Searching externally using Online Services

Using online databases to search for references

JabRef is not intended to be a tool for mass download of citations. The purpose of the Web search is to easily gather a few entries directly from within JabRef. If you use the search functionality too extensively you might get blocked (for some time). To fetch entries from an online database, choose View → Web search, and the search interface will appear in the side panel. Select the database you want to search (e.g., arXiv) in the dropdown menu. Note that it might be necessary to scroll downwards to find certain fetchers. An example for this is provided in the image below. You may opt to download the abstracts along with the cite information for each entry, by checking the Include abstracts checkbox.Then enter the words of your query, and press Enter, or the Search button. The results are displayed in the import inspection dialog. Some online services support advanced search queries. These are described below at the respective fetcher.

Apart from fetching entries by using a full search, it is also possible to directly create an entry using a unique identifier.

Mass downloading of articles

However, it is still possible to import hundreds or even thousands of entries from these databases. The process depends a bit on the specifics of each database, but in general works as follows: Search the database in your browser, export the result in one of the supported file formats and then import the file into JabRef.

Using a Proxy Server

If you need to use an HTTP proxy server, you can configure JabRef to use a proxy using the "Network" preferences (File → Preferences → Network).

Search Syntax

Since version 5.2:

JabRef searches the databases by using the specified keywords. One can use quotes (") to keep words togehter: An example is "process mining". It is also possible to restrict the search to dedicated fields:

Thereby, JabRef supports following fields:



The author of the work


The title of the work


The title of the journal of the work


The year in which the work was published


The year range (e.g., 1999-2001) the work was published


The document object identifier of the work

One can usually combine different searches using the Boolean operators AND and OR. Thereby, the default operator is OR.


  • author:smith and author:jones: search for references with authors "smith" and "jones"

  • author:smith or author:jones: search for references with either author "smith" or author "jones"

  • author:smith and not title:processor: search for author "smith" and omit references with "processor" in the title

Technial note: The search syntax is adapted from Apache Lucene. JabRef takes the Lucene syntax and transforms it to the syntax required by the supported databases.

Supported databases

ACM Portal

The ACM Portal includes two databases (Wikipedia):

  • the ACM Digital Library is a text collection of every article published by the Association for Computing Machinery, including over 60 years of archives from articles, magazines and conference proceedings.

  • the Guide to Computing Literature that is a bibliographic collection from major publishers in computing with over one million entries.


ArXiv is a repository of scientific preprints in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology, statistics, and quantitative finance (Wikipedia).

Bibliotheksverbund Bayern (BVB)

The Bibliotheksverbund Bayern (BVB) provides bibliographic information from all public libraries in Bavaria, Germany. The format used is MarcXML, which has been modified, which in turn is based on other modifications.

Biodiversity Heritage Library

Biodiversity Heritage Library makes biodiversity literature openly available to the world as part of a global biodiversity community. It is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives (Wikipedia).


CiteSeerX is a public search engine for scientific and academic papers primarily with a focus on computer and information science. However, CiteSeerX has been expanding into other scholarly domains such as economics, physics, and others (Wikipedia).

Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies (CCSB)

The Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies is a public search engine for bibliographies of scientific literature in computer science.

Crossref / Unpaywalll

Unpaywall is an open database with over 20 million free scholarly articles harvested from over 50,000 journals and open-access repositories around the globe. Sources for these articles include repositories run by renowned universities, governments, and scholarly societies. Unpaywall is integrated into thousands of existing search engines, library platforms, and information products, making articles easy to find, track, and use for your scholarly communication needs.

The Unpaywall database has a very simple structure: it has one record for each article with a Crossref DOI. It harvests from many sources to find Open Access content, and then matches this content to these DOIs using content fingerprints. So for any given DOI, we know about any OA versions that exist anywhere.

To fetch entries from Unpaywall indirectly through Crossref, choose Search → Web search, and the search interface will appear in the side pane. Select Crossref in the dropdown menu. To start a search, enter the words of your query, and press Enter or the Fetch button.


