Source Management in Microsoft Word

If you are not eager to set up another reference manager, and only to use it in Microsoft Word, isn’t it better to just do it in one program?

In this post, we will continue our discussion of reference management but with a focus on Word.1 As a word-processing application, Word comes with an excellent source management facility that you can take advantage of to speed up your work.

A Temptation to Avoid

When you come across an authority which you want to cite in a document, do not be tempted to do the following:

  • Write the text to cite;
  • Put the name of the authority in parenthesis, followed by the year such as (Mercedes, 2008).
  • Then go on writing.
  • At the end of the document, create a heading called “Bibliography”.
  • Add a list of those sources you were citing.

Don’t do that! It’s a lot of work and is prone to errors: what if you forget or overlook some author?

You are doing manual work for something that you could have automated in the same way you do when adding a table of contents or page numbers.

Do this instead

Word has got a source manager which you will find under the References menu (Press ALT+S to quickly access it.)

Find “Add Source” and pick the type of source you are adding:

  • It could be a book section,
  • A journal article,
  • A Book,
  • or even a web page.

After adding this entry, when you are typing a document, when you get to the point where you want to add a citation, do the following:

  • Write the phrase to be cited;
  • At the end of the phrase, click on “Add Citation”;
  • Pick an appropriate authority from the list or enter a new one;
  • Press the ENTER key and the authority would be added with correct citation style.
  • At the end of the document, Click on References > Bibliography and Word will add all the cited authorities into your document with the right formatting, and the heading for the bibliography.

And that’s it!

Word and other Reference Managers

The good news is that Microsoft Word plays well with other reference managers such as Mendeley and Zotero. As Word is a pluggable program, it supports add-ons, which means that these reference managers have add-ons that are automatically installed on your computer.

So any entry you add to Mendeley will be synced not only to your desktop, but will be picked by Word such that next time you edit your document, you will be able to just pick the source and cite it in your document.


Word (all modern versions) comes with useful facilities that make it a snap to add sources into your document without the bother to think about how to add such citations. In fact, you only have to pick the citation style (such as APA, Chicago, MLA, Harvard ETC) and the rest is left to Word.

Good luck in your word-processing and citation! Thanks for reading this post.

  1. We will simply call it “Word” throughout the post. ↩︎

Ishe Chinyoka
Ishe Chinyoka
Access Technology Instructor

My research interests include operating systems, access technology, programming, and science fiction.