I imagine this may be an overkill, but when making references to large e.g. mathematical books, I find it helpful to have both the page number and the definition / proposition / theorem / lemma (etc.) number. Having both allows the reader to directly flip to the correct page, and then to have a good tool to "locate" the quoted part (as e.g. "Definition 3.1.10" can be on the same page as 10 other definitions, and could be on page 10 or 13208, depending on the numbering convention used by the authors).

I have two questions:

  • Is this practice strongly frowned upon? I don't remember seeing it in my field (computer science / mathematics), but at the same time I don't remember seeing any indication given at all (that is, no page number, and no definition number),
  • What should be the correct order to display the information, using e.g. Bibtex's plainurl style:

As you can see in the usual definition [10, p. 23, Definition 12]…


As you can see in the usual definition [10, Definition 12, p. 23]…


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    I’m voting to close this question because it is about specialist orthographics rather than prototypical or even fairly marginal standard usage. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 28 at 18:42
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    I'd rather see a chronological order, as I'd have to go the page first. – Yosef Baskin Jun 28 at 18:48
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    In "10, p. 23, Definition 12", what is the 10 intended to denote? If I saw that, I'd flip to page 23 and look for Definition 12, and I'd be confused about why there was a 10 there. – Tanner Swett Jun 29 at 1:02
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    @TannerSwett The 10 refers to item 10 in the bibliography of the paper that OP is writing; this form of bibliographic reference is quite common in mathematics. – Andreas Blass Jun 29 at 3:38
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    I get very annoyed by references to a book with no further information about where to find the relevant material, so give at least one of the page number and the item number. It does no harm to give both, but that seems fairly uncommon. The page number would usually suffice (I won't get annoyed if you make me search through one page), provided it's unlikely to change from one edition to the next. The item number would also suffice, if items are numbered in a reasonable way, so that I can find the relevant material by some version of binary search. – Andreas Blass Jun 29 at 3:42

As in the use of an outline the order of the items in practice is from the outside - in. The entire outer structure is normally not inflicted upon us with each reference but instead we see the relative location of the item; Theorem, Equation etc.

At the beginning of most modern technical books the local structure used will be given so as to allow one to navigate from within the text to learn just where each item rests. As such within a chapter there will be no mention of the current volume's title or the name of the chapter. As you move out to other chapters more detail is added. It is when you stand at the library door that you see the entire chain of loci that you describe.

Nearly any method will be found suitable if it is both uniform and concentric.

By concentric is meant that each item should be clearly inside, within another, not spreading across boundaries. A set of rings each inside one another and not overlapping are concentric. This allows each item to have a single correct description of its location, one that does not allow "Well, maybe it could be there as well. Oh, and check that other place, too."

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