Academic features: citation & bibliography tools

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!

Customer Research

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.

Sharing Sources

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.

Documentation Styles

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.

Inserting Citations

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.

Comments (44)

  1. Jennifer — Brian Jones pointed me to your blog entry.

    I am a publishing scholar (at the border of the humanities and social sciences), as well as the project lead for the OpenOffice bibliographic project, and the author of a number of XML-related tools and formats related to citations.

    I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I posted a whole series of blog entries on the details of your implementation (see link attached to this post). If possible, I’d like you to address them, preferably publicly.

    The most serious issues, I think, are a) your formatting of author-year styles like APA is incorrect, and b) your approach to styling could greatly benefit from the XML citation style language I have written. Instead of writing huge and complciated XSLT files, a user would just write or edit a very small, simple, XML file.

  2. Patrick Schmid says:


    very cool feature! It will be handy for a lot of students.

    I took a look at this in beta 1, but decided that it’s not advanced enough for me (phd student).

    Import: EndNote lets you connect directly to libraries and import references from them, or you can use one of hundreds of import filters. As EndNote is one of the most known programs, you really don’t have to enter a reference manually for anything, you can always find an electronic version you can import (either directly by connecting to a library or using any of the available import filters). I know that you can connect to libraries too with Word, but there is a huge difference between the number of libraries Word supports versus those supported by EndNote (a few vs a few hundred). In addition, most providers of electronic documents offer bibliographies in formats that are importable easily into EndNote (quite a few offer direct export to EndNote).

    Storage of document: if I get a PDF of a paper, I can store the PDF directly with the reference

    Links: for all the papers you can get online, I can store a direct link to them in EndNote, whereas Word doesn’t have a field for it.

    Lack of fields: the number of fields Word has for a reference is just not enough. E.g. there is no abstract field, which is rather missed if you deal with more than 100 sources and can’t remember what each one was really about.

    The feature Word has is great for things like term papers. I’d say that high school and undergraduate students will love it. For a thesis, dissertation, research papers (in your primary research area where you prob. have a substantial collection of literature) though it isn’t advanced enough.

    Patrick Schmid

  3. jakedeg says:

    I am a current student and these tools sound extremely useful. One question – how do the citation tools interface with footnotes/endnotes tools? Can you place a citation from the master list as a footnote and have it be updated automatically if you change info?

  4. Yes, they really need to allow notes to be embedded in the citation field.

    The requirement, Jennifer, is that a user be able to change from a note-style to an in-text one, and back, without modifying the source. You can see an example of this with my (XSLT) citation software, where both of these are from the same exact source:

    Should be easy enough for you to do technically.

    Note: this is not that much of an edge case. In my field, some journals use note styles and other in-text. It’s a HUGE hassle to change between them using something like Endnote.

  5. davidacoder says:

    Why are the styles not stored in the user profile? Surely it is absurd to require admin rights (at least with Vista) to add a new bibliography style to Word, right?

  6. davidacoder says:

    Are you seriously suggesting that users create their styles by starting with the MLA XSLT?!? That is more than 7000 line file that no normal human can understand. Do you plan to provide something like Endnotes customizing feature? It is not perfect, but normal users can understand it and go quite far with it.

  7. davidacoder says:

    When I edit a citation (not the source), I can add pages and surpress author, year or title. How can I add a prefix or a postfix? Like add a "cf." in the beginning, or something like that?

  8. davidacoder says:

    I don’t think the gallery under the "Insert citation" button is very usefull. The normal case when I write a paper is that I have a huge database of sources (right now in Endnote). Whenever I want to insert a citation, I need to quickly be able to pick a reference from that database. So, in this case it would be the master list. So, the no. 1 requirement is to very, very quickly be able to pick a reference from my huge master list (like, couple hundreds of references). The only logical way to do this is: 1. Click insert 2. type search team 3. hit enter 4. get list with search results from master list 5. pick from this list (i.e. double click). That is the main way researchers insert citations. And that is how Endnote works (rightfully so). The case that I want to insert another citation to a reference I already used in the same paper (and that is the use of the gallery of the sources of the current doc) is much rarer.

    Right now the steps required to get at a reference from the master list are way too complicated. At the same time, inserting a reference from the local list of references is fast, while this is really not needed that often.

  9. davidacoder says:

    Can references in footnotes be formatted differently? I the humanities it is common to cite in footnotes. The first citation has the full information on the reference (i.e. including publication place etc), subsequent citations have some shorter data there. None of the styles provided seems to support this, and customizing is too complicated at this point ot even try.

