Crosschecking Citations and References

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated June 17, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Elizabeth is a dissertation coach and editor. She often needs to crosscheck the citations and references in a document to make sure that every reference is cited and every citation has a reference. She presently does this using a tedious manual approach, but she's wondering if she is missing a tool within Word (or from a third party) that would make this crosschecking easier.

There is no built-in function or tool within Word to accomplish the crosschecking. For any repetitive task, you may be able to create a macro to perform the crosschecking. Doing so, however, will require documenting the steps you follow and then converting those steps into the actual macro code that will accomplish those steps. (This is often a non-trivial task if your steps are complicated.)

There have been macros developed that may be helpful. One such free macro is called CitationAlyse, which is available here:

All you need to do before you run CitationAlyse (once it is installed on your system) is ensure that your insertion point is within the first reference in the reference list. The macro then creates, in a separate document, a list of the in-text citations and reference list entries in the text first by year and then alphabetically within each year. Miss-matches appear on their own. CitationAlyse works only with author-date referencing styles, and it does need to be carefully checked one-by-one.

If that doesn't do what you want, then you may need to turn to one of the commercial reference managers that are available. The major tools that people use are the following, in no particular order:

  • EndNote
  • ReadCube's Papers
  • Zotero
  • Mendeley

The biggest drawback to reference managers is that they typically are of value only when used while developing the document originally. (Which may make them of marginal use to Elizabeth since she is working with dissertations already written by others.) Even so, they can make managing references much easier for papers that rely on copious citations.

Reference managers run the gamut in pricing, and they can be difficult to learn and implement. (In other words, there may be a steep learning curve, depending on your referencing needs.) You will want to carefully evaluate whether one of these solutions may work for your needs.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (13381) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


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What is 4 - 1?

2023-06-17 08:23:52

Ron S

Another tool you can investigate is
Macros for Editors (PDF Download)
by Paul Beverly.

This is a free book, which you can download (in zip format) (version: 20 Jan 2022). It contains over 800 macros that will help with a range of different tasks around writing and editing using Microsoft Word.

The author is a professional Editor who works with Word document files. There are several macros specific to references. You may have to tweak one to do exactly what you want, but they do provide
It includes a link to a tool called "FRedit", an enhanced macro tool.
Worst case, you could try contacting him directly for help. Editing documents is what he does for a living. Maybe he can teach you some new tricks.

2023-06-17 05:43:11

Ken Endacott

Here is a manual method of checking citation references that makes use of Word’s View Side-by-Side feature.

Citations and references may have been generated using the Citations tool of Word, have been manually entered or can be a mixture of both.

Citations usually take the form of (Smith 2011) but there are variations such as (Smith W 2011 p243), (Jones et al. 2011) or “The account given by Smith (2011).”

Step 1. Copy the list of references into a new document and Save As with any name. The references should be in alphabetic order.

Step 2. Use Find & Replace to highlight in yellow citations that are enclosed in brackets. The Find wildcards string \(*[A-Z12]*\) will find the citation variations but may find other text in brackets – don’t worry if it does, they can be ignored. The Replace character string must be blank and Format Highlight selected. Make sure that Yellow is selected as the highlight color before executing.

Step 3. With both documents open click the View Side by Side item in the Window group of the View ribbon. Turn off Synchronous Scrolling.

In the document scroll down to the next highlighted citation. Scroll down in the reference window to find the appropriate reference. If found, highlight both it and the citation in bright green. If it cannot be found highlight just the citation in red.

After all citations have been processed those highlighted in red have no matching reference. References that have no highlighting are not cited.

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