How to Use ReferenceChecker

  1. Open the text document containing the references to be checked.
  2. To start ReferenceChecker, click on the button labelled ReferenceChecker (with the eye logo) from just below the top of the menu (or hit Alt+F2 or Alt Gr+F12) – see screenshot below.

  1. For ReferenceChecker to run properly:
  1. The Word document should contain a reference list with either name+date or numbered references, and the associated citations.
  2. The name appearing next to References section (top left) in the ReferenceChecker dialog box should be the same as the title of the section containing the list of references in the Word document. This is usually “References”, “Bibliography”, “Further Reading”, etc., but can be anything you wish. The default setting for ReferenceChecker is “References” (see screenshot below).
  3. Next to Heading style  (top left) in the ReferenceChecker dialog box enter the name of the style of the heading of the document section containing references in the Word document (the default setting for ReferenceChecker is “Heading 2”). The quickest way to do this is to click on the section heading (before the list of references) and see what appears in the drop-down menu in Word, top left, just below “File”. If “Normal”, for example, or anything else other than “Heading 2” appears, click on the down arrow to the right of the button next to the Heading level, and select “Heading 2”. Note: This may change the appearance of the actual References section heading, so you should remember to change the style back to how it should be, if applicable, after running the ReferenceChecker (see screenshot below).

  1. Any author names associated with references should be in upper and lower case, e.g. Smith, or in caps and small caps, or a mixture of the two. ReferenceChecker may not be able to distinguish between names and acronyms if entire author names are in caps, e.g. SMITH.
  2. Any number citations should be in square-brackets or in superscript. 
  3. There should be no text containing citations after the last item in the reference list.
  4. Each item in the references list should consist of exactly one paragraph in Word. You might like to check the reference list before running, to ensure that none of the reference items are split across more than one paragraph (this occasionally happens in Word files).
  5. In documents with numbered references/citations, all the citations in the body text, including those in tables and figure captions, must be in the intended final order (as they will appear in print). By implication, tables  and figure captions should be placed as close to their final  (print lay-out) location as possible.
  6. Ideally, ReferenceChecker should be run after cleaning up and editing a text file in Word. While ReferenceChecker is flexible in its approach to checking items, extraneous characters in surnames will cause ReferenceChecker to report a mismatch.
  1. When you run ReferenceChecker, you will notice that it stays on top of your document (even if you work on the document); you can also move it around by clicking and dragging the title bar of the dialog box. You might find it useful to drag the window to the top right of Word’s main document area and just to the left of the scroll bar on the right-hand side.

  2. Before you click on Go:
  1. How do you want ReferenceChecker to treat case sensitivity in author names? If you want ReferenceChecker to ignore case, leave the box ticked (in the “Compare” section). If you want ReferenceChecker to alert you if it spots differences between, say, “van der Waals” and “Van Der Waals”, untick the box (or hit Alt+i). The default setting is to ignore case (see screenshot below).

  1. How do you want ReferenceChecker to alert you of any errors? If you want ReferenceChecker to list all citations and references checked, leave All marked (a black circle will appear to the right of All) or hit Alt+a. If you want ReferenceChecker to inform you only of the errors it finds, click on the grey circle to the right of Errors only (or hit Alt+e) in the Output section so that a black dot appears in the circle (see screenshot below). When you click on Go, ReferenceChecker list any references not cited and any cited references not listed in the Reference list.

  1. How do you want ReferenceChecker to deal with field codes in the Word document? These usually appear in a darker grey colour or blue/underlined format and may include such elements as Internet/e-mail addresses and linked references and/or citations. If you want ReferenceChecker to remove such codes but leave the text intact, keep the box ticked (see screenshot below). If you run ReferenceChecker with the box unticked and ReferenceChecker has detected field codes in the document, ReferenceChecker will notify you that codes have been detected and ask whether you wish ReferenceChecker to proceed and remove the codes or whether you wish to exit ReferenceChecker and deal with the codes manually.

OK, now you’re ready to Go.

  1. Simply click on Go bottom left of the ReferenceChecker box (or hit Return or Alt+g). ReferenceChecker will now perform that all-important reference-checking procedure. As ReferenceChecker executes, it displays status information (text indicating the current task) and the time elapsed in seconds. You will see this at the bottom of ReferenceChecker's user interface, below the buttons.

