Using Microsoft Word for Managing Citations

Chicago Manual

Until recently, I used Scrivener for all my writing projects.  However, when I started to share drafts with my writing group and my advisors, everyone used Microsoft’s Word comments and track changes to mark up my writing.  Rather than deal importing and exporting from Scrivener, I thought I would try Word again.  When starting to use Word again after a long hiatus, I discovered that it had a Citation Manager built into it.  Because I was no longer using Zotero for managing sources, I was excited – could this save me time in formatting my citations and bibliography?  The short answer: no.

While the Citation Manger might work for some people, it will depend on how you prefer to cite your sources.  If you use only parenthetical/inline citations, then I suspect Word’s Citation Manager might speed things along.  I was not so lucky.  The combination of using the Chicago Manual of Style and citations in footnotes was too much for Word to handle.

How it Works

Microsoft provides a series of videos that explain how to use the Citation Manager in Word for Mac users. Using the tool is pretty straightforward and I won’t rehash their videos here.  Other sites can provide good tutorials for using the Citation Manager as well.

Here is the basic idea:

Create a New Source with the Citation Manager

Create a New Source with the Citation Manager

1.) Open up the Citation Manager and add a source by typing in the bibliographic information

2.) Place your cursor in your document where you want to insert the citation, and double-click the name of source in the Citation Manager.  If you want to edit the inserted source, click on it.

3.)If you want to create a bibliography, the Citation Manager allows you to do that as well.

Why I Don’t Think I Will Use the Citation Manager

My original plan for this post was to write an in-depth review of the Citation Manager as I used it for a chapter of my dissertation.  However, the software cut that plan short.  The first source I entered and inserted gave me a parenthetical citation.  If you create a footnote first and attempt to place a citation in the footnote, Word still gives you a parenthetical citation rather than the format that the Chicago Manual requires in footnotes.  After a few searches, and watching the above videos, I don’t think Word supports the formatting needed for my chapter.  Some people say that previous versions of Word for Mac provided better support, but since I only have the newest version, I can’t confirm it.

It seems like the Citation Manager might work well if you use inline citations, but if you are looking to put a Chicago-style citation in a footnote, I think you have to look somewhere else.

Do you have a streamlined way of managing citations or does Word’s Citation Manager work for you?  Let us know in the comments.

About Evan Cordulack

Evan Cordulack is a Web Applications Specialist for Academic Technology. He helps faculty members with Web-based projects related to their research and teaching. He earned his PhD in American Studies at William & Mary in 2013. Find him at