Sort to Find Duplicates

Right on the Home ribbon in MS Word you’ll find a Sort button. It’s handy for alphabetizing, to be sure, but you can use this as a hack to find duplicates in a bibliography too.

Some bibliographic styles list references in the order they are mentioned within the body of the text. This means they’re in 1, 2, 3 order rather than alphabetized by author name. Especially when a text is team written, duplicate entries can happen, and they’re hard to find when the bib or refs list is long.

Sort, to the rescue! With a couple steps, first. Watch the demo video or follow the 3 easy steps below.

If your version of MS Word doesn’t have menus, go to the Insert ribbon and click the Table icon, then select Convert Text to Table.
  1. Copy the reference list to a new doc, but when you paste, select Keep text only from the options in the Paste icon on the Home ribbon.
  2. Select all, then select Convert Text to Table either from the menu, as shown in the demo, or from the ribbon as shown in the image below.
  3. Place the cursor in the table, then select the A→Z sort icon on the Home ribbon (beside the ¶).
  4. Tell Word to sort by column 2, and you’re ready to skim the list for duplicates.

This sort trick can also help you spot small inconsistencies in author names, such as Department for defence vs Department of defence.

Troubleshooting

  • Do this in a new document, so you don’t mess with the formatting of the original.
  • To maintain the auto numbering in the original document, make your changes by hand rather than pasting a revised list back into the original.

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