    In most cases, the status information consists simply of text indicating the current task ReferenceChecker is performing. When ReferenceChecker reads or parses references, the status field indicates both text describing the task and a number showing how many references it has read/parsed. Similarly, when ReferenceChecker scans body text for citations, it displays how many it has found. The status information normally changes too quickly to be read, but, together with the timer, it is designed to indicate ReferenceChecker's progress.

  2.  Within a number of seconds (depending on the speed of your computer, the size of the reference list, the number of reference citations to check, and the number of mismatches found), ReferenceChecker will provide you with the results of what it has found in your document, in two main sections:
  1. Under “Citations”, ReferenceChecker will list all the reference citations found in the main text (as well as the footnotes, endnotes and tables). If you have asked ReferenceChecker to output All, you will see long underscores to indicate that the reference following has been found and has a matching item in the Reference list. The position in the text at which that individual citation was found is shown in parentheses, by page and line number. A “NO REF” message indicates that ReferenceChecker has found what appears to be a reference citation with no match in the reference list. If you have asked ReferenceChecker to output Errors only, you will see a list of uncited references only in this section.

    Click on a line reporting a citation to jump to the part of the main text where that citation appears (highlighted/selected). You can also use the up and down cursor keys to go through the list of citations and reference items in order.

    Note that if "Track Changes" has been turned on, you may wish to accept all changes before running ReferenceChecker, otherwise some hyper links in the list of results may not work correctly.

    ReferenceChecker uses the following system to indicate the position of the citation in the text:

    p = page

    l = line

    e = endnote

    f = footnote

    t = table (number citations only)

    r = row (number citations only)

    (s) = superscript (after the text of the citation, number citations only)

  2. Under “References”, ReferenceChecker lists all the items from the References list which have a matching citation or not. If you have asked ReferenceChecker to output All findings, you will see a long underscore, followed by the reference details and the position of that item indicated by page and line number in parentheses. This indicates that the reference item has a matching citation in the main text. You will also see listed any “UNUSED” items from the Reference list, i.e. items that are listed but not cited. If you have asked ReferenceChecker to output Errors only, you will see a list of unused references only in this section.

    Click on any reported reference item to jump to that item in the reference list (a small highlighted letter marks the reference item).

    Note that if "Track Changes" has been turned on, you may wish to accept all changes before running ReferenceChecker, otherwise some hyper links in the list of results may not work correctly.

  3. A note on numbered references: If ReferenceChecker encounters a numbered reference that is out of sequence with the others, it will alert you by stating that the preceding reference is missing. For example, if the first reference to be mentioned is, say, "[2]", ReferenceChecker will inform you in the following way: CHECK_"2" : 1 is not cited (this means that it was expecting reference "1" to occur before "2", so it is informing you that "1" was not cited before "2"). If ReferenceChecker finds a sequence such as "[4, 6, 2]", it will inform you that "[4, 6, 2]" is not ascending.

The results reported by ReferenceChecker might look as in the following screenshot:

Here, you can see that ReferenceChecker has picked up discrepant spellings of “Barber” / “Barbers” (cited as “Barbers” but listed as “Barber”) and discrepant years for the Yang and Burns reference (cited as 2004 but listed as 2003). At this point, the copy editor would query the author or look up the definitive details and amend the anomalies.

NB: Under the “References” section of the Results box, if the reference is so long that you are unable to see the rest of the reference (as in the example above), simply click and drag on the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the Results box (just above the six action buttons).

  1. If no anomalies have been picked up by ReferenceChecker, you can simply close ReferenceChecker (click the X top right, hit Cancel bottom right, or Alt+c). If mismatches have been reported, at this point you can copy (hit Copy or Alt+o) the contents of ReferenceChecker’s list of findings and paste them (Ctrl+v) to another document. This is useful if you want to query the author about the mismatches or simply want to have another window open so that you can go through the paper again to find and correct the mismatches.