DBLP is a computer science bibliography website listing more than 3.1 million journal articles, conference papers, and other publications on computer science (Wikipedia).


DOAB (Directory of Open Access Books) is is a community-driven discovery service that indexes and provides access to scholarly, peer-reviewed open access books and helps users to find trusted open access book publishers.


DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) is a database covering more than 10000 open access journals covering all areas of science, technology, medicine, social science, and humanities (Wikipedia).

It is possible to limit the search by adding a field name to the search, as field:text. The supported fields are:



The title of the article


The DOI of the article


The ISSN of the journal


The publisher of the journal


The abstract of the article

Google Scholar

Currently not working, because Google changed their API

Google Scholar is a freely accessible database that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and disciplines. Google Scholar index includes most peer-reviewed online academic journals and books, conference papers, theses and dissertations, preprints, abstracts, technical reports, and other scholarly literature, including court opinions and patents (Wikipedia).

Traffic limitations

Google scholar can block "automated" crawls which generate too much traffic in a short time. To unblock your IP, doing a Google scholar search in your browser might help. You will be asked to show that you are not a robot (a CAPTCHA challenge). If no CAPTCHA appears, or JabRef is still blocked after performing a search in the browser, you can also change your IP address manually or wait for some hours to get unblocked again.

Thus, the Google Scholar fetcher is not the best way to obtain lots of entries at the same time. The JabRef browser extension might be an alternative to download the bibliographic data directly from the browser.


GVK, the GBV Union Catalogue, is a multimaterial bibliographic database of seven German federal states. It covers 41.5 million records of books, conference proceedings, periodicals, dissertations, microfilms and electronic resources.

You can simply enter words / names / years you want to search for, or you can specify search fields.

Supported fields are:



all words. Not specifYing a search key results in an "all" search


title words (converted to GVK's tit field)


Searches author, editors, etc. (converted to GVK's per field)


The journal (converted to GVK's zti field)


The year of publication (converted to GVK's erj field)




key words


tables of content


numbers, e.g. ISBN


names of conferences


Pica Production Numbers of the GVK



Year ranges are not supported. In case a year range is provided, it is ignored. Otherwise, GVK returns no results.


  • queries can be combined with and. The use of and is optional, though.

  • in many cases you can use the truncation sign ?

  • spaces in person names are not supported yet. Please use the truncation sign ? after the first name for several given names. E.g. per Maas,jan?

Sample queries

  • marx kapital

  • author:grodke and title:db2

  • author:"Maas,jan?"


IEEEXplore is a scholarly research database that indexes, abstracts, and provides full-text for articles and papers on computer science, electrical engineering and electronics. IEEEXplore comprises over 180 journals, over 1,400 conference proceedings, more than 3,800 technical standards, over 1,800 eBooks and over 400 educational courses (Wikipedia)


INSPIRE-HEP is an open access digital library for the field of high energy physics (Wikipedia).

Query syntax

The INSPIRE-HEP search function merely passes your search queries onto the INSPIRE-HEP web search, so you should build your queries in the same way. INSPIRE supports the fielded search too. See for advanced help.

The following list shows some of the field indicators that can be used:



search author names


search in title


Here either the common abbreviation or the 5 letter CODEN abbreviation for a journal can be used. Volume and page can also be included, separated by commas. For instance, j Phys. Rev.,D54,1 looks in the journal Phys. Rev., volume D54, page 1.


The collecion


Search in the fulltext


search in keywords


Currently disabled because of traffic limit

Jstor is an online database with access to more than 12 million journal articles, books, and sources in 75 disciplines. About

It is possible to limit the search by adding a field name to the search, such as field:"text". The supported fields are:

  • title: The title of the article

  • author: an author of the article

  • journal: journal title (sent as pt to Jstor)

  • pt: publication title


MathSciNet is a searchable online bibliographic database. It contains all of the contents of the journal Mathematical Reviews (MR) since 1940 along with an extensive author database, links to other MR entries, citations, full journal entries, and links to original articles. It contains almost 3 million items and over 1.7 million links to original articles (Wikipedia).


