Choosing a bibliography style

A large proportion of people are satisfied with one of Patashnik’s original “standard” styles, plain, unsrt, abbrv and 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 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:

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 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, the simple LaTeX document:

will produce a representative sample of the citations the style will produce. (Because 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…)