NB: While checking any mismatches, if you wish to see the line numbers in the text document, from the Word drop-down menu select: View, then Print Layout. Then, in ReferenceChecker, click on Toggle Line Nos or Alt+t. Once you have finished with ReferenceChecker, remember to switch off line numbers (again click on Toggle Line Nos or Alt+t), unless you want these to appear in the final form of the document.

  1. ReferenceChecker will run and remain fully functional for a trial period of 10 days from the date of the installation. After this time, if you wish to continue using ReferenceChecker, you will need to purchase a licence key. The procedure is explained on our Buy a Licence page. When you have received your licence key, simply click on the button labelled Register in ReferenceChecker, and enter your user name and licence key exactly as supplied, click on OK, and you’re ready to go. Please be sure to keep your user name and licence key safe in case you need to re-enter these at a later date, e.g. if you need to reinstall ReferenceChecker on the same machine. You can enter your licence details before or after the trial period expires.

These notes on using ReferenceChecker are also included in ReferenceChecker’s Help file. If you have problems with ReferenceChecker, please visit our FAQ page.


ReferenceChecker does not require special notation or mark-up to recognise references and citations, but it does expect consistency of usage, including consistency of punctuation in references. We strongly recommend that you edit each paper at least once before you run ReferenceChecker on it.

Use punctuation consistently in references - if a comma separates the first surname from the following initial(s), a comma must separate any subsequent name from its initials in the same reference (this helps ReferenceChecker work out what is a citable name and what is not). For example, the reference "Jones, C.A., Martin, B. and Ball A. 1999 ..." will not match the citation "Jones et al. 1999", because the surname "Ball" is not followed by a comma.

Make sure that the year of publication (or year-equivalent, such as "in press") in body text citations is either enclosed in parentheses or that the whole citation, including name(s) or a series of citations including names is enclosed in parentheses. ReferenceChecker identifies name-date citations by locating first a year or year-equivalent left of a closing parenthesis and then by locating the name(s) to the left of the year. For example, in the citation "(Arkell 1999, Brown 2001)", ReferenceChecker recognises both "Arkell 1999" and "Brown 2001" as separate citations, but in "Arkell 1999, Brown (2001)", it sees only "Brown (2001)" as a citation and ignores "Arkell 1999".

If a reference is, for example, a periodical spanning more than a year, so its year of publication is given as "2001-2002" or "2001/02", the corresponding citation must indicate the year in the same way, i.e. "2001-2002" or "2001/02".

An asterisk before the year makes ReferenceChecker ignore a citation.  For example, "(Brown *2001) will not be seen as a citation by ReferenceChecker.

If a reference contains a year with a forward slash before it, which is not preceded by another year, ReferenceChecker ignores that year. For example, the year is ignored in "Findlay, R.H/1987, Title…", but not in "Findlay, R.H., 1986/1987, Title."

If a reference year is followed by a letter, there must be no space between the last digit of the year and the letter, but a letter can stand on its own after a comma. Examples: "2000a, b" (here ReferenceChecker recognises two citations, "2000a" and "2000b"), but in "2000 a, b" ReferenceChecker sees only "2000" and "2000b".

ReferenceChecker does not take into consideration initials to distinguish between references, so if initials appear in body text citations, ReferenceChecker ignores them. For example, ReferenceChecker sees "Palma A. T. et al. 2006" as being the same as "Palma W. et al. 2006", but "Palma et al. 2006a" is not the same citation as "Palma et al. 2006b".

In references, initials should either follow the surnames to which they correspond or precede the surnames. One or the other style should be used consistently in all references in a document. 

When analysing citations, ReferenceChecker locates the year (or year-equivalent) left or a closing parenthesis first, then it tries to find the names that correspond to the year further to the left. ReferenceChecker does not see names that follow the year as being part of the citation, for example "Jones" in "In his paper (1999), Jones..." In this case, ReferenceChecker will report that it found a citation with the year 1999, but no corresponding name, or it will take the first plausible (capitalised) word to the left of the year as the cited name.

Please bear in mind that ReferenceChecker extracts information about references and citations from the document text, but not from revisions and comments. To ensure that it scans all the text you expect it to check, accept the revisions that should be part of the final version of the document before you run ReferenceChecker. The program does not and cannot do this automatically, because it cannot guess which revisions should be incorporated in the final text.