MEDLINE is a bibliographic database of life sciences and biomedical information. It includes bibliographic information for articles from academic journals covering medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and health care. MEDLINE also covers much of the literature in biology and biochemistry, as well as fields such as molecular evolution (Wikipedia).

The Medline syntax is completely different form the Lucene syntax. One cannot use fielded search there.

There are two ways of specifying which entries to download:

  1. Enter one or more MEDLINE IDs (separated by comma/semicolon) in the text field.

  2. Enter a set of names and/or words to search for. You can use the operators and and or and parentheses to refine your search expression. See OVID operators for full description.


  • May \[au\] AND Anderson \[au\]

  • Anderson RM \[au\] HIV \[ti\]

  • Valleron \[au\] 1988:2000\[dp\] HIV \[ti\]

  • Valleron \[au\] AND 1987:2000\[dp\] AND (AIDS \[ti\] OR HIV\[ti\])

  • Anderson \[au\] AND Nature \[ta\]

  • Population \[ta\]

SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System

SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System is an online database of over eight million astronomy and physics papers from both peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed sources. Abstracts are available free online for almost all articles, and full scanned articles are available in Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) and Portable Document Format (PDF) for older articles (Wikipedia).


To be detailed.

Semantic Scholar

Semantic Scholar is a free, AI-powered, research tool for scientific literature. Developed at the Allen Institute for AI, it uses advances in natural language processing to provide summaries for scholarly papers (Wikipedia).


Springer (aka Springer Science+Business Media) is a global publishing company that publishes books, e-books, and peer-reviewed journals in science, technical and medical publishing. Springer also hosts a number of scientific databases, including SpringerLink, Springer Protocols, and SpringerImages (Wikipedia).

zbMATH Open

zbMATH Open is an abstracting and reviewing service in pure and applied mathematics. Its database contains about 4 million bibliographic entries with reviews or abstracts currently drawn from about 3,000 journals and book series, and 180,000 books. The coverage starts in the 18th century and is complete from 1868 to the present by the integration of the "Jahrbuch über die Fortschritte der Mathematik" database (about).

You cannot use the same query syntax as in the one-line search at; you have to stick with the Apache Lucence syntax. This means that your query can be composed of several terms, combined by the logical operators AND and OR. Queries are case-insensitive. Further operators that can be used are NOT for logical negation, * for a right wildcard, " " for exact phrase matches, and parentheses ( ) to group terms. Optionally, it is possible to add a field name in the form field:text to limit the search results. The supported fields are:



Author, editor - sent in the au field


Author, editor - sent in the ti field


Journal - sent in the so field


Year - sent in the py field


Year range - sent in the py field


MSC code


document type (possible values are j for journal articles, b for books, a for book articles)


the zbl id of the document


internal author identifier


language either as a string or as ISO 639-1 language code


search for term in reviews or abstracts






external identifier


biographical reference


  • ``algebra*: Searches for publications containing a term starting with algebra (e.g. algebra, algebras, algebraic, etc.) in any field.

  • title:"Graph Theory": Searches for publications with the exact phrase Graph Theory in their title field.

  • an:0492.90056: Searches for the document with zbl number 0492.90056.

  • author:Berge and title:"Graph Theory": Searches for entries written by Berge with Graph Theory in their title field.

  • dt:b author:Berge: Searches for all books written by Berge.

  • title:"Graph Theory" yearrange:2010-2020: Searches for documents containing the exact phrase Graph Theory in their title that are published between 2010 and 2020.

  • so:Combinatorica: Searches for documents published in the journal Combinatorica.

  • cc:"(05C|90C)": Searches for documents with MSC code in 05C or 90C.

  • la:"es | pt": Searches for documents written in Spanish or Portuguese.

  • sw:python: Searches for publications using the software python.

  • en:arXiv: Searches for entries with a link to an arXiv preprint.

  • br:"Claude Berge": Searches for publications with biographical information on Claude Berge.

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