At the EFA conference I attended in Chicago in August 2019, several tools were discussed to help editors check their work, citations, etc. The better tools require a monthly or yearly fee, and one has to balance the potential for time saved, the effectiveness of the tool, and cost. Recently I felt there had to be a program to specifically check in-text citations against references and bibliographies to save precious time (and my sanity). And sure enough, there is!
Introducing Recite. Its website advertises its ability to check that authors and dates in the body of a paper/article match the references and alert you to stylistic errors. It checks not only parenthetical in-text references but also those in the narrative of the article.
Recite is still in beta testing (since 2015?), so it’s free. Its interface isn’t too pretty, but who cares, it’s utility that counts. I decided to give it a try on a social science journal article of nearly 40 pages. Recite discovered 47 references and 35 in-text citations. That math indicates that already something is wrong, and sure enough, Recite skips over embedded notes, where the citations for the rest of those references were found. But if your paper or article doesn’t have a lot of notes (or even if it does but also has numerous in-text citations you’d like to check–or if you do a workaround to include the notes), my opinion is that Recite is definitely worth checking out (if a pun were intended, it would be a bad one).
There are some real pros to using Recite:
- Beyond being free, it’s very easy. Sign in with your Google account, and you’re ready to upload a file to check. They have a demo as well to give you an idea of what the program does, if you’re a bit nervous about diving in head first. I went in head first. Note that I did make a copy of a working file, accepted all the tracked changes, and used that for the Recite upload/check. It doesn’t work on a file with tracked changes.
- After you’ve hit “check,” you’ll receive immediate results. The results are presented in three categories: in-text citations, reference list, and annotated article. For the first two, Recite will give you a count of errors/total.
- Specific results are clearly listed when dropping down each category. I didn’t really use the annotated article function, although maybe that’s useful in some way. I focused on the in-text citations and references.
- I love that for in-text citations, the program lists the source from the references. For example, in the second screenshot below, Recite notes that all the authors should be listed instead of et al. and gives the source with the authors. This way you don’t have to go back into the references section to find the other author names. It also flags when the order of multiple sources in parentheses should be reordered, when a source wasn’t found in the bib but may perhaps be referring to another source, and spelling and stylistic errors.
- The references citation notifies you if a source was not cited in the text, if something is out of alphabetical order, and of any stylistic errors. I edited the references before running Recite, which I would recommend rather than having tons of errors in the report, for reason #3 in drawbacks below.
Here are some screenshots of the main results page, an in-text citations error, and a reference list error.
There are also some drawbacks:
- It only accommodates APA (6th and a preview of 7th) and Harvard style. So if you’re using another style, too bad.
- The aforementioned skipping of embedded notes. However, I could have worked around this by copying the notes and then pasting them into the file as normal text. That could easily be done as the file isn’t live for editing purposes.
- You have to toggle from the online results back into your Word document to make changes, which isn’t terrible, but it would be nice if the results and subsequent updating were more seamless, like an add-on to Word.
- Don’t count on Recite to identify all potential stylistic errors in in-text citations or especially the references. Like with all these tools, they are meant to help save some time, but editors still need to know what the tools don’t do and when they flag potential errors that aren’t errors. There’s no substitute for knowing a style manual and editing references individually.
I do think Recite saved me some time overall (which I spent writing this post). If you’re familiar with other scripts or tools, the process will be very familiar and simple. I will continue to try it even if just as a double check of my own work. Please let me know if you have had any experience with this tool!