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Bibcop: Style Checker for BibTeX

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Almost every document you may write in LaTeX format will have a list of references at the end. Most likely, you will use BibTeX or BibLaTeX to print this list of references in a nicely formatted way. It is also highly probable that your .bib file will contain many typographic, stylistic, and logical mistakes. I’m fairly certain that you won’t find the time to identify and correct them. As a result, the “References” section in your paper may appear sloppy. I suggest using the bibcop package, which identifies mistakes in the .bib file and auto-fixes some of them.

Here is a practical example. Let’s say, you want to cite a famous paper about transformers. First, you find it in Google Scholar and click “Cite”:


Then, you put this “bib” item into your main.bib file:

  title={Attention is all you need},
  author={Vaswani, Ashish and Shazeer, Noam and 
    Parmar, Niki and Uszkoreit, Jakob and Jones, Llion and 
    Gomez, Aidan N and Kaiser, {\L}ukasz and Polosukhin, Illia},
  journal={Advances in neural information processing systems},

Then, you write something like this in your paper:

changed everything!

This is what you will get:


Looks more or less fine. However, if you go to the website of the publisher of this article, you will see that:

  • The name of the journal is typed with first letters capitalized in all major words,
  • The title of the paper is also capitalized,
  • The middle name of “Aidan N. Gomez” has a trailing dot.

In other words, Google Scholar gave you the citation with a few typographic mistakes. While not fatal, the quality of the “References” section can sometimes be seen as reflective of the quality of the paper as a whole. Simply put, negligence is not forgivable when dealing with information about other authors. We must be accurate down to every letter and every dot.

By including bibcop package to the document, the problem may be solved. First, you install it (I assume, you are using TeX Live):

$ sudo tlmgr install bibcop

Then, you add this to your document, right before the \addbibresource command:


When you compile the document, the following warnings will be printed to the console, together with other logs:

Package bibcop Warning: A shortened name must have 
  a tailing dot in the 6th 'author', as in 'Knuth, Donald E.', 
  in the 'vaswani2017attention' entry.
Package bibcop Warning: All major words in the 'title' 
  must be capitalized, while the 2nd word 'is' is not, 
  in the 'vaswani2017attention' entry.
Package bibcop Warning: A mandatory 'doi' tag for '@article' 
  is missing among (author, journal, title, volume, year), 
  in the 'vaswani2017attention' entry.
Package bibcop Warning: The 'title' must be wrapped 
  in double curled brackets, 
  in the 'vaswani2017attention' entry.

You fix them all in the main.bib file and recompile the document:


This one looks much better to me (especially with the DOI, which was not provided by Google Scholar).

By the way, some formatting problems may be auto-fixed by bibcop. You can use it from the command line, assuming you have your main.bib file in the current directory:

$ bibcop --fix --in-place main.bib

This command will make as many fixes as possible. Then, you can run bibcop again, from the command line, in order to check what style violations are still there:

$ bibcop main.bib

This will print the same errors as you saw earlier in the LaTeX log.

In CTAN, you can find full PDF documentation.

You are welcome to suggest additional style checkers, via GitHub issues.

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