Citation keys in BibTeX

The citation key is a unique identifier in BibTeX that is used to identify a specific source in your bibliography file. The citation key is used in the \cite{key} command to generate a citation in your LaTeX document, as well as in the bibliography file to refer to the source, or in pandoc-based markdown files, such as when using Quarto or R Markdown with [@key].

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To define a citation key in a BibTeX bibliography file, use the @ command followed by the entry type (e.g., @article, @book, etc.), followed by the citation key enclosed in curly braces. As an example:

	author = {John Smith},
	title = {The Great Article},
	journal = {Journal of Great Articles},
	year = {2021},
	volume = {1},
	number = {2},
	pages = {3-4}

In this example, the citation key is “key.” You can choose any unique identifier you want as the citation key as long as it does not contain any spaces or special characters. It is a good idea to choose a descriptive citation key that is easy to remember so that it is easy to use in your LaTeX document. It is frequently formed from the first author’s surname, the date, and the first non-stopper word in the source’s title.