Posts Tagged ‘citations’


Quoting from other material

June 8, 2012

(adapted from a ‘Writing Tip’ email I recently sent to work colleagues)


Bottom line:

  • Type the words exactly as written.
  • There are always exceptions to any ‘rule’!

Q: Can I change case in quoted text?

A: Not usually

‘C’ asked if she could change the case of some terms in a quoted piece of text so that the case matched what we used. The quote had the phrase ‘non-indigenous species and marine pests’; however, we use ‘Non-indigenous Species and Marine Pests’ in our documents to regulators as those terms have specific meaning under the Ministerial conditions of approval and possibly in one or more Acts of Parliament.

I asked ‘C’ where the quoted text was from and she said it was from one of the regulatory authorities. This emphasised to me that we SHOULDN’T change the case – this document has to go back to that regulatory authority for approval, and the last thing we want is for someone in the regulator’s office to pick up on this minor technicality and hold up the approvals process as a result. In this case, it was critical to know where the quote had come from and where the document was ultimately to go – it wasn’t just an easy yes/no answer about changing case.

I also consulted the Australian Style Manual, where p113 had this note in the sidebar: ‘Accurate quotation: Great care must be taken to quote the work of another writer exactly.’

Q: What about changing spelling in quoted text?

A: Rarely, if ever

If you are quoting text with US spelling, the same convention applies – leave it as it is and do not change it to Australian spelling, as the quote is verbatim from the originating (US) author. For example, we refer to the ‘Risk Prioritization Matrix’ as it originates from the US and has that spelling in its title.

Q: What about changing punctuation in quoted text?

A: Rarely, if ever

Adding commas, semicolons, full stops, etc. to quoted text (or removing them) can change the meaning substantially, so we don’t touch those either.

Q: Does quoted text have to be in quote marks?

A: It depends on the length of the quoted piece

It depends…

  • Short (i.e. fewer than three lines of quoted text): Do not italicise short quotes – just surround the quoted text with single quote marks (convention used in the Australian Style Manual, which is our authority for such things).
  • Long (i.e. more than three lines): Set the quotation in its own indented paragraph, apply italics, but do not use quote marks.

Q: How do I omit some words from a quotation if they aren’t necessary to what I’m writing about?

A: Use an ellipsis ( … )

Despite the ‘rule’ to quote exactly, there are exceptions. For example, you can leave out words, phrases, even whole paragraphs from a piece of quoted text if those words etc. aren’t necessary to make your point. However, you can’t change the meaning of the quoted text when you omit such words (e.g. you can’t omit a word like ‘not’ without changing the meaning – ‘do not’ is the opposite to ‘do’).

You must also let the reader know that there are bits missing. You do this by using an ellipsis, which is a space, followed by three dots, followed by another space (i.e. … ). For example:

‘The results … suggest that Flatback Turtles may not travel to a single … foraging ground at the end of their breeding migration and that some may … forage in a range of areas before returning to … nest …’

(The original was: ‘The results also suggest that Flatback Turtles may not travel to a single (presumed) foraging ground at the end of their breeding migration and that some may in fact forage in a range of areas before returning to [location removed] to nest the following season.’

Q: How do I show that words have been changed or added to quoted text?

A: Surround the changes with square brackets

Even though the ‘rule’ is to quote exactly, sometimes the original author gets it wrong. For example, in one of the Ministerial Conditions documents, they incorrectly wrote ‘Marine Offloading Facility’ instead of ‘Materials Offloading Facility’, which they had used elsewhere throughout the document. If your quote needed to include that phrase, then you could correct it by surrounding the replacement word with square brackets: i.e. ‘the [Materials] Offloading Facility’.

You also use square brackets around words you’ve added to quoted text to clarify meaning; e.g. ‘The impacts [to marine fauna] from noise and vibration emissions are predicted to be limited to behavioural disturbances.’


See also:

[Link last checked September 2012]


Technical Writing 101: References and citations

September 23, 2011

If you are writing a scientific report, an academic paper, or a document where you make statements that you’ve acquired from somewhere else, you’ll most likely need to cite those references.

Why reference? You need to tell your readers where your evidence comes from so they can check for themselves and see if that evidence is valid and reliable for the point you are making. You also need to reference to make it quite clear which are your own ideas and which are borrowed from others. Statements of fact that are NOT common knowledge will likely need a reference.

