Managing multiple bibliographies in Microsoft Word

How to backup and access multiple source lists on the same PC

Managing multiple bibliographies in Microsoft Word

Creating your first Microsoft Word bibliography is easy. But what about your second?

At first glance, this can seem tricky. Open a new document, and by default you will see the source list from your first paper. Since now you are writing a different paper, it may seem like your only choices are (A) keep adding to your original bibliography until it gets long and unwieldy or (B) delete all the hard work that you put into creating  your first reference list. Neither option is good.

Fortunately, there is a better way. Here is how to backup and access multiple Microsoft Word bibliography source lists, all on the same PC.

Backing up a Microsoft Word source list

By default, your bibliography's source list is stored in a file called Sources.xml, located here:


Navigate to that folder, copy your Sources.xml file, and congratulations! You now have a backup copy called Sources - Copy.xml.

Other than the .xml extension remaining intact, feel free to rename the new file anything you like. You can also move the new file wherever you want for safekeeping or easy reference, such as in the same folder where you saved your paper.

Copy your Sources.xml file, and congratulations! You now have a backup. Move it wherever you like.

Accessing a Microsoft Word source list

Now that you know you can create different Sources.xml files, you just need to know how to switch between them. Here is how:

  1. Click Manage Sources. This will show the citations listed in your current bibliography file. Your default file is called Sources.xml.
Ribbon > References > Manage Sources will bring up your active source list.

2. Click Browse. This will open a file explorer window where you can navigate to your new source list file.

Click Browse to switch to a different source list. This can be handy, for example, if you are writing a new paper and want to start afresh.

3. Select the desired file. Click OK. In this case, I am going to open the bibliography file Sources - Copy.xml.

Click and open your desired source list, and you will see the sources appear in the next window.

4. Congratulations! You are now seeing the citations located within a different bibliography file. This is how you switch from one bibliography file to another.

As a best practice, make the default Sources.xml your source list for whatever you are writing at the time. Because this is the list that will open automatically with Word, this should save you a click.

Creating a blank source list file

As of January 2021, a blank source list file for Microsoft Word just needs to end with the .xml file extension and contain the following text:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<b:Sources SelectedStyle="" xmlns:b="" xmlns=""></b:Sources>

So just open Notepad, paste in the above text, and save it with a .xml extension, and that is it! You now have a brand new, blank source list file.

If Notepad is not your thing, alternatively you can open an existing source file such as Sources.xml and delete its contents from within Microsoft Word.

The delete button will delete the highlighted source from your active source list.

Good luck

Managing bibliography source list files should be the least of your worries, so hopefully this blog post takes some of the pressure off. Good luck with your writing and make your voice heard.