# 4. Managing the Bibliography

When writing a long technical document, or a thesis in particular, you will have many references. A reference library can run into hundreds of entries out of which you will refer to – or cite – all or a fraction in the LaTeX document.

Adding in, numbering and formatting the references manually is a long and boring task, especially if the references frequently change. The answer is to use a separate plain text file – which has the extension “.bib” – that contains all the reference information for example: Journal, Title, Authors etc.. and each entry has a unique identifier or “cite-key”. In the LaTeX document, every time a reference needs to be inserted, just use the “\cite{}” command and put the unique cite-key between the curly brackets, then compile the document. A program called BibTex looks through the LaTeX document to see all the cited references and then automatically inserts, numbers and formats those references using the information in the “.bib” file. The result is an automatically generated, numbered and formatted bibliography that appears at the back of the complied PDF document.

• Have a look at a sample bibliography here

The LaTeX system uses BibTeX as a way of managing references and just as LaTeX Files can easily be managed with TeXShop, so the BibTeX file can easily be created and managed with an application called BibDesk, which is installed for you when you install MacTeX. BibDesk is the easy way to manage your reference library and is the equivalent of “iTunes” but for references.

Another great feature is that you can search external online libraries such as PubMed (and the other libraries in the NCBI) straight from BibDesk. Importing the journals that are relevant to you takes just a single click and BibDesk can auto-file and auto-link the downloaded PDF files for you.

Take some time to look around the BibDesk help and website and become used to managing all your references and journal articles with this application. It is simple to use yet has powerful import/export options and is highly customisable.

Note: The more effort you put into filling in the extra data about each reference (such as the actual PDF file, Abstract and DOI/URL) beyond the minimum required, the better the compiled Bibliography becomes. This is particularly true of filling in the DOI and URL fields since certain Bibliography styles (such as “unsrtnat”) will include this information in the final, compiled bibliography and so your readers will have all your cited references hyper-linked and only a click away. Do not underestimate how grateful they will be to learn this. Additionally, copying and pasting in the Abstract for each reference will increase the quality of search results, whether you search from the BibDesk application or from OS X with Spotlight. The chances of finding what you want, or rediscovering what you already have greatly increases.