Citations are the ‘hooks’ in the body of the document that are a shortcut to the full publication details in the References list; e.g. the citation (Johnstone and Storr 2005) is the hook to these full details: Johnstone, R.E. and Storr, G.M. 2005. Handbook of Western Australian Birds. Volume 2: Passerines (Blue-winged Pitta to Goldfinch). Western Australian Museum, Perth, Western Australia.

How you cite and reference a source, and how you format it, will depend on the style set by the school, university, company, organisation etc. The citation above is a variation on the Harvard author/date style.

[Based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues]


Word 2007: Citation and Bibliography function

December 20, 2010

Some time back I took a quick look at Word 2007’s Citation and Bibliography styles. At the time, I was checking if the referencing style my client used was available, and if not, whether I could find something suitable and/or modify it. At that time I came across BibWord, but it all looked too hard.

Fast forward almost a year, and I got to investigate this function again as I may be working on a very large scientific report next year that will have multiple authors and potentially hundreds of references that those authors will have to cite. I wanted to see how hard it was to enter new references in Word 2007, whether I could modify a BibWord style that was close to what we require, and generally just put this Word 2007 function through its paces.

I must say I’ve been impressed with BibWord so far, and particularly impressed with the developer’s response to my many questions about sharing references across multiple authors and multiple sections of the document (see this Forum post for my questions and his very prompt answers:

However, I’m not as impressed with the Word 2007 functionality. At first glance it looks easy to use. But there are some serious usability issues with the dialog boxes that make it very cumbersome to use if you have a large list of references, references with particularly long titles, and references that include things like Acts of parliament or species names that typically take the opposite formatting of the title (e.g. if you have a title that contains a species name, you would italicize the main title but not the species name if you were entering the reference manually).

Here are some of the shortcomings I’ve found with the Manage Sources and Create Source dialog boxes, and the Insert Citation function in Word 2007. Most, if not all of these, should have been fixed prior to release as none of them are difficult fixes, in my opinion (I’m not a programmer, but I’ve been around enough programmers in software companies for the last 18+ years to have some understanding of what’s do-able and what’s not).

Manage Sources/Create Source dialog boxes

  • Title field is limited to <255 characters. However, I have several docs with LONG titles, including Government reports, names of Standards, corporate reports etc. e.g. Guidance for the Assessment of Environmental Factors Western Australia (in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act 1986) – Terrestrial Flora and Vegetation Surveys for Environmental Impact Assessment in Western Australia, No. 51. Or this one: State Water Quality Management Strategy No. 6 (SWQ6): Implementation Framework for Western Australia for the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality and Water Quality Monitoring and Reporting (Guidelines No 4 & 7: National Water Quality Management Strategy). I cannot enter the full title because of this limitation.
  • Manage Sources dialog box cannot be resized by the user. This means that long titles that start with the same words (e.g. a long project title) cannot be viewed in full the top panels; they can only be viewed in the bottom panel after you select the reference.
  • You have to scroll to see more than four lines of a reference. This is crazy! When you select a reference in the top panel, only a couple of lines of it display in the lower section (including a blank line!) and you have to scroll to see it all, even if there’s only half a line that’s not visible. This is just BAD design.
  • No formatting can be applied to a title or any other field. So, if you have the title of an Act of Parliament in the title or the name of a species, you can’t specify that it is not to be displayed in italics.
  • You cannot specify an abbreviation of a long corporate author for the citation. For example, ‘Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand’ goes into the citation in full each time, whereas after first usage, my authors want to cite it as ‘ANZECC/ARMCANZ’.
  • Symbols such as en dashes cannot be inserted easily. For example, our style is to use an en dash to separate a page range. You can’t insert one in the field using the keyboard or a toolbar icon — the only way you can insert an en dash is to copy it from somewhere else and paste it in.
  • Non-breaking spaces and non-breaking hyphens cannot be inserted. Some titles include elements that shouldn’t split when they wrap to the next line (e.g. a value and its unit of measure, or a date in full in the title should not be separated), so I would normally insert use a non-breaking space or a non-breaking hyphen for these.
  • You cannot insert a reference into the document from the Manage Sources dialog box. It would be useful to have an Insert button on the Manage Sources window too so that you can select from list and immediately insert the citation. Same for an Insert Placeholder option from the Manage Sources window.
  • AutoCorrect doesn’t work in the fields on the Manage Sources window. If you’ve specified an AutoCorrect entry for common phrases etc. (e.g .epa for Environmental Protection Authority), it won’t work. This means you have to type the complete phrase in EVERY time, or copy/paste it.
  • AutoComplete doesn’t work in the fields on the Manage Sources window. There’s no ‘memory’ of previous data entry. This means you can make errors like entering both ‘Environment Protection Agency’ and ‘Environmental Protection Authority’ (or any other typos) and it won’t be picked up – you won’t see it until you notice similar entries in the bibliography and wonder why they are out of order.
  • You cannot duplicate an existing entry. Being able to duplicate and modify the duplicate then save it as a new entry would save a LOT of time in data entry! For example, we will have hundreds of internal reports that will be cited. They all have the same corporate author, place of publication etc. and many start with the same project title. Being able to copy an existing entry and modify it would save us bucketloads of time.
  • Sort by Author doesn’t work as expected. ‘Sort by Author’ is the default sort for items listed in the two panels on the Manage Sources dialog box, and the sources are listed by author then title then date. However, the sort doesn’t appear to be by author at all. At first I thought it was by title, then I thought it was by type of reference (e.g. reports before journal articles before books, before web documents), then by whether it’s a corporate author or a ‘normal’ author. But I’m really not sure — it appears to be random! Fortunately, the Insert Citation list is in author order, so is easier to navigate.

