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Microsoft 365

MLA, APA, Chicago — Microsoft Word formats bibliographies for you

[Author’s note: Office 2010 Service Pack 1 includes updates to the Word 2010 Citations & Bibliography group. After installing the service pack you’ll notice the new bibliography styles: APA 6th Edition, MLA 7th Edition, Harvard- Anglia 2008, and IEEE 2006. Screenshots in this blog post have been updated to reflect these changes. Download Office 2010 Service Pack 1 to update your computer.]

Did you know that it’s easy to create a bibliography based on common citation formats in Microsoft Word? I describe how, below.

But first, let me share one student’s story… the inspiration for this post.

A few months ago, we were asking students about how they write a research paper. Jon, a freshman at a local community college, had just completed a huge term paper that counted for a large percentage of his overall grade in a class. While describing how he wrote this paper, he told me he hated writing bibliographies because he couldn’t remember the proper format for citing sources. Unaware that Word has a built-in solution to his problem, he had turned to an online alternative.

When I told him about the citation generator in Word he said, “Word does what? Where’s that at?” Ouch.

In Microsoft Word 2007 and Word 2010, you can automatically generate a bibliography of the sources you used to write your paper. Basically, every time you add a new citation to the document, you also create a new source that will appear in the bibliography.

Since it’s that time of year, again, and students are busy researching, gathering references, and writing papers, I thought I’d share this information with you. So, if you’re like Jon and don’t like writing bibliographies, here’s how you can insert citations into Word and format bibliographies using common formats, such as MLA, APA, and Chicago-style.

To add a citation after a quote:

  1. In your Word document, click on the References tab in the Ribbon.
    Image of Citations & Bibliography group 
  2. In the Citations & Bibliography group, click the arrow next to Style.
    Image of supported citation styles 
  3. Click the style that you want to use for the citation and source. 
  4. Click at the end of the sentence or phrase that you want to cite. 
  5. Click Insert Citation and then select Add New Source
  6. Type in the citation details and then click OK.
    Image of Create Source dialog box 

When you’ve completed these steps, the citation is added to the Insert Citation button, so the next time you quote this reference, you don’t have to type it all out again.

Image of Insert Citation button

If you want to create a bibliography from your sources, do the following:

  1. Click where you want to insert a bibliography. Typically they are at the end of a document. 
  2. On the References tab, in the Citations & Bibliography group, click Bibliography
  3. Much like the Table of Contents builder in Word, you can select a predesigned bibliography format that includes a title or you can just click Insert Bibliography to add the citation without a title.
    Image of Insert Bibliography button 

If you want to learn more about using citation placeholders and editing sources, have a look at Creating a bibliography in Word 2010 or Creating a bibliography in Word 2007. Or if you want to export your bibliography sources to another computer, check out this post on the Microsoft Word blog.

There’s one issue with the APA 5th Edition citation style I want to call out. APA style uses the author’s name and publication date. If you have multiple citations from the same author, there is a known Word 2010 bug where the citation generator fills in the publication title when it’s not supposed to. If this happens to you, here’s how to fix the problem:

1. In the Word document, click the citation.

 Image of citation

2. Click the down-arrow and then click Edit Citation.

Image of Edit Citation button

3. Click the Title checkbox and then click OK.

Image of Edit Citation dialog box

— Jennifer Bost