I think I have stumbled once again over the meanings of "issue" and "volume".

So I have found this article which declares both fields. Now I used JabRef's DOI to BibTeX to pull the info and it worked as expected. But it only pulled the volume number.

But sometimes I noticed the DOI database only pulls the issue number for an article, more than only giving the volume number. Why?

I suppose one should prefer using the issue because there are (usually) issues of a journal ("magazine") in a year... right?

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    If JabRef pull's an issue number, but not the volume, that's a bug (either in JabRef or the publishers database).
    – Dirk
    Aug 18, 2014 at 5:53

2 Answers 2


I guess your question is about citing an article. If the article you want to cite is in a journal which have both volume and issue number (this is very often the case). Then you should write both of them.

The issue is the booklet number in which the article was published. They are grouped together to make a volume. Often one volume correspond to all the issues of one given year, but not always. Page numbers usually run sequentially through a volume (issue 2's first page will be numbered one higher than the last page of issue 1 and so on).

Finding the article in a (paper) library is easier if you have both the volume and issue number since you directly know which booklet you need to consult. While helpful, the issue number isn't strictly required in order to find a particular article. Indeed, libraries often bind all the issues of a single volume into a hard-backed book where the page number is sufficient.

Today with electronic paper those notions might have lost their meaning, and in the end, the DOI is probably the best way to share a reference. However, it is still in the habit to provide both issue and volume number, and given what they mean, it does not really make sense to have only one of them. The last word will go to the editor of the journal you are publishing the reference in and the bibliography style may or may not include the issue number. So for your personal bibliography, it seems safer to have it for the day you publish in a journal which request issue numbers.

For this particular paper in jabref, I don't know why only one get pulled. Maybe it is a bug, or a database error.

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    The pages are typically numbered sequentially within a volume: issue 1 might be pages 1-150, issue 2 pages 151-300 and so on. As such, the issue number is typically redundant so, while it's best to cite both volume and issue number, a reference will usually still make sense with only one of them, as long as that one is the volume. Aug 17, 2014 at 9:05
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    @DavidRicherby is correct. In my field it's usual to refrain from citing issue numbers.
    – Moriarty
    Aug 17, 2014 at 9:20
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    @Lynda: Previously, it was common for libraries to bind all issues of a single volume into a hard-covered book. Then you would just use the volume number to find the right volume, and the page number to find the right article. The issue number would be of little use — it would be actually a bit difficult to find the right issue in the volume. It seems that more recently libraries have got a bit lazy and just keep individual issues as is, which means that knowing the issue number is actually useful. Aug 17, 2014 at 9:28
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    @henry No, you cannot exchange the date/issue/vol. Each journal has its own numbering so the issue for august is not necessary 8. Thus you cannot deduct the issue/volume number from the date (I am assuming when writing 08/2004, you meant August 2004)
    – Oneira
    Aug 18, 2014 at 8:00
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    @henry It can happen that a journal publishes more than one volume per year. There are journals with 20000 pages yearly, you don't want all of that in one volume. There is more info in my answer to When citing a journal paper, should I use the online publication year or the print publication year?
    – yo'
    Aug 18, 2014 at 10:25

The issue number is useful when pulling a hard copy of the journal before it has been bound. Some libraries wait a year or two before binding. So during that time you have loose issues.

P.s. Some people still use the library, still read hard copies. Not everyone is young and computer oriented--you'll get the wrong perspective if you think the SE demographic represents Academia. Don't assume everyone is using the screen only.

  • I learned to lookup articles using physical volumes and issues. The day I found I could read some computer science articles sitting at my desk using Mosaic was an absolute delight. Don't ignore the old and computer orientated. We do exist. Jan 30, 2020 at 8:52

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