Build a bibliography from footnotes

Building a bibliography from footnotes

posted in: OSCOLA | 0

A client recently asked me if there was a quick (!) way to create a bibliography from the footnotes in a dissertation, as they’d only just realised that a bibliography was needed. Hmm, I wondered if Word could help?


Certainly, it’s easy to change footnotes into endnotes, but this doesn’t really solve the problem. You’re just left with a long, numbered list at the end of your document. [Just go to the Footnotes icon on the References tab if you need to do this]

Step one: check your footnotes are correctly formatted

Assuming you haven’t kept a separate list of your reference sources (always a good idea!), then you’ll need to construct the bibliography from the information in the footnotes. This technique will work for any citation style, but as law is my speciality these examples refer to the OSCOLA citation style. First, check the formatting of all the footnotes now. This will save time having to check the bibliography styling too. Then, once you’re happy with that, simply place the cursor down in the footnotes area, and right click to highlight all the footnotes. You’ll see they are all highlighted grey, but the main text is not. Copy the footnotes to your clipboard.

Build a bibliography from footnotes
Highlight and copy all the footnotes

Step two: open a new document

Next, open a new Word document, call it ‘bibliography’ and save it. Then, paste all the copied footnotes from the clipboard into the new document. Clipboard will usually give you several options when pasting. Choose the fifth or last option ‘Keep text only’. This means that the footnote numbers are not copied to the new document. Save the document.


Step three: tidy up the draft bibliography

Once you’ve copied all the footnote text into the draft bibliography you’ll need to check through to remove any unwanted entries such as ‘ibid’ or, if you’re using OSCOLA style, any footnote shortcuts like (n 5). You might also want to remove entries that don’t need to be in a bibliography, like citations of legal cases or statutes that belong in the tables. Also, remove entries that are just comments or further explanations. If you’re using OSCOLA, then at this stage you’ll also need to ‘turn around’ the author last name/initial citation. Remember, footnotes cite author first name, author last name, whereas bibliographies reverse this to author last name, then initial only. Check through the draft and, as you do, go to the end of each entry and remove the full stop: OSCOLA bibliography entries have no full stop.

Step four: put your bibliography into alphabetical order

If you’ve tidied up the bibliography carefully the author last names should all be the first word on each entry. So, now it is easy to put the whole list into alphabetical order simply by highlighting the whole list [Ctrl+A] and using the Sort option on the Paragraph icon of the Home tab. This must be one of my favourite short cuts. Check through the list again and look out for any duplications. And, if you’re using OSCOLA remember to check for multiple entries for an author and replace the name with a double m dash.

This whole process might seem to be a bit lengthy, but it is certainly easier than cutting and pasting each footnote into a new list.