  10. davidacoder says:

    Why is there no volume and issue field for journal article?!? I am using the German version of B2…

  11. Patrick Schmid says:

    davidacoder: I decided to stay with EndNote for a good reason…

  12. davidacoder says:

    Have you guys also looked at Endnote, in addition to doing field research? Endnote is by no means perfect, but the stuff in Word 2007 is lightyears behind in terms of functionality… I have to agree with Patrick here, just by looking at it for five minutes, I don’t believe this could ever work for me, even if I tried really hard. I am writing a PhD in economics right now, so that is not too obscure, right?

  13. Francis says:

    Word should also allow the user to insert both a Works Cited and Works Consulted. Perhaps there should be an option for a combined (yet divided by category) list under the Bibliography drop-down?

    Also, what davidacoder says about complete citations for first occurrences of a source, followed by abbreviated citations for additional ones is very important. Otherwise the author/editor has to proofread the citations to ensure that the long form comes first every time the any citations are added/removed or the text even slightly restructured.

  14. Ian Easson says:

    I have been experimenting with the new bibliography feature, and I have some questions:

    1) How do I create a multi-reference citation instead of a series of individual citations strung out like (x,1999);(y;2001); (z,1867)?

    2) How can I create a different bibliography for each chapter of a book?  I am currently seeing if I can coerce the "master document" feature into doing this, but that feature has a very bad reputation for corrupting Word documents.  If I do get the mastre document approach working, can you tell me if the historical fragility of this feature been fixed for Word 2007?

    3) I have had the APA style produce a bibliography in which one of the sources came out with items in the order "title", "author", year", instead of "author", "year", "title", etc.  The source data was no different from other ones that came out in the proper order.  Is this a bug or a lack of understanding on my part of the APA style?  (If you tell me it’s a bug, I report it using the smiley tool.)

    4) Do I have to put in the "a", "b", "c", tec. by hand in order for the bibliography and citation to come out propelry (APA) in cases of multiple articles by the same author in the same year?

  15. As a former Endnote user, I think you all are missing the point of what standard support can make possible. See my post on this:

    Endnote is a seriously overrated product, and fully proprietary. So basic things, like being able to collaborate with non-Endnote users, go out the window. And don’t even get me started on their once-a-year paid bugfix history! The contempt that company has for its users is nothing short of shocking.

    The approach MS has taken here (which is simliar to what we’ve been planning for OpenOffice) puts the foundations in place to go way beyond plug-in soluitions like Endnote, in a standardized way that allows users choice.

    MS does need to make sure, though:

    1) it’s possible to allow third-party databases — web-based or desktop, commercial or free software — to serve as data sources (keep in mind, Jennifer, that many users have *thousands* of references, and don’t want to store them locally).

    2) to fix the styling story. Not only does the stlying functionality need improvement, but using XSLT files directly really isn’t going to work. Even I (a relative XSLT expert) wouldn’t touch these XSLT files.

    Am happy to talk them about 2. Porting my citeproc solution to XSLT 1.0 wouldn’t be hard, and then one could indeed have styles included in the user folder. One could even do stuff like have browseable online style repositories.

    And if MS would be willing to consider standardizing my CSL language, we’d have a document-format agnostic styles, useable in Word, as well as LaTeX, or OpenOffice, or DocBook.

  16. Ian — it does support multi-reference citations. Just clck within the field and add another.

    he author-year (APA, etc.) support is broken. If you want to see how it should work, see output from my citeproc code:

    Not coincidentally, this is among the hardest stuff to code in XSLT, and I spent a lot of time getting it right!

  17. Ross says:

    I am greatful that you are taking this step, but do not see myself using it until you advance the functionality.

    Primairly I use CMS and/or Turabian (though soon will be having to do some APA)  My use of CMS requires in the majority of cases that I use footnotes rather than inline.

    Thus for an system like yours I need it to produce on first reference full information in footnote order, second the reduced amount, unless of course the previous citation was the same, which requries Ibid. or Ibid. with page number if diferent.

    Also with your implimintation of Chicago you underline, rather than use Italics, which is the eprfered use in my area. (I not positive but believe Italics is also the perfered  form acording to the CMS)

    If you can implement a decent footnote systme into your citation system… It is no use to me. Though I am sure it is of use to those who need to do inline citations, it is a great feature.