    These are all corporate authors and they are all reports, but they aren’t sorted by author

  • Sort by Title doesn’t ignore initial articles. Therefore titles starting with ‘The’ are listed under T, not the second word as is standard practice (same for titles starting with A and An).

    The second title ‘A new…’ should be listed under ‘N’ not ‘A’

  • Finding a reference in a long list is very difficult. It’s very hard to find an author or title in a LONG list (and I’m talking hundreds of references – our manual master references list is over 100 pages, with anything from 10 to 15 references per page!). Sorting helps to an extent (see the limitations I’ve listed above), but with a window that cannot be resized, it’s trial and error to find the correct reference.
  • Minor quibbles about the layout of the Manage Sources and Create Sources dialog boxes. Some fields should be small in width (e.g. a year is only ever a maximum of four numbers, yet the Year field extends across the form). The option to Show All Bibliography Fields may not be needed if the window was resizable — for some reference types, clicking this option only displays one extra field, so it seems a bit strange.

Insert Citation list

  • Very difficult to find/jump to items in a long list. When you’ve added more than about 12 sources, the selection list on the Insert Citation list gets a scroll bar and it can be difficult finding the reference you want. I expect my long document to have a few hundred sources, so this could be painful…. As far as I can tell, you can’t type a letter to jump to that section of the list, so scrolling to find the W authors in a sea of hundreds of citations every time I want to insert that citation would become really tedious really quickly.


  • You cannot edit a source from within the  bibliography. You can right-click on a citation and get the option to edit it from there, but you can’t right-click on an entry in the automated bibliography and get the option to edit that entry on the Manage Source dialog. This means you either have to either find the citation and right-click on it, or open the Manage Source dialog and hunt for the reference there to edit it.

Bottom line:

With some real-life usability testing, I suspect most of these issues would have shown up to developers BEFORE they released this feature of Word 2007. I suspect that no-one tested it with hundreds of references (as would be used in a thesis or major scientific report) — if they had, they would have realized that it has severe limitations from a usability perspective.

Anyone know someone in the Microsoft Word team? If so, can you pass this blog post on to them.

[Links last checked December 2010]


Citing web pages that disappear

January 29, 2010

Are you concerned that web pages and references that you cite may disappear or change? You’re not alone. According to some sources, up to 13% of web pages change, disappear or become inactive within about two years. For casual viewers and readers, this isn’t necessarily a problem. But for researchers, academics, students and the like, it’s a huge problem. At least with a book or journal article, you could pretty much guarantee that someone (or some library), somewhere would have a copy.

