See this answer. The poster uses bibtex syntax to give the references to articles. It does not look nice, but if bibtex was supported, it would look fantastic. Citing articles using Zotero for example would be a breeze. Are there any plans for supporting this?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (+1) In the meantime, we might encourage the responder to reformat their answer. I think the references with annotations are helpful, but in the current form, quite messy. $\endgroup$
    – cardinal
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ It is not real clear to me what you mean by "if bibtex was supported", what would you expect the end result of a bibtex reference to look like? $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyW, just like bibtex, author with publishing date (or author with number, this can be configurable) with link to the full article information at the bottom. $\endgroup$
    – mpiktas
    Commented Aug 16, 2011 at 19:45

2 Answers 2


This is of far greater scope than your question, but I've thought about this somewhat in the past, so I figured I would share my opinion here.

I think direct editing of the questions, and heavy coaxing of users for a certain format is the only way we will have a standardized format across the site. Even if some UI existed for entering in say the ISBN of a book and out comes the citations meta data, I bet we would still need to edit citations a substantive amount of time. The same would apply to inserting a bibtex reference (either through a UI or directly) in the post. Even if such a UI existed I'm not sure how it would be appropriately woven into the body of text that encompasses the answer.

Is continual editing of references worth such effort?

To make posts readable, IMO it most definitely is. Even after the post you mentioned was edited to make the bibtex stand out by using the code blocking, it is still quite ugly and takes more effort than I would like to read. I would much prefer a short citation in text (e.g. Mpiktas, 2011), with a link to either a paper and/or a publicly available version of the document (preferebly with the link being a direct link in the text. e.g. like this). I agree that bibtex is simple enough to figure out where all the necessary material is needed (even if you are not familiar with what bibtex is), but it is difficult to read in that unnatural format. The breaking up the text to cite a work is very distracting as well, I would much prefer them listed as endnotes and/or short citations.

Is it worth the effort to have a standardized format across the site?

This is more debatable, but I think it is still worth the effort. Even if we had to edit every citation, I don't think we see that many citations that it would be overly burdensome (I could be wrong though, and it is easy for me to site here and make such a claim). I bet citations come more frequently by regular answerer's (perhaps most of the citations), which if a regular format was decided these users would be more likely to conform to that standard.

Part of the reason why I believe it is more debatable is that the gains of standardization, above just making the post readable, might be of minimal utility to the community. Like I said earlier, a short citation plus a link to the reference is plenty sufficient to allow someone to figure out whom/what someone is citing, and adding in any more information to make a formal citation would be a pain. If someone cites work by adding in endnotes to their posts, do we need to edit in an external link? Is plain old bibtex acceptable, or should we edit the citation to look more like normal references? Should we always update with a link to a public pdf if it is available? These actions are slightly beneficial to the community, but not to any extent that the posts become much more useful with the additions.

Given all that, I will give two different suggestions for a standardized format for citations within this site; one being sufficient, and the other being comprehensive. These really aren't different than was suggested in a past thread, although the community has largely self policed how they enter in citations (and here I'm suggesting we actively edit to make it conform to particular standards);

A sufficient citation format:

For short citations, besides author(s) and year the post would need some link either to a publicly available pdf or a website of the article abstract and volume information. In the case of books, a link to google books or amazon would work. As long as the url reference works, we should not really care what it is (pubmed, doi, direct abstract link by a publisher, etc. would all work equally well). You really don't even need the short citation in text, and a link appropriately included in the right part of the text is fine.

For long citations a minimum would be the author(s) plus the title of the work. Preferably it would include other stuff (like the same outside links necessary for a short citation, year, isbn for books, journal name + volume for an article) but these would really never be necessary.

Neither would have a style guide, and all that would be necessary is that they have the information I listed above.

A comprehensive citation format:

This would require both in text short citations, and a reference list of long citations listed as endnotes to the post. When available, the citation should link to an outside source that will have a long living url (doi preferably for articles, google or amazon for books). A link to a publicly available pdf when available would be attached as well. The long citation format could be any format, it just simply needs to be standardized.

Part of the reason I have thought about this is because I would like to make a citeulike library cross-referencing citations and posts if I can think of a reasonable way to parse citations in answers. Part of the problem in this is the variety of ways people cite work currently on the site makes this a difficult task. Although I think this project would be a neat addition to the site, I would hardly think it would be of great enough utility to the sites members to justify the comprehensive citation format I am proposing above.

Basically for me to be able to parse the posts to make such a library I would need to have every reference have either a doi, a pubmed id, or isbn for a book (frequently the abstract page from regular publishers would work as well, for example a page like this would work). This reference needs to be in some type of standardized format for me to search the post and extract that information. A link to a pdf (without the other info) would not work.

As a final note, I don't think anything with the site currently needs to be changed (with the exception of the bibtex directly in the post in question, I really don't like that). These are just some thoughts and suggestions I have, although the way citations are typically handled on the site are perfectly fine. I currently don't have a suggestion for citations to things other than journal articles or books either (and for my theoretical citeulike library I wouldn't be able to automate their inclusion unless we made someone make a bibtex (or similar citation) formatted reference for them!)


This is a good idea; I wonder what the team will say.

For now, one could use a paper sharing option from Mendeley -- it does not work too flawless for now (one has to go to the global paper catalog, find the paper, than click share -- plus the paper must be in someone's library), but an effect is a handy short link to the quite useful paper page like this http://mnd.ly/rnrM7X


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .