Tech Tip: Managing academic reference sources in Microsoft Word

Students in libraryAlthough a number of software tools are now available for managing citations and references for research papers and journal articles, I have found that using the tools built into the latest versions of Microsoft Word provide a single tool for document creation and reference source management. The reference features of Word support a variety of manuscript styles, allow for quick and accurate citations, automate the development of bibliography or works cited pages, and support the reuse of sources across multiple documents with ease.

In this article, I will discuss the basic steps for implementing the tools to manage your academic reference sources in Microsoft Word.

Set the bibliography style

As you begin your research paper or article, the first step to ensure proper formatting of your citations and bibliography references is to select the required bibliography style from the References tab of the ribbon. The most current version of common styles like APA, MLA, and Chicago are ready for selection.

This option can be changed at any time and will automatically update all citations and bibliography fields throughout the document to match the selected style.

Create a new source

Once the style has been established, you must add source information to be used for generating the citations and bibliographic information included within the manuscript. Depending on preference, you can create sources as a complete list of references before developing your manuscript, or you can create sources as needed within the document. Regardless, when a new source is created, it is added to a master list of references for both the working document and the local computer.

Create New Source Dialog Box

To add sources to your document on a PC, click the Manage Sources button on the References tab of the ribbon, then click the New button in the Source Manager dialog box to begin the process. On a Mac, click the Citations button on the References tab of the ribbon, and then click the + (plus sign) at the bottom of the Citations task pane.

In the Create New Source dialog box displayed by either process, select the type of source from the drop-down list, and then complete all known fields on the form to add the source. For web sources, note that two sets of date fields exist – one for the publish date of the web content, the other for when it was accessed by you as the researcher.

Insert citations

Once the source has been added to the citations list for the document, citations are inserted where needed within the document. For existing sources on a PC, place the insertion point in the document where the citation is needed, click the Insert Citation button arrow, and then click the appropriate citation option from the list. For existing sources on a Mac, click the Citations button to display the Citations task pane, place the insertion point in the document where the citation is needed, and then double-click the appropriate citation option from the list. The citation, properly formatted to match the selected bibliography style, will be inserted into the document.

Create a bibliography

When all sources have been added to the document, a bibliography or works cited page can be automatically generated. Before inserting the bibliography, however, I recommend verifying that you have cited all of the sources you will include in the bibliography and to remove any unused sources from the reference list.

Source Manager dialog box

To do this on a PC, click the Manage Sources button on the References tab of the ribbon to display the Source Manager dialog box. On a Mac, click the Citations button on the References tab of the ribbon, then click the settings button (gear icon) at the bottom of the Citations task pane, and then click Citation Source Manager from the menu to display the dialog.

The Source Manager dialog box has two lists – a master list and a current list. Cited sources in the current list are marked with a check mark. Use the check marks as a guide for adding missing citations to the manuscript or to delete unused sources from the current list to avoid inclusion in the bibliography.

After verifying the current list as accurate, close the Source Manager dialog box, click the Bibliography button on the References tab of the ribbon, and select the desired option for inserting the bibliography in the selected style.

Reusing sources in new documents

The Source Manager also provides a convenient way to reuse sources from previous research efforts. As citations are added to a document, the source information is stored in a master list for the computer. If you use the same device for creating additional papers and articles, you can open the Source Manager as described above and copy items from the master list into the current list.

Similarly, if you want to populate the master list on a new machine with sources from an existing document, use the Source Manager to copy sources from the current list in the existing document into the master list for the machine saving time and effort the next time you reference the source.

Now you are ready to begin using Microsoft Word as a way to manage your academic reference sources.


Eric SchmiederEric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.

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