Jeromy Anglim's Blog: Psychology and Statistics

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to convert manual APA references to Endnote references in Word

When collaborating on a journal article with colleagues I sometimes get Word documents that have manually formatted references. I often want to convert the manual references to Endnote references. The following post discusses a workflow for doing this.


The reality is that most journals in psychology require or prefer submissions to be in Word format. Endnote works reasonably well for formatting APA style references in Microsoft Word. Furthermore, most of my students and collaborators are familiar with Word.

So, I sometimes end up with Word documents written with manual references. I could just continue on with manual references, but that has a whole host of problems: (1) it takes about 20 minutes to do a check that citations match the references, and every time the document is edited, this check needs to be performed again; (2) there are so many rules when it comes to APA style that it is better to get an automated tool like Endnote to apply them.

So, I want to convert the manual referencing to Endnote format. Here's one way to do it.

Getting references into Endnote

The first step is to get the references into Endnote. I asked here about about automatic import of lists of references into reference databases, but I have not found a solution. So for now, one option is just to copy and paste each reference into Google Scholar.

Before beginning the process:

  1. Create and open the Endnote database for the journal article
  2. Configure Google Scholar to use Endnote as it's default reference manager (this should then show an "import into Endnote" button for each reference).
  3. Configure your browser to automatically open the "ics" file that results when you click "import into endnote"

To perform the search for each reference, sometimes pasting the whole reference into the search box will work, other times you need to only provide a portion of the search such as the title or author and year. For extra speed, I have an Google Scholar Search with the highlighted text using Alfred.

Also for each reference, it is often necessary to add additional information missed by Google Scholar. Scholar does a good job with journal articles, but misses information in books, book chapters, and so on.

Modifying citations

So the existing Word document has manually written APA citations that need to be modified to Endnote format. One approach to doing this is to convert all the manual true citations into temporary Endnote citations. Then pressing format citations in Endnote will lead Endnote to attempt to match each citation to a reference in the Endnote database.

The simplest step to do this is to just convert parentheses around citations to curly braces. I.e., (Smith, 2009) becomes {Smith, 2009}. This works fairly well, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Removing the "and" symbol between references will improve Endnote matching. So make (Smith & Jones, 2000) into {Smith Jones, 2000}
  • If you have prefix or postfix text then add the temporary symbols described here: e.g., (e.g., Smith, 2000) becomes (e.g., \Smith, 2000)
  • If you have references with author outside the reference, then either put a comma before the reference to just show the year, or add the @@author-year code to include the author in text but generated by Endnote.

So once this is all done, running format temporary citations should lead Endnote to take you through each citation asking you to link each citation to the corresponding reference. And if you've done a good job of the preceding step, the first match should correspond to the article in most cases.


At this point, the Endnote generated references may need to be moved into their appropriate location and formatted as required.

The final step is to check all the references and citations.

  • Common errors for Google Scholar References:
    • No page range (missing end page number)
    • Case issues in title
    • Case issues in journal name
    • Issues with hyphens

There can also be some issues with the citations. When diagnosing problems, one strategy is to convert all citations to unformatted citations in Endnote.