You know how our parents or professors moan about the days when they had to type their papers on a typewriter and that we, the young generation, do not know how easy we have it? Well we really don’t! Especially with this new/old feature you can find on Microsoft Office (MS) 2007.
I call it new/old because it’s not that new (about 5 years old now) but it’s still news to some people. At the top of your word document are seven tabs: Home—Insert—Page layout—References—Mailings—Review—View. The secret to great and awesome citation is the ‘references’ tab.
Ok, so when I was a student I majored in the humanities, which translates to ‘lots of writing and research.’ Engineers may have laughed at us then, but I say that we will have the last laugh! Oh yes we will, because while our professors made us go through a rigorous process and methodology of writing papers, in the end we came out… knowing how to write decent papers.
So here’s a recap of the process I went through: Most of my professors asked us to write papers in steps so there’s a bunch of stuff to do before the actual writing.
1) Step one: Write a thesis-statement and/or paragraph about your overall paper.
Here’s an example of mine: My paper will be on family structures in the US and how the presidential families have a role to play in fitting the image or setting the expectations (It makes me sound so smart riiiiight?).
2) Step two: Gather your sources (minimum 8 sources, half books and half journals).
I thought this was a pain, but I learned a lot from this stupid not-so-stupid-after-all process. I used to think “hell, I haven’t even written the paper, why should I get the sources first?” It’s because, dummy, you don’t want to spend an all-nighter writing a paper of 3000words without having your sources at the ready, instead of trying in vain to Google for sources (ahem Wikipedia) the night before the deadline that will most likely get shot down by your professors later anyways.
So how useful is this? I can’t even tell you how crazy useful this is. This gives you and your professor a chance to see how far you can manipulate your source. You’re writing a paper on dictators: Your sources can be taken from journals, books and articles. What you DON’T want your source to be is that Hitler parody on youtube (just type that in Google, you’ll know what I’m talking about).
I’ve known people to use such websites or blogs without realizing that their sources are actually, crap. One classmate used a website that she thought was a scholarly one, but it turned out to be a well-maintained racist website that called for segregation. The paper was on animal breeding, involving cross-breeds and pure-breeds. My classmate only found out after getting an ‘F’ for that paper.
Anyways, veering right back on topic, there’s another reason why getting your sources early is a good thing. You can insert them into this crazy-awesome function on Word as in-text citations and a bibliography.
So you have a book and you want to include it. Go to ‘references’ and click on ‘insert citation’ and a drop-down list will give you the option of ‘add source.’ Click on that.
A pop-up with different fields will appear. If you chose the APA setting, then it should look comme Ça!
When I saw this my brain exploded. I was like ‘whoaaaaa! How freaking useful is THAT? So instead of flipping through a manual about what order the name, publication and date come in from, all I have to do is fill out the fields? Cooooool.’ Also, how extremely lazy, I love it.
Then choose your ‘type of source.’ We already established that it’s a book, so choose ‘book’ (among other choices are website, film, presentation, and miscellaneous).
So now I fill out all the fields…
…and when I hit ‘ok’ it gives me the citation like this: (Collins, 2010).
I’ll add a few more books in the same manner until I get a nice drop-down list of choices that’ll look like this:
Your sources are lined up real nicely, so throughout your paper if you want to cite a line from one of these books, all you have to do is go to the drop-down list and click on one of them. Like Terry Pratchett is my favorite author and I absolutely adored his latest book with Tiffany Aching (Pratchett, 2010).
Now for the grand finale of this featured citation to save nations of students from paper abominations, I give you, the bibliography!
You go to the ‘references’ tab as usual, but instead of “Insert citation” you click on “Bibliography” where you’re given two choices: Bibliography or works cited. Usually the bibliography is the one professors want to see, so you give a gentle click and…
Collins, S. (2010). The Hunger Games Mockingjay. London: Scholastic Ltd.
Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2009). Superfreakonomics. New York: HarperCollins.
Pratchett, T. (2010). I Shall Wear Midnight. London: Random House.
Pullman, P. (1995). The Golden Compass. New York: Random House.
Stockett, K. (2009). The Help. New York: Penguin Group.
WHAT IS THIS SOURCERY?!
Disclaimers: While this amazing-awesome-super-licious feature is mad useful, it is no substitute to really knowing how to cite. So before you go crazy on your word documents, do check grammar manuals on the accurate way of citing just so that you know you’re on the right track. It’s like using a calculator, you (ideally) should have a rough estimate in your head before you punch in a formula, or else your accidental inclusion of several zeroes will go unnoticed and you just gave an obviously ridiculous answer. So check the actual citation process before using this reference feature.
Also! It doesn’t hurt to double-check with your professor or thesis adviser on whether they approve and appreciate the accuracy of this feature. Maybe they’ll ask you to use a citation style that isn’t offered by Word Doc (in which case, you’re on your own buddy). The last thing we want to happen is you writing a paper with this, and your professor getting upset and trying to hunt down the writer who advised you to use this feature in the first place (i.e. me).
So I bid you all good luck with your papers! And…