Here is a thing that has been confusing me for ages:

the default @inproceedings entry in BibTeX (I use mostly KBibTeX to interface with it, but it probably does not matter), has the following fields:

  • title: clear, that's the title of the talk/paper
  • booktitle: It's a conference, not a book, but I suppose there may be historical reasons for this, like the fact that proceedings used to be published in a book that read "Proceedings of the 11th congress on..." on the cover. So I guess this should contain the title of the conference, in combination with the phrase "Proceedings of")?
  • series: Not sure ... the conference name again? But I really don't want that printed twice!
  • number: really important for reference, and most conferences do provide a unique number to each abstract/paper.

However, the data I usually get for conference papers looks like this (as downloaded from AIAA website):

title = {A Preliminary Sizing Method for Hybrid-Electric Aircraft Including Aero-Propulsive Interaction Effects},
author = {Reynard de Vries and Malcom T. Brown and Roelof Vos},
booktitle = {2018 Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations Conference},
number = {AIAA 2018-4228},

Usually, I simply just skip the "series" bit, but then BibTeX complains:

Field <b>number</b> exists but <b>series</b> does not exist

The problem: I want the number included, but I don't want the name of the conference twice. I can move the conference name to the series field, but then BibTeX complains about the missing booktitle.

Usually, I just ignore the warning and it mostly works, but I have the feeling that I'm missing a trick. So: What's the intention behind the series field, and is there a cleaner way to deal with conferences that assign unique numbers to abstracts but don't have separate conference/"series" names?

Edit: Example paper

This is some random conference paper that I have in my BibTeX collection: https://www.doi.org/10.2514/6.2018-3976

This is the bibtext dataset they offer for download:

author = {Justin S. Gray and Gaetan  K. Kenway and Charles A. Mader and Joaquim R. R. A. Martins},
title = {Aero-propulsive Design Optimization of a Turboelectric Boundary Layer Ingestion Propulsion System},
booktitle = {2018 Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations Conference},
chapter = {},
pages = {},
doi = {10.2514/6.2018-3976},
URL = {https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/6.2018-3976},
eprint = {https://arc.aiaa.org/doi/pdf/10.2514/6.2018-3976}

And this is the formatted reference example they provide on the reference download page:

Justin S. Gray, Gaetan K. Kenway, Charles A. Mader and Joaquim R. R. A. Martins. "Aero-propulsive Design Optimization of a Turboelectric Boundary Layer Ingestion Propulsion System," AIAA 2018-3976. 2018 Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations Conference. June 2018.

I would usually prefer to skip the month and year (year is already in the conference name) and put the paper number last, but this is basically the information needed to identify the source, and there is not much more that could be added.

Note how the citation contains the paper number but the BibTeX data does not, which is an obvious oversight. It uses the @inbook type, which also does not make a lot of sense to me because there's no ISBN, ISSN or any of those things you'd expect a book to have. So usually, I switch the type to @inproceedings and add the paper identifier in the number field, but then I get the warnings that triggered me to ask this question in the first place.

...maybe there's another type that would be better suited? This all looks as if it was made for a different scenario and then repurposed, a lot.

  • Welcome to tex.sx. I haven't worked with this for a while, but know for sure that series is not the conference name. It's the name of the series in which the publisher will include the book. (Example: the American Math Society publishes "Proceedings of Symposia in Applied Mathematics". I don't know the series names used by Springer or other publishers, but that can probably be found by checking the publisher's web site.) Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 19:51
  • I think it should be pages = {AIAA 2018-4228},. I can see nothing wrong with booktitle = {2018 Aviation Technology, Integration, and Operations Conference},.
    – Mico
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 20:01
  • @Mico oh no, that is not page 2018-4228! AIAA 2018-4228 is the paper identifier, which you can put in a search field of the AIAA report server and it is unique for each journal and conference contribution for the multiple conferences and journals operated by the AIAA. I don't think they publish the proceedings in book form, and haven't for a long time. (some conferences do publish bound proceedings, and then you have a page range plus a paper number.
    – Zak
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 11:45
  • 1
    Hi @Zak, normally number belongs to series, because its the counter of a book series. At least in the scientific fields which I am used to work in. For example, very similar to Barbaras answer: Studies in Ancient History (series), no. 7 (number), means its the 7th publication of this series. But each publication is a single book with an specific title. I would take another bibtex field for your paper identifier.
    – lukeflo
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 16:10
  • 1
    Why don't you try note or (book)titleaddon? Seems to me more plausible than number. But, of course, just my two cents ;)
    – lukeflo
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 16:18

1 Answer 1



The series field (and its attached number field) exists due to physical publications of conference proceedings. Just to take one of my own papers as an example:

        author = {WWY Wong},
        title = {Timelike minimal submanifolds of Minkowski spaces},
        booktitle = {Proceedings of the {S}eventh {I}nternational {C}ongress of
              {C}hinese {M}athematicians. {V}ol. {II}},
        series = {Adv. Lect. Math. (ALM)},
        volume = {44}, 
        year = {2019},
        pages = {301--314},
        publisher = {Int. Press, Somerville, MA},

(I am using biblatex with a customized bbx field, so I use volume instead of number; but ignore that for now.) The conference proceedings is actually published as a book by International Press. The publisher decided to include it as the 44th volume of their "Advanced Lectures in Mathematics" series which contains some items that are conference proceedings, and some other technical works.

What should you do?

The answer depends on why you are asking the question.

The bib file as a means to generate bibliography in papers

If you are treating the bib file as a means to generate a bibliography, that is, if you primarily care about the output after running bibtex, then the easiest thing to do is to put the paper identifier into pages. This is especially the case because the conference is not getting physically bounded copies of the proceedings, and so there will never be an actual pages for this item.

I note that this is fairly common practice also for electronic journals, where papers are assigned an article number in the corresponding "volume" of the journal. Many bibliographic databases will export the article number into the pages field when generating bibtex output. (For example, that's what American Math. Society's MathSciNet service does.)

The bib file as a bibliographic database

Of course, you may want to use the bib files as an actual database and wish to have the entries "recorded correctly". Unfortunately the bibtex format was created prior to many modern academic practices appearing, so if you stick to the fields strictly defined in the bibtex format you will not be able to capture these kinds of information.

Your choices then are:

  • Use the note field, which may or may not be printed appropriately at a bibtex run (depends on the style).
  • create your own field, which definitely will not be printed appropriately using standard bibliography styles.

For the latter, you will need to learn how to craft your own bibliography styles for bibtex, or (somewhat more easily) migrate to using biblatex.

  • Thank you, that answers a large part of my question. I'm actually using my BibTeX DB for both look-up and to generate bibliographies (although with some LaTeX paper templates, no style seems to match what I need/want, so sometimes I generate a preliminary one for the drafts, then edit the entries by hand for the final version. The only question left: What if a bound proceedings has both pages and paper numbers? However, I can't find an example at the moment, and am starting to think that this may be the reason.
    – Zak
    Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 9:55

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