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Providing citations to prior work is an important aspect of academic writing but managing and using a library of references can be time-consuming. For premium accounts, Overleaf provides integrations with Mendeley and Zotero reference managers and an enhanced reference-search feature.

All Overleaf accounts can use autocompletion to browse references by citation key. If you have Auto-complete set to on, Overleaf will recognize reference-citation commands and suggest a list of citation keys, based on the .bib files contained in your project. Premium accounts can access the reference-search feature by pressing CTRL-Space whilst the list of citation keys is displayed on screen:

Using CTRL-Space to show the reference search box

Reminder about autocompletion

As noted, browsing citation keys, via Overleaf’s Auto-complete feature, is available in all Overleaf accounts. The following video shows how this works when autocompletion is applied to the \cite command.

Advanced Reference Search (premium feature)

Advanced Reference Search is a premium feature. Overleaf premium features are available to participants in Overleaf Commons, members of group subscriptions, and owners of individual subscriptions.

Overleaf’s reference-search feature searches your project’s .bib files based on entries in the following fields:

  • author
  • title
  • year
  • journal
  • citation key

We’ll use the following example to demonstrate reference searching. There are two empty \cite{} commands: the first one is for a journal paper, the second is for a book. The project contains two .bib files: sample.bib and mendeley.bib:

Sample text for reference searching

Video demonstration of reference searching

The following short video uses the sample text and shows how to search your project’s .bib files to find citation keys for the two empty \cite{} commands.

Further reading

If you’d like to further explore topics related to using bibliographies in LaTeX, the following Overleaf articles may be of interest:

Overleaf guides

LaTeX Basics


Figures and tables

References and Citations


Document structure





Field specific

Class files

Advanced TeX/LaTeX