How to Format Citations Automatically Using Microsoft Word

How to Format Citations Automatically Using Microsoft Word

maxwell academic writing, Citation Styles, Formatting in Microsoft Word ,

This handout discusses how to add citations and bibliography automatically to your manuscript. To give you an opportunity to practice your proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.

How to Add Citations and Bibliography Automatically to Your Document

Formatting citations and references properly has always driven researchers crazy. With Microsoft Office Word, though, the process is streamlined to the point of almost being automatic.  Microsoft Word automatically generates a bibliography from the sources you use to write your manuscript. Each time you add a new citation to your document, Word adds that source so that it appears in the bibliography in the proper format, such as APA, Chicago/Turabian, and MLA style.  

This blog is going to show you how to add citations and bibliographies to your Word documents and how to format references automatically by using the Microsoft Word References tool.

The techniques that this blog is going to discuss here should work for all newer versions of Microsoft Word. The screenshots are all taken in the latest version of Microsoft Word 2020 for Mac. So, your Word version might look slightly different, but it works the same way.

Before you can add a citation, a works-cited list, or a bibliography, you should add a source to your Word document. A works-cited list is a list of references, usually placed at the end of the main text, to which you referred in your document. A works-cited list is different from a bibliography, which is a list of sources that you consulted when you created the document.

When you add a new source, the source information is saved on your computer automatically

When you complete adding your sources, you can automatically generate a works-cited list or a bibliography based on your source information that you already completed. When you add a new source, the source information is saved on your computer automatically. If you want to find and reuse any source that you have previously created, even sources in your other documents, you can use the Citations tool.

A citation is a parenthetical reference that is placed in line with the text. It is different from a footnote or an endnote, which is placed at the bottom of the page or end of the document, respectively. You can use the source information that is stored in your citation tool to create citations, a reference list, or a bibliography. However, there is no way to create footnotes or endnotes by using the information in the Citations tool or the Source Manager.

For more information about citation styles for various manuals, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago Style, read the following articles: Citation Styles | Which Citation Style Should I Use?APA Formatting Guide for Academic Manuscripts.

Steps to Adding Citations and References Automatically

Step 1:

  • Open a new or existing Microsoft Word document.

Step 2:

  • Place your cursor where you would like your in-text reference to be.
  • When you are working on any Word document, place your cursor where you would like the citation to be placed.

Step 3:

  • Choose a documentation style (APA, Chicago, MLA, or IEEE) from the dropdown menu.
Format Citations Automatically Using Microsoft Word

Step 4:

  • Click at the end of the sentence or phrase that you wish to cite.
  • Choose the References tab at the top and click the Insert Citation button.
Citations Using Microsoft Word
  • In the Create Source dialog box, next to Type of Source, select the type of source you wish to use.
  • In this dialog box, you can enter all of the relevant information for your source. The default setting for the Type of Source drop-down is Book.
  • If you wish to enter other types of sources such as a book section, an article in a journal or periodical, or a website, open the drop-down menu to choose the desired type of source.
  • Then click OK to complete the source.
Format Citations Automatically Using Microsoft Word
  • Enter the details for your source (for example, author’s name, the title of the source, and year of the publication), and click OK. The source is added as a citation at the place you selected in your document. If you wish to add more details for your source, check the Show all bibliography fields.

When you have completed the steps mentioned above, the citation is added to the available citations. The next time you quote this reference, you do not have to type it all out again. Just select your source from the list of available citations.

Here is an example:

Format Citations by Microsoft Word

You can repeat those steps to add any other sources you need and to place citations wherever you wish.

How to Edit an Existing Source Using Microsoft Word

Step 1:

  • If you wish to edit a source, go to the References tab, click Citations, and then click the settings button in the bottom right corner of the Citations
Format Citations Automatically Using Microsoft Word

Step 2 

  • Click Edit Source, make the necessary changes to the source, and then click OK.
citations source manager

Step 3

  • If you wish to manage your list of sources, click Citation Source Manager and then addedit, or delete sources on your list. You can also copy the available sources or add a new one.
Format Citations Automatically Using Microsoft Word

How to Add Citations to Your Microsoft Word Document

Follow the steps below to add a citation to your document.

Step 1

  • Place your cursor where you would like your in-text reference to be and then on the References tab, click Citations
  • Go to the Citations pane on the right and double-click the citation you wish to add to your document. 
citations styles

How to Create a Bibliography or a Reference List

A reference list or bibliography is a list of all works you cited or to which you referred in your document. When your document is completed, you will want to add a Bibliography or Works Cited list that lists all your sources.

Step 1:

  • Click where you would like the Works Cited or Bibliography to appear (most likely at the very end of the main text).

Step 2:

  • On the References tab, click the arrow next to Bibliography, and then click Bibliography or Works Cited.
  • works-cited list is typically used when you cite sources using the Modern Language Association (MLA) style, and it differs from a bibliography, which is a list of all works that you consulted when you researched and wrote your document.
bibliography and works cited list

When you click Bibliography, you will have the following list (for APA style):


When you click Works Cited, you will have the following one (for MLA style:


How to Change a Bibliography or Works-Cited List Style

You can change the style of all the citations contained in the works-cited list of your document or bibliography without manually editing the style of each citation. You can also change the citations from the APA to MLA style based on your manual.

  1. Go to the View menu, click Draft or Print Layout.
Citations with Microsoft Word

2. On the References tab, click Citations.

Format Citations with Microsoft Word

3. In the Citations pane, select a style from the Citation style list.

citations style

All references in the Bibliography or Works-cited list of your document change to the new style.

If you need help, then contact us!

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Format Citations Automatically Using Microsoft Word

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