    Or am I jsut mising how to use footnotes with the system?

  18. Hmmm... says:

    Cite, Embrace, Extend, ….

  19. Correct; Chicago 15 says quite clearly (and rightlly) that underlined titles are discouraged. They should be italicized.

    I think MLA is one of the few styles that still use underilned titles (though why I don’t understand).

    The user experience for footnote citations should be the same as for any other citaiton. User inserts citation in the text, and it’s automatically placed in a footnote. I worry they didn’t consider that, though it’s possible they did.

  20. Jennifer Michelstein says:

    Wow, 19 comments as of this morning! This was my first blog post (ever), so I’m in awe of all of the feedback! Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts. I’ll respond to everyone’s comments as soon as I can – but in the meantime, here are responses to the first few comments.

    Please keep in mind that this is a v1 feature, and our first goal was to make the tools extremely useful for high school and college students. We designed this feature to be a platform so that anyone – us, in later versions; any 3rd party like EndNote; or you(!) could build tools on top of ours. That’s why everything in this feature is XML-based. Certainly there are more things we could have delivered with more time and person-power, but we tried first to make sure our platform was solid.

    Bruce: I want to drill down into your comment about APA (and other author-date formats) not being quite right. If we’re not getting a style exactly right, that’s a big concern. Since this may involve a lot of back and forth, I’ll take this offline with you, and then post a summary when we’re done.

    Regarding your point (b), on our XML format: correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like the changes you’re requesting are mostly aesthetic. There isn’t something structural that we’re preventing by our schema, is there? I’m going to look into what it would take to make some of the changes you suggest; I’ll get back to you on this.

    Searching for a source

    Patrick, you’ve hit on one of the big pieces of feedback we received when we demoed our prototype to researchers. I hit on this only briefly in the “Searching for Source” section above, but we are building a platform on the Research and Reference pane, to enable connecting to a library database and importing metadata about sources. We’ll publish an SDK so that Microsoft or any 3rd party data provider can build a service that fits nicely into our Bibliography tools. This project is underway, but the functionality isn’t available externally in Beta2. This sounds like a topic better handled in its own post. It would be great to hear your thoughts on what we’ve come up with.

    Links, Extra Fields

    These are great suggestions. Unfortunately we weren’t able to deliver on them this time around. In the meantime, you can try using the Comments field to capture keywords or other info that may help differentiate sources.

    Footnotes / Endnotes

    This is one of the features we don’t directly support this time around. Citations can be inserted in footnotes/endnotes, but the formatting for parenthetical citations is different than that for footnotes and endnotes. In the time being, the best workaround is to insert a bibliography, convert to static text, and copy/paste the information where it is necessary. This is a one-way conversion, since the link back to the original source will be lost.

    Volume, Issue for Journal Articles

    That was a bug, fixed immediately after Beta2.

    More responses to come later today – stay tuned.

  21. Patrick Schmid says:

    Jennifer, why are you developing your own thing? There are standards out there for this kind of thing. The most common one is Z39.50 which is rather old. This wikipedia article about it though includes pointers to its newer successors:

  22. Jennifer, on my "b" point, if we’re talking about the styling issue (my CSL language) it’s not at all aesthetic, Using a simple dedicated XML language (not XSLT, but an abstraction on top of it) for styling has all kinds of practical benefits, including it being easy for people to edit or create new ones with XML editors, being easy to write a GUI editor for them, etc..

    If you mean my critiques about the source format, well maybe. I do think if you have a slightly more hierarchical model with a more limited set of properties, you provide more room to grow. For example, what if a user needs to store a translated title for both a book and the chapter they want to cite? It’s hard to extend a flat model to cover this sort unexpected (but real world) requirements.

    We can chat about it off-list though.

    On foot/endnotes, I just mentioned to Brian that while it’s bad enough that you don’t provide proper support for this now, it would be worse if you put this limitation into Open XML. So I’d suggest you see if you can provide room to grow there (e.g. allow notes witthin the citation field in the spec, but implement it later).

    And it’s crtical that you work with third-party developers like ISI and RefWorks to make sure they use this new field (rather than their own proprietary versions) for interop.

  23. On the API, at the OpenOffice project, we plan to use the ZOOM standard, which can work with z39.50, and the newer SRW (SOAP) and SRU (RESTful) protocols. There’s open source toolkits from Index Data (licensed under BSD IIRC) that make this easy to do. The LoC has an SRU gateway, BTW. You ought to provide access to it out of box.

