Note: I'm using org-cite, not org-ref.

As I'm writing, I sometimes add a new citation to my references.bib file. But org-mode can't always find it. Instead, org highlights the new citation as an error, and if I click on it says "Cannot find citation key".

However if I restart Emacs, it can find it.

Is there a function I can call to rebuild or refresh org-mode's understanding of the .bib file without having to restart Emacs?

  • Try M-: (org-cite-basic--all-keys), There may be other, better supported ways, but this should parse the bibliography file again and remake the hash table. No guarantees though: my understanding of how citation works in Org mode is extremely rudimentary.
    – NickD
    Dec 7, 2022 at 4:53
  • That function isn't defined in my version of emacs (28.1) and/or org (9.6). Maybe I need to upgrade... Dec 7, 2022 at 13:29
  • It is in 9.6: maybe oc-basic is not loaded?
    – NickD
    Dec 7, 2022 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


I learned from this post about the variable org-cite-global-bibliography.

Setting this to point at my bibliography file AND removing the #+BIBLIOGRAPHY: path/to/my.bib from the org-mode buffer seems to fix my issue.

My suspicious is that the keyword-based bibliography information is cached but the org-cite-global-bibliography variable is not, which allows changes to either the .bib or .org file to be updated in the .org document with a call to revert-buffer.

In summary, my old method included this line inside each org-mode file:

#+BIBLIOGRAPHY: path/to/my.bib

My new method adds the following to my .emacs config file:

(setq org-cite-global-bibliography path/to/my.bib)

And omits the #+BIBLIOGRAPHY: line from the .org files.

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