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A lot of authors using one of the IEEE journal templates ask for help adding their references using bibtex. In particular, after uploading the IEEEexample.bib and IEEEabrv.bib files to the bibtex/bib folder, it can be tricky to get the document to compile. Here's a compilation of our answers which should hopefully help if you're in a similar situation, and they culminate in an example you can use as a template to get started.

Firstly, if you've uploaded the IEEEtran.cls and IEEEtran.bst files it's recommended to delete them, because they're actually built in to writeLaTeX—you don't have to include them in your project, and it's usually best to use the built in version.

If you need to create the bibtex/bib folder, you can do so via the Project menu in the editor—once you have opened the menu, the icons to create folders and files are on the top right.

The bibtex-generated bibliography comes from the \bibliography and \bibliographystyle commands, and assuming you're using the IEEEexample.bib and IEEEabrv.bib files in the bibtex/bib folder, these commands should be changed to:

\bibliography{bibtex/bib/IEEEabrv.bib,bibtex/bib/IEEEexample.bib}{}
\bibliographystyle{IEEEtran}

This tells bibtex to load the two .bib files and use the IEEEtran bibliography style to format the references.

Note: The original commands in the template were:

\bibliography{mybib.bib}{}
\bibliographystyle{plain}

which told bibtex that you want to use a file called mybib.bib for references, with the plain (built-in) style.

Finally, a common error that occurs after setting this all up is when there's no \cite command in the document that refers to any of the records in the bib file. In the example below we've added one from IEEEexample.bib:

\cite{IEEEhowto:IEEEtranpage}

to make it compile. You'll want to delete it once you've started adding your own citations.

Here's the example on Overleaf, ready and set up for use.

For more information on bibtex, we recommend the LaTeX wikibook [chapter on bibliography management].