  24. Jennifer Michelstein says:

    Some more responses..

    Authoring XSLTs

    We don’t see this as a typical end-user task. There are a few ways we see this being used:

    • Someone in IT, or a devoted XSLT writer, in a university or department publishes an XSL for use within the organization

    • Publishing companies, which currently host Word templates for download, host XSLs for submission to their publications

    • Microsoft publishes additional XSLTs, for example, for the Harvard documentation style

    • 3rd party companies publish bundles of documentation styles, for free, for purchase, or to accompany other add-ons to our platform

    How to add suffixes/prefixes to citations

    This requires a bit of knowledge of how fields work in Word. Prefixes and suffices can be added with field switches:

    f for prefix

    s for suffix


    {CITATION <tagname> f <prefix> s <suffix>}

    Citations inserted from the UI are locked from manual edits; therefore you must insert the citation from scratch with CTRL+F9. Why? This was a design decision, since all fields in word lose manual edits when the field updates. Since bibliography fields automatically update when bibliography actions are taken, our early users were frequently losing their manual edits without understanding why. Now, most edits can be handled through the Edit Citation UI; “advanced” edits can be handled through field switches.

    Insert Citation dropdown accessing Master List contents

    That’s a great feature suggestion, and an extension of our current model. It’s too late to make it into Word 2007, but we can think about adding that functionality later down the road.

  25. Paul Tredoux says:

    Nice article, great feature.

    3 questions:

    1) where do we save quotations?

    2) what about books which have editions?

    3) the cases feature was clearly prepared without the input of a lawyer. Suggest you get such help as the fields are hopelessly inadequate

  26. Jennifer Michelstein says:

    Italics in Chicago

    This is a known issue – it’s been fixed since Beta2.

  27. Your call on the XSLT, of course, but I think that’s quite unrealistic. Correct citation formatting is VERY hard to do in XSLT, even for IT people. Though, I suppose I could always have someone package up citeproc for use in place of the existing XSLTs 😉

  28. I need the Harvard specification for my work.

    To quote:

    Microsoft publishes additional XSLTs, for example, for the Harvard documentation style

    Would love this before September 😉

  29. FYI, a followup to the discussion of styles and formatting:

    If anyone has feedback,let me know.

  30. I think you need to get the information on the bibliographic citation SDK out to major libraries ASAP.

    — Richard Akerman

    NRC CISTI, Canada’s National Science Library

  31. "I think you need to get the information on the bibliographic citation SDK out to major libraries ASAP."

    Richard — wouldn’t it be easier all around if MS just implemented support for z39.50 and SRW and SRU? After all, there is excellent code from Index Data (liberally licensed) to do just this.

    All libraries use these protocols; why should you have to reimplement all this using non-standard SDK’s and such?

  32. Why says:

    Question:  All libraries use these protocols; why should you have to reimplement all this using non-standard SDK’s and such?

    Answer:  embrace, extend, ….

  33. <em>All libraries use these protocols; why should you have to reimplement all this using non-standard SDK’s and such?</em>

    I agree with Bruce on this one. This appears to be yet another example of Microsoft ignoring standards, in this case the de facto standards of the library world. There is already an enormous amount of infrastructure supporting library protocols, and most of the bibliography managers on the market already support library search through either ZOOM or z39.50. It’s obvious that you didn’t bother to talk to any librarians before implementing this feature.

  34. Herb says:

    I’m interested in seeing how this interfaces with external libraries. Do any participating external libraries exist at present, such that a link could be added using the Add Services dialog box?

  35. Holek says:

    Hi, Joe! I’m a Pole, so I would ask you one question: Will you tell Office translators about PN-ISO 690-2:1999 norm? It is citation and bibliography norm commonly used in Poland. I just would like to use this tool without any worries that it is or not compatible with this norm. How this norm looks like?


    Microsoft Word [online]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2006-05-5 16:42Z [accessed: 2006-07-23 11:59Z]. Avaible at:

    It is just stupid sample, so don’t refer to it saying about that norm to translators, ok? 😉

  36. In an effort to live up to this blog’s ‘All things Microsoft Office Word…’ subtitle, here are some…

  37. My name is Jennifer Michelstein, and I’m a Program Manager on the Word team. I mainly work on academic

  38. Here’s a detailed description of what citation and bibliography features are available in Word 2007.