The Pioneer Post

The Pioneer Post is a resource for online students that provides tips and information about distance education.


Monday, May 5, 2008

By Robert Streff, instructional designer/web developer
UW-Platteville Distance Learning Center

Students, classes, and written papers go hand-in-hand. I must have written at least a dozen papers that had to be in APA format and properly cited. I must confess, without dating myself, that the earlier works were done on a typewriter when correction fluid only came in a bottle. I remember literally sweating over getting the citations right without using the whole bottle, because once the paper was out of the typewriter, it was really a feat to re-insert and get the lines to match up. I know that the content of those papers suffered as a result.

Fast forward to the present. My thesis was done electronically. I was better at using the APA style guide, but I still had to deal with the citations, quotations, references, and bibliographies. There were some programs out that were designed for that, but they were too expensive for my budget. I muddled through, spending precious time on the style again.

At UW-Platteville, the entire campus population has access to RefWorks. This is a tool that can greatly reduce the anxiety of writing a paper in any style. You can even use the same references in papers based on different style manuals (and, being web-based, it works on all platforms).

Most, if not all of the databases offered through the UW-Platteville Karrmann Library are able to export all the information needed for proper citation into RefWorks. Refworks also allows the user to put in notes on the reference. If you have access to the full text article, you can copy and paste passages and insert your thoughts for later recall; otherwise, you will have to type in the material and your notes. It can also correctly cite personal communications, websites, and video, audio, and print-based media. In total, it will cite 30 different reference types.

RefWorks has a companion called Write-N-Cite, which will create inline citations in a MS Word document (it works on Macs and PCs, sorry Linux users). It will work with MS Word 2007. It will also import the references and the bibliography for you. However, this package is not going to do all the work for you. The type of reference being cited is not always automatically determined (print-based references are one example). Also, when imported into MS Word, Word automatically changes all but the first letter in a sentence to lowercase. Spelling, typeface, and other aspects of a document related to a style manual must be checked manually.

The real expert on RefWorks is Kay Young at the Karrmann Library. Her contact information is:

Kay Young
Senior Instructional Specialist
Reference Services
Elton S. Karrmann Library
Room 217
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Phone: (608) 342-1134

If you are located off-campus, you must go through the proxy server to access many of the library's resources. See for details. To download Write-N-Cite or view the tutorials from the RefWorks website go to To use RefWorks, go to

In short, don't throw away the style manuals, but consider using these online tools that could allow you to spend more time on your content and still produce a manuscript that showcases your skills.



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