So what’s the solution? Well, companies like Google and libraries around the world are  trying hard to digitize printed materials, but is anyone looking after the stuff published only on the internet? Yes — and one such group is

WebCite®, a member of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, is an on-demand archiving system for webreferences (cited webpages and websites, or other kinds of Internet-accessible digital objects), which can be used by authors, editors, and publishers of scholarly papers and books, to ensure that cited webmaterial will remain available to readers in the future. …

A WebCite®-enhanced reference is a reference which contains — in addition to the original live URL (which can and probably will disappear in the future, or its content may change) — a link to an archived copy of the material, exactly as the citing author saw it when he accessed the cited material.

Individual authors, scholars, students can use WebCite for free to create an archive of a web document; journal editors, publishers and libraries are asked to donate a fee (e.g. $1 for each web reference added). And for readers, it’s all free.

WebCite ensures that any page you refer people to will always be there.

[Links last checked January 2010; thanks to Monique S on the STC’s Consultants and Independent Contractors discussion list for alerting me to this resource]


Word 2007: Citation and bibliography styles

January 7, 2010

Please note: This article is not about how to create a bibliography in Word 2007 — it’s about the limitations of the list of available bibliographic styles that come with Word.

The good

One of the neat new features in Word 2007 is the ability to create automated citations and bibliographies that follow a particular style, such as Chicago, APA, Turabian, etc.

The not so good

However, it soon becomes apparent that if you’re using some variation of these, or another style altogether (perhaps a house style), you’re very limited in what you can do. In fact, you may well abandon the whole idea of automated citations and bibliographies.

For example, the style my client uses for a citation is ([authoring body] [year of publication]), such as (Smith 2005). However, many of the default citation styles in Word 2007 use a format such as (Smith, 2005) — note the comma separating the author and the year. But that’s not how we do it where I’m currently working.

And when it comes to the bibliography or reference list, even the formatting that’s the closest to what we use is not exactly right. So we’re in a dilemma — do we take on one of the default styles provided in Microsoft Word 2007, or do we just not use the automated citation and bibliography function?

One final thing — the automated citations and bibliographic references in Word 2007 are all fields, but they are not clickable in Word so you can’t click a citation and go directly to that reference in the bibliography. In fact, that missing function was the reason I went on this hunt in the first place!

A possible solution

Being an inquisitive person, I hunted the Microsoft Word online help to see if there was a way to modify a style that was reasonably close, or to add a new style of my own. Well, the Help is not helpful on that at all, yet you can do it. How do I know? Because one of the resources the Microsoft Help pointed me to was BibWord (, which seems to be part of a Microsoft open source effort (no, that’s NOT an oxymoron!).

Here’s what the BibWord website offers:

  • A downloadable zip file of XSL documents for numerous other styles — just add these XSL files to your Bibliography Style directory (default: C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\Bibliography\Style) and they are now all available to you in Word 2007. Pick the one you want to apply to your citations and bibliographies and off you go. For most people, this is all you would need. (You can download the zip file from here:
  • A very small Extender executable file (available from the same page at the Styles, above), which, among other things, adds functions such as letter suffixes for multiple works by the same authoring body in the one year.
  • BibWord — the source code XSL Stylesheet that you can modify if you know a bit about XML. HINT: Make a copy before you start changing it! BibWord allows you to do lots of customization and modification, including defining the citation as being clickable, thus letting the user go directly to the referenced work in the bibliography. BibWord is available from: There’s a 30 page user guide that you can download from this page too.
  • Finally, there’s BibType and its related schema and type definitions, as well as its own user guide, available from: Again, you should be pretty familiar with XML before you go digging around in here.

Bottom line:

  • Using the BibWord styles, you can add more styles to the default list in Word 2007.
  • Using the BibWord XSL and XML files, you can create your own or modify existing style formats. But you DO need to know something about XML before you go fiddling around in them. PLEASE make a back-up of the original files before you fiddle with them! And follow the advice on the BibWord website, its documentation, and check the user Discussion area for help and guidance.
  • BibWord is free!

See also:

[Links last checked December 2010]


Editing: Terms and citations in long documents

July 28, 2009

Do you have a long document to edit online? Perhaps an academic thesis, a scientific report, a government document — one with long lists of terms and references, as well as citations throughout the document for those references.

One of the difficulties in checking terms and citations against their respective lists in long documents is the painful process of moving around the document — you’re forever flipping from one end of the document to the other, then trying to get back to where you were up to in the editing process. Yes, there are techniques to minimize this, but they aren’t entirely satisfactory.

