Academic Referencing for blind or visually-impaired students, using NVDA or JAWS

Ros Walker & Samuel Kacer

This year I have worked with several blind / visually-impaired students who have found academic referencing hard work – actually, who doesn’t?

I have produced a short guide to using the Referencing Tab in Word with NVDA and JAWS – it seems to work in both. I couldn’t find this information anywhere else in a simple format. I produced a first version and this has been revised by Samuel Kacer, an NVDA user. I would add that this is best taught with a librarian who can also discuss and explain referencing as a whole, but these are the buttons to press to bring up the sections that you need.


  • To create and manage a list of your academic sources.
  • To use your list in citations or as references in you work in Word.
  • To create a Bibilography at the end of the work, showing your sources.


Using sources correctly is an important part of academic work and collecting your sources as you read is important. We reference academic work so that others can see accurately where our ideas have come from and so that they can revisit the original work or contact the author if they need to. Please note that this guidance is not designed to teach you everything you need to know about referencing. You should still work with an academic tutor or librarian about your referencing needs, but this guidance will give you a good way of recording your sources and using them in your work. Word has a good, basic tool for managing referencing, which is on a tab called the References tab, although we should think of it as being the Sources tab, as it is accessed through the letter S.

Summary of most important keys:

Alt+S gives access to the references tab in Word

Then M gives the Source Manager

C gives the list of references for citations

B gives the bibliography.


Detailed Guidance

1.     To open the references tab in Word

To get to the references Tab in Word:  alt+S

2.     To open source manager

To open a dialogue box called ‘Manage Sources’:  press M (Note, a dialogue box is a box which sits on top of your current page. You cannot use your page whilst it is open.)

This box contains your database of sources or references. It is made up of records. You will use one record for each source or reference. Each record contains fields. For example, you may have 20 sources or records, but each one has fields like author, title, date, publisher.

There are two areas in this box. The first is the Master list, which is all your sources. Once created, this is present in the background for every Word document. The second is the Current List. This is a list of the sources that you are using in the particular Word document that you are working in. When you add a new source, it appears in both lists in that Word document. If you move to another Word document, and you want to use a reference, you may need to copy it across to your ‘current list’ to use it in citations.

To close the source manager at any stage, you can press escape and the dialogue box will close.

3.     To add a new reference/source in the Source Manager

To create new source record: ALT+N

This opens on the field for the type of source (eg book, book chapter, journal article etc.) To select the type of source, use the up and down arrow keys. Press tab to move to the next field.

If you need to revisit your source as you are entering details, press Alt+Tab and select the source file. Use Alt+tab to return to your word doc and continue adding the details.

Depending on the source type you have chosen, you will then get different fields to complete the record. Press tab to move to the next field.

When you hear Author: type in the name of the author, with the surname, firstname or sometimes surname, initial (eg. Brown, Peter or Brown, P)

If your author is an organisation (eg Department for Education), you can tick the box that says Corporate Author. To tick the box, press the space bar.

Continue to Tab through the remaining fields, adding the information about the source as you go.

Towards the end of the record, there is a field that says ‘Show all bibliography fields’. If checked, this adds a lot of extra fields, which are, in general, not necessary – so ignore it.

The next is a field called ‘Tag Name’ – this is also not needed, so tab again.

When you get to OK, press enter to save and close the record.

Note: You can press enter at any stage of the entry process without going right to the end and the record will be saved and the dialogue box closed.


4.     To move an item from your Master List to your Current List, select it in the Master list


Note: an item added in a document will automatically appear in both lists for that document. You only need to do this if the item was added originally in another Word document.

To open your Source manager: M

It opens automatically in your Master List. Use the up and down arrows to find the reference that you want to use in this assignment. Press alt+C to copy it to your current list.

Tab to close button and press enter.


5.     To edit a source:

To open your Source manager: M

It opens automatically in your Master List. Use the up and down arrows to find the reference that you want to edit. Press alt+E to edit.

Move around your form using tab to move down through the fields (or shift+tab to move upwards) and make your corrections.

Tab to close button and press enter.

Note: You can press escape at any stage when editing and the dialogue box will close, without changing any edits. Or, you can press enter after making your changes and the box will close and save your changes.


6.     Choose your referencing style.

You will need to find out from your tutor which style they want you to use. APA and Harvard are the most common.

Open the Sources toolbar: Alt+S

Choose the list of possible referencing styles: press L

Use arrow keys to select your referencing style.

Press enter when you hear the style that you need.


7.     To add a citation in your work

Working in your Word document, add a citation. This can be in a couple of formats, either a direct or indirect quote.

“Researchers have found that most people like chocolate.” OR

In research, it has been found that most people like chocolate.

You will want to add where this information has come from.

After your direct or indirect quotation,

Type in your direct or indirect quotation.

Open the Sources toolbar: Alt+S

Open the citation list (which gives your possible sources): press C

Use the arrow keys to move up and down until you hear your reference, then press enter.

This adds the reference to the source as, for example, Brown (2007


8.     To add your references list at the end of your work

Go to the end of your work.

Open the Sources toolbar: Alt+S

To open the bibliography menu: press B

You can choose whether you want Bibliography, References or works cited. Choose the one you want and press enter.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s