How to cite academic references using wordpress

Papercite: A Plugin to Cite Academic References Using WordPress Blogs and Latex/Bibtex Format

Do you have a research website and wonder how to include academic references in your blog posts?

If so, this guide will show you an easy-to-use plugin to integrate latex/bibtex formatted references into your website and cite academic references using wordpress.

The post will take you through the steps of installing the plugin, the different ways to use the tool, and some expert tips to get the most out of your reference list.

Papercite Plugin

The Papercite Plugin was developed by Benjamin Piwowarski and is used to cite academic references using wordpress. It allows you to integrate your existing bibtex reference file into the back-end of your wordpress site. You can then use simple WordPress shortcode elements to cite references inline during your posts. The plugin can also be used to create stand-alone reference lists.

The plugin includes custom features such as changing the reference display formatting. HTML tables can be created and added to your site which allows visitors to filter reference lists by author and journal type. These features are discussed below in the “Expert Tips” section of the post.

How to cite academic references using wordpress

How to Cite Academic References Using WordPress

Installing Papercite

To install Papercite open your WordPress admin panel ( Click on “Plugins” and “Add New”. Search for “Papercite” and click “Install Now”. Once the plugin installs, you should see it in your list of installed plugins (“Plugins/Installed Plugins”). Here you can view the plugin documentation and other details.

Uploading Your Bibtex File

In order to cite academic references using WordPress and Papercite, your bibtex file must be uploaded into your WordPress folder structure. I will demonstrate two approaches to do that here. The first is the “easiest” in that it requires no first time setup, while the second requires some setup but is my favorite approach.

Using Hosting Provider

Most hosting companies provide a tool to get into your website folder structure. This approach is nice as there is no front-end time required to setup a file manager. The downside is that the tool may not be very flexible, and I find it takes too many steps to login.

If you are using bluehost the file manager can be accessed from their hosting control panel. Open their website and “login” in the top right corner. Scroll down to the “files” box and click on the “File Manager” button.

bluehost file manager for uploading bibtex references

Clicking the file manager brings you into the back-end of your website file structure. I do not know the ins-and-outs of the file structure, so I will leave that for you to find elsewhere. The files for your themes and plug-ins are generally stored under “public_html/wp-content”. The papercite bibtex files are stored under “papercite-data/bib”.

To use papercite, upload your bibtex reference file into this folder. I typically rename and save the older version of the reference file, in case my new one has any problems. From my experience Papercite deals with errors in your reference file reasonably well, although it is often difficult to find the error if many changes were made at once.

bluehost folder structure for uploading bibtex references

Using Filezilla

My preferred approach to access my website folder structure is using Filezilla. This program is a free FTP (File Transfer Protocol) manager, and allows you to log-on to any system setup to use FTP.

Install the Filezilla “Client” manager and open the tool. To use Filezilla to access your website you will need to setup the “Site Manager”. This can be done using these instructions, which require FTP to be setup on your hosting account. I cannot quite remeber how I did this but it looks like I was able to setup an account called “mydustex” through the Bluehost panel under “FTP”. I remember this being pretty straight forward, but let me know below if you have any issues.

Filezilla site manager setup

Once you have the site manager setup the first time, you do not need to configure it again. Just open Filezilla and click on “File/Site-Manager” to connect. This gives you access to your website folder structure and allows you to drag and drop files from your local computer.

Filezilla folder structure

Important Note

An important point here is that you should be backing up your website folder structure before adding and removing files. If you accidentally delete a file for example, you risk breaking your site. Your hosting provider should have tools for this, or you can do it manually. If you want more information on how to do this, let me know in the comments below and I will create another post about it!

Citing References

There are two main approaches to citing references using Papercite. The first is inline citation with the reference list at the bottom of the post. The second approach is used to create a stand-alone list of references. Both are discussed in the following sections.

Inline Citation

Inline citation is created by using the “bibcite” shortcode. The post or page must have the shortcode ‘bibshow file=reference_file_name.bib’ before any citations are used, and then the references are included using ‘bibcite key=Ref1Name,Ref2Name…’ inline during the post. Here the reference names are the identifiers indicated in the bibtex file. The two images below show an example on inline citation from the wordpress visual editor and what the end post result looks like.

Reference List

A separate reference list can be include on a post or page using the “bibtex” shortcode command. In the case shown below, I have specified the bibtex file name, told Papercite to sort the references by year, and have specified a custom output template. More on defining custom formatting can be found in the expert tips section below.

Expert Tips

There are two advanced Papercite features that I have found useful for citing academic references using WordPress on my website. The first is reference search boxes and the second is custom formatting for reference lists.

HTML search boxes

Reference search boxes can be included using the “bibfilter” shortcode. This allows for an HTML search box to be created where the reader can filter references by author or publication type. Currently, I do not think you can sort by year. This would be a useful addition in a future plugin version.

Define custom formatting

The second feature that I have found really useful is the ability to define custom formatting for reference list output. The reference list formatting is found in the “default-bibshow.tpl” and “default-bibtex.tpl” files under “/public_html/wp-content/plugins/papercite/tpl/”.

By default the output includes a button under the reference to bring up the bibtex entry. However, other fields can be entered as well. By setting the template to “BulletLinks” in the Reference List section above, I used my own custom formatting from a file called “BulletLinks.tpl” in the tpl directory. The default file and my custom formatted file are shown below.


In my custom formatting, I defined new buttons called “Link” and “Summary”. If these fields are present for the specified reference in the bibtex file, they will be included in the reference list. I use this on my blog to direct readers to paper summaries I have wrote, or to where they can find the article. The following image shows an example bibtext entry and post output.

Final Notes

So there it is, a simple plugin tool to cite academic references using wordpress! I have used this tool extensively throughout my website for my Three Minute Paper Summaries and Literature Surveys. I have also created lists of references and textbooks for other students to refer to when they are looking for research articles (e.g., see the list of Textbooks here).

Do you have any other tools that you like to use to cite academic references using wordpress?

If so, or if you have any questions, leave them in the comments box below.

I look forward to hearing from you and until next time, Happy Researching!

Leave a Reply