One method is to use Word’s ‘highlighter pen’ to mark up all the terms and citations as you’re editing, then come back and check them with another pass (or two) over the document. But this takes quite a bit of time, especially on a large document. And you’re forever grabbing the highlighter tool to add highlighting, then to remove it after you’ve checked the term/citation. (See Add/remove highlighting with the keyboard for a quicker way than the toolbar icon.)

If you use the method I describe below, you can speed up the process and do the checks as you edit the document.

NOTE: This method is most effective if you have two or more monitors or one very wide monitor.

Create your supplementary documents

  1. Open the large Word document.
  2. Find the list of terms and copy it.
  3. Paste the list of terms into a new document (e.g. terms.doc).
  4. Highlight all the terms in the terms.doc document and save the document. Do not close it — move it to the other monitor.
  5. Go back to the main document, find the list of references, copy it, then paste it into another new document (e.g. refs.doc). Again, highlight the entire list of references in the refs.doc document, then move this document to the other monitor too.

You should now have three Word documents open — the main (long) document, and two much shorter documents (terms.doc and refs.doc). The two small documents should be fully highlighted.

What you’re going to do as you’re editing is remove the highlighting for any term or citation you find that matches one in the relevant list.

Check off the found terms and citations

  1. Start editing the document as you normally would.
  2. As you come to a term (abbreviation, acronym etc.) in the main document, check if it’s in the terms.doc list.
  3. If it is, remove the highlight from that term. At this stage you ARE NOT checking the correctness of the definition — just whether the term is listed in the terms list or not. (See below for tips to deal with terms that aren’t in the list.)

    Remove highlight from found terms

    Remove highlight from found terms

  4. Do the same for any citations you come across — check that the item is in the refs.doc and remove the highlight if it is.

    Remove highlight from found terms

    Remove highlight from found references

  5. By the end of editing the main document, you should have few, if any, highlighted terms or references left in their respective documents.
  6. If you have no highlights, you’re now ready to check the two smaller documents for their accuracy (i.e. check all definitions are correct, check all references are formatted according to house style, etc.)
  7. Once you’ve completed step 6, copy and paste the two lists back into the main document, overwriting the existing lists. And you’re done!

Things that can go awry

  • Term in main document is not in the terms list:  Add it to terms.doc and perhaps highlight it in another color if you think you won’t pick it up later (unlikely as you will go through the terms list verifying the definitions later anyway). You may need to add the definition (if you have it), or alert the author that the definition is missing.
  • Citation in main document is not in reference list: Alert author to it; it’s their responsibility to make sure the reference is included, or to delete the citation if it’s no longer applicable.
  • Term is still highlighted in terms.doc:  Do a Find (Ctrl+F) just in case you missed it. If it’s really not there, alert author to it for possible deletion from terms list.
  • Reference is still highlighted in refs.doc:  Do a Find (Ctrl+F) just in case you missed it. If it’s really not there, alert author to it for possible deletion from reference list, or as a reminder that they may have forgotten to add a citation.

[Links last checked October 2009]


Citations and references

January 6, 2009

Formal documents, such as scientific papers, theses and other university assignments, require the author to cite their reference sources in the text and to include them in a reference list (or bibliography or similar) at the end of each chapter or at the end of the document. Each type of writing and each institution has its own rules for how this is done, so make sure you follow the rules you’ve been given.

There are several citation/referencing methods. Some of the better-known ones are:

There are also others such as APA, Vancouver, Chicago etc. (For a list of many, see

There’s also some software out there that makes creating a reference list relatively painless. Word 2007 has its own, and there are some well-known ones such as EndNote that have been around for years.

More recently, some citation/reference software is now available online (and free for limited use), so check out these too:

Zotero looks particularly interesting as it’s a Firefox extension that can grab the details from online libraries and the like, and store them in the one place. The reason it can do this is that libraries have been using a common method of controlling bibliographic data for YEARS. Long before XML was even thought of, libraries had been exchanging catalog information using MARC and a standard called Z39.50, and using Dublin Core metadata naming conventions.  (Ah! Memories of my years working as a librarian, and for a library software company that had to be able to import and export MARC-compatible catalog records.)

No doubt there are many more online and installed software applications for references and citations, but this should be a good start if you’re not sure where to begin.