Jennifer Michelstein is a program manager on the Microsoft Office Word team who focuses on academic features. She came to Microsoft after receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering from Yale University.
I joined the Word team immediately after graduating from college. At the time, we were early in the planning phases of Office 2007, and I was eager to start working on features that would have saved me countless hours as a student! Two features in particular came to mind: equations and citations/bibliographies.
I’ll start out by talking about Word’s new citations & bibliography tools; stay tuned for future posts on equations!
Creating this feature involved a lot of customer visits. Though as an undergrad I had written countless papers, I had only my personal experiences to dwell upon. I needed a deeper understanding of the software needs of different sets of users (undergrads in the first few years of college, undergrads preparing senior theses/dissertations, grad students, professors, and researchers), in a variety of disciplines.
Our usability engineer, development lead, and I spent hours interviewing people in the groups described above, watching them cite sources and create bibliographies, and listening them rave and complain about the benefits and shortcomings of their current tools. We visited public libraries to look at bibliographies in published works. We sat on university library floors as we examined bibliographies in departmental dissertations. After we developed prototypes, we later returned to the same customers we initially interviewed, to gather more feedback and discover our own shortcomings.
Many months later, we had something to show to the public. Below, I’ll walk through the bibliography feature; in future posts I’ll talk more about how we came to design decisions, and how feedback from our target audience helped this feature evolve.
Creating Citations and a Bibliography
In order to produce citations and bibliographies, Word first needs bibliographic data about each source. There are three methods of importing this data, explained below.
Creating a New Source
To enable creation of a source from scratch, we’ve created a form with blank fields in which users can enter data.
This dialog provides the appropriate fields for any given type of source (for example, book, book section, journal article, report, etc.). This form, of course, takes some effort to complete, so we’ve provided alternate methods of giving this data to Word.
Reusing Existing Sources
Once a source is created, it lives in two places: your Master List and your Current List. The Master List is the database of all sources ever created. The Current List includes all of the sources that will be used in the current document.
The purpose of the Master List is to save you from re-typing and re-entering information about sources that you commonly use. For example, if you are a Shakespeare scholar and always cite the same five Shakespearean references, you can just select these sources in your Master List and click Copy to add them to your Current List. Now you can cite them throughout your document.
You’re not limited to reusing sources from your own history of sources used; you can also share sources with any other bibliography writer. Suppose you have a list of 100 sources and your colleague has a different set of 100 sources. Rather than you typing all of his/her sources manually, you might set up a common share in which your Master Lists live, or you can exchange Master Lists through email. In another scenario, your university department might host its entire library collection in a shared location. Click the Browse button to launch the shell window to locate a new Master List. Once that Master List is opened, you can copy sources from it to your current list, or edit sources that are in it.
Searching for Sources
Finally, Word provides the ability to search an external library through the Research and Reference pane, introduced in Word 2003. We’ve created a platform for any library to host a service that sends bibliographic data to Word. This means that instead of ever filling out the Create New Source form, you can search external collections for data and import it with one click.
One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard from the users with whom we’ve spoken is the amount of time it takes to format a bibliography. When I was a student, my least favorite part of writing papers was spending hours poring over documentation manuals, and making sure to underline the right thing, italicize the right thing, use a comma instead of a period, etc. In our customer research, we’ve talked to student after student who mentioned losing a few points for formatting a bibliography incorrectly. So, we’ve tried to make it simple.
In the Citations & Bibliography chunk of the References ribbon, you can select the documentation style you want to use. By default, we ship a set of commonly-used international formats:
With one click, you can format all of the references in your document in a certain style. Note that at any point during the authoring/editing process you can choose a new documentation style, and your citations and bibliography will be automatically updated to reflect the new style. This means that you can, with one click, repurpose documents to be submitted to a number of publications requiring different reference standards.
For more information on documentation styles, see the Extensibility section below.
On the References ribbon, you’ll see an Insert Citation button. This command launches a gallery containing all of the sources in your Current List. Any of these sources can be inserted anywhere into the document, and the citation will be formatted according to your documentation style. You can right-click on the citation, or launch the acetate menu, to add or suppress information from it. For example, you may want to add the page number from which a quotation was taken to a citation.
Also on the Insert Citation menu is the ability to create a placeholder citation. On some of our customer visits, we met writers who prefer to annotate in their document places where bibliographic information needs to be inserted at a later time. Placeholder citations are not included in the bibliography until more information is added to the source: you can later add information to the source by opening the Source Manager, selecting the placeholder source, and clicking Edit. After editing the fields, the placeholder citations will automatically be updated to reflect the new information.
Inserting a Bibliography
Click the Insert Bibliography button on the ribbon, and voila! You’ll insert a bibliography containing all of the sources in your document, formatted according to your active documentation style! No more revisiting the documentation manual to figure out if you’ve applied all of the formatting correctly. Word 2007 will do this for you! We’ve created a gallery with some common bibliography layouts, for enhanced appearance.
Works Cited vs. Works Consulted
It’s important to understand the distinction between bibliographies that are “works cited” instead of “works consulted” lists. Works cited lists contain only the sources actually cited in the document. Works consulted lists contain all sources that were used to help the author formulate his/her ideas, whether or not the sources were actually cited the author in the document.
By default, Word creates “works consulted” lists. That is, every item in your Current List (see the Source Manager dialog box) will be included in your bibliography. However, we’ve made it easy to perform some clean-up of your bibliography.
In the Source Manager, under Current List, some items have checkmarks to their left. These items have all been cited in the document. Items without checkmarks should be deleted in order to create a “works cited” list.
Including sources in the bibliography that have not been cited is analogous to using the “nocite” command in BibTeX.
Since placeholder citations are incomplete, they are not included in the bibliography. We call them out by placing a question mark to their left (see the Shakespeare source above). As soon as more information is added to this source, it is no longer considered a placeholder, and it will be included in the bibliography.
Everything about the bibliography feature is designed for sharing and extensibility. Sources are saved as XML, and documentation styles are XSLTs.
Any valid XSLT in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE12\1033\Bibliography\Style can be used within Word to format a bibliography. This means that a university, publication, or XSLT author can create custom documentation styles for use within Word. We recommend using the MLA file in the above share as a template for creating new styles.