I have a need to cite a certain scifi book series (i.e. a collection of books functioning as elements in a single larger story, not a series like the Springer Graduate Texts in Math) as inspiring a thought experiment in a philosophy paper, but I’m having trouble finding advice on how to cite a book series rather than a particular book in the series.

At least in this case it doesn’t seem appropriate to pick any particular book in the series (the relevant conceit is present across the whole series, but it’s quite possible some books in the series don’t mention it at all and I don’t even know which of the books I read).

Also, any suggestions for representing a series in BibTeX?

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    It seems natural to question whether you can cite a book series. That really depends on your definition of a citation. Some definitions might include book series, others might not. If a definition permits book series, then I'm unsure how to cite (citing a particular book is easy, just use BibTeX book entry with field series), otherwise, such citations aren't permitted, but I nevertheless have a workaround: refer to the book series in the main body, omit a bibtex entry.
    – user2768
    Dec 19, 2017 at 10:44
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    In what way could you not cite a book series? You can cite collected works or other groupings of independent sub-works joined by some common organizational structure. One can also cite multi-volume books even though they span multiple physical chunks so why wouldn't you. Regardless of semantics you understand what I wish to communicate to the reader: this information came from this series but doesn't belong particularly to any one instance more than the others. Dec 19, 2017 at 11:07
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    Have you considered not citing the series but explaining it in a footnote? E.g. "This idea was inspired by the Xeelee Sequence, a series of science fiction novels and short stories by Stephen Baxter. For the complete list of works see stephen-baxter.com/articles.html#xeelee" It's a workaround, not a full answer.
    – henning
    Dec 19, 2017 at 11:10
  • @PeterGerdes You can only cite something that's citable. Is a book series citable? You can cite collected works (incollection). Whether you can cite "other groupings of independent sub-works joined by some common organizational structure" depends on the structure. I'd argue that you cannot cite multi-volume books, you can only cite each volume individually, because they are distinct. I'm not questioning your question... I'm merely trying to provide an answer. I only know how to provide an answer, well workaround, if book series aren't citable. Henning has seconded my workaround
    – user2768
    Dec 19, 2017 at 11:30

1 Answer 1


The Purdue MLA site provides a recommendation for how to cite an entire television series, which is essentially identical to citing a unified work: instead of naming an episode, one names the series as a whole, and the date shifts from a single point to a range.

By analogy, then, to cite a book series, one should simply use the series name as the book title, and list the range of publication dates, e.g.,

 author = {J.R.R. Tolkien},
 title = {The Lord of the Rings},
 year {1954--1956},

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