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# Choosing a bibliography style

A large proportion of people are satisfied with one of Patashnik's original standard styles, [`plain`](http://ctan.org/pkg/plain), [`unsrt`](http://ctan.org/pkg/unsrt), [`abbrv`](http://ctan.org/pkg/abbrv) and [`alpha`](http://ctan.org/pkg/alpha). However, no style in that set supports the author-date citation style that is popular in many fields; but there are a very large number of contributed styles available, that _do_ support the format.

(Note that author-date styles arose because the simple and clear citation style that [`plain`](http://ctan.org/pkg/plain) produces is so awkward in a traditional manuscript preparation scenario. However, TeX-based document production does away with all those difficulties, leaving us free once again to use the simple option.)

Fortunately, help is at hand, on the Web, with this problem:

- a sample text, showing the sorts of style choices available, can

  be found on 
  [Ken Turner's web site](http://www.cs.stir.ac.uk/~kjt/software/latex/showbst.html);

- an excellent survey, that lists a huge variety of styles,

  sorted into their nominal topics as well as providing a good range
  of examples, is the Reed College 
  ''[Choosing a BibTeX style](http://web.reed.edu/cis/help/LaTeX/bibtexstyles.html)''.

Of course, these pages don't cover everything; the problem the inquisitive user faces, in fact, is to find what the various available styles actually do. This is best achieved (if the links above don't help) by using [`xampl.bib`](http://ctan.org/pkg/xampl.bib) from the BibTeX documentation distribution: one can get a pretty good feel for any style one has to hand using this standard bibliography. For style [`my-style.bst`](http://ctan.org/pkg/my-style.bst), the simple LaTeX document: ```latex \documentclass{article} \begin{document} \bibliographystyle{my-style} \nocite{*} \bibliography{xampl} \end{document} ``` will produce a representative sample of the citations the style will produce. (Because [`xampl.bib`](http://ctan.org/pkg/xampl.bib) is so extreme in some of its examples, the BibTeX run will also give you an interesting selection of BibTeX's error messages…)


Content last updated: 2014-06-10

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