read the "(and bibtex)" remark as: natbib defines \citep and \citet, and so does bibtex. (which is not true). If it was meant as a way to emphasise that you are not using biblatex, it should not be needed as biblatex's citation commands \textcite and \parencite are equivalent to their natbib counterparts. – moewe Mar 18 '19 at 8:55
  • You can also rephrase without the sentence parentheses, as in correlated with duckiness, see, e.g., Foo (2019) and Bar (2019). – Marijn Mar 18 '19 at 13:43

\citep gives the more visually pleasing result here, so on that ground alone I'd argue that is what you should use

According to various authors, quackiness is correlated with duckiness \citep[see e.g.]{foo,bar}.

According to various authors, quackiness is correlated with duckiness (see e.g. Foo, 2019 and Bar, 2019).

Ultimately, there are no TeXnical reasons that would tell you whether to use \citet or \citep here. It comes down to stylistic (language) questions and will probably also depend on customs in your field. (As an aside, the question of how the output should look like is quite probably off-topic here and may be more suitable for https://writing.stackexchange.com/, https://academia.stackexchange.com/ or https://english.stackexchange.com/ depending on the spin you want to give the question)

The APA blog https://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2011/01/writing-in-text-citations-in-apa-style.html has two more examples

  • After the intervention, children increased in the number of books read per week (Smith & Wexwood, 2010).

  • Smith and Wexwood (2010) reported that after the intervention, children increased in the number of books read per week.

Just like your examples the \citep reference is a parenthetical reference tagged on at the end. It can be removed without impacting the structure of the sentence. The \citet example, on the other hand, can not be easily removed since a part of its output (the author names) is the subject of the sentence (note that only the authors are the subject, not the entire paper).

If we want to make a rule out of that we can say that \citep is used for parenthetical references whose removal does not affect the structure of the sentence. \citet is used when the author names are the subject or object of the sentence.

Note that this is a purely syntactical rule. The semantics are not that important. It does not matter whether you want to refer to people or their paper - what matters is the grammatical function of the citation.

This rule also suggests that \citep is right here, because "According to various authors, quackiness is correlated with duckiness" can stand on its own and the citations are not needed to complete the grammatical structure of the sentence. You may want to refer to the authors of those papers, but grammatically you don't need them as subjects or objects. And "As seen in [1]" is not all that different from "[see e.g. 1]".

I have ignored the case where you would want to refer to a particular paper as the object or subject of a sentence. I try to avoid that whenever possible because I find sentences such as

As shown in [1]


As shown in (Sigfridsson 1998)

As shown in Sigfridsson 1998

a bit awkward. But your mileage may vary. I have certainly seen "As shown in [1]" many times and generally people seem to be OK with it.

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  • Thanks for the thorough explanation. I mostly agree, and yes, it might depend on the "customs" in the field i'm addressing, though my situation seems more specific, since the whole problem just came to be due to referring TWO authors/papers, which causes the double brackets with \citet. – JC_CL Apr 3 '19 at 6:56
  • @JC_CL Mhhh, I don't quite get your point why the two papers are the main issue here. I would have said exactly the same if you had cited only one paper at the end. "(see Foo (2019))" still looks just as infelicitous as "(see Foo (2019) and Bar (2019))". And the sentence structure is still exactly the same. With one paper you might have written According to \citet{foo} yada yada yada but you can do that with two papers as well: Accordint to \citet{foo} and \citet{bar} yada yada yada. – moewe Apr 3 '19 at 7:30

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