How To Automatically Add Citations And Bibliographies To Microsoft Word

Properly formatting bibliographies has always driven students crazy. With modern versions of Microsoft Word, though, the process is streamlined to the point of almost being automatic, and today we’re going to show you how to add citations and bibliographies to your Word documents.

Note: the techniques we’re going to cover here should work for Microsoft Word 2007 and later. The screenshots are all taken in the latest version of Word 2016, so your version might look slightly different, but it works the same way.

Creating Sources and Adding Citations To Your Text

When you’re working on any Word document, place your cursor where you want the citation to be placed. Switch to the “References” tab on the Ribbon, and then click the “Insert Citation” button.

The popup menu that appears shows any sources you have already added (we’ll get to that in a moment), but to add a new source, just click the “Add New Source” command.

In the Create Source window that appears, you can enter all of the relevant information for just about any source. The default setting for the “Type of Source” dropdown is Book, but just open that dropdown to choose other types of sources like journal articles, web sites, interviews, and so on. So, pick the type of source, fill out the fields, give your source a tag name (typically a shortened version of the title), and then click “OK” to finish the source.

Note: By default, Word uses APA citation style, but it’s not limited to that. If you’re using another citation method for your document, click the “Show All Bibliography fields” option to fill out extra information.

Word adds a citation for your new source to your document. And, the next time you need to cite that particular source, simply click that “Insert Citation” button again. Your source appears on the list (along with any other sources you’ve added). Select the source you want, and Word correctly inserts the citation into the document.

By default, Word uses the APA style for citations, but you can change that by picking another option from the “Style” dropdown right next to the “Insert Citation” button.

Just repeat those steps to add any other sources you need, and to place citations where you want.

Creating Your Bibliography

When your document is finished, you’ll want to add a bibliography that lists all your sources. Head to the end of your document and create a new page using Layout > Breaks > Page Break. Switch over the “References” tab, and click the “Bibliography” button. You can select from a few pre-formatted bibliography styles with headers, or you can click the “Insert Bibliography” option to add one without any header or extra formatting.

Bam! Word adds all the works you cited in your document to the bibliography, in the correct order and format for the writing style you’ve set up.

Back Up and Retrieve Your Sources

What if you frequently write papers on similar topics, and you don’t want to have to re-enter the source information to Word each time? Word has you covered here too. Every time you enter a new source, it’s saved in what Word calls the “master source list.” For each new document, you can retrieve old sources from the master list and apply them to your current project.

On the “References” tab, click the “Manage Sources” button.

The window that appears shows all the sources you’ve used before. Click a source on the left side of the window, and then click “Copy” to apply it to the current document. Repeat this for each source you need, and then click “OK” to finish.

If you’ve entered dozens or hundreds of sources, you can use the search tool at the top of this window to quickly narrow down the list by author, title, year, or the tag you’ve personally applied to the individual source.

If you need to move your source list to another computer and another copy of Word, you’ll find your sources stored in an XML file at the following location (where username is your user name):

C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Bibliography

After copying that file to another computer, click the “Manage Sources” button in Word on the new computer, and you can browse for the file.

Image source: Shutterstock/Mikael Damkier

Michael Crider has been covering technology on the web since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order. He wrote a novel called Good Intentions: A Supervillain Story, and it's available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter if you want.