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Word documents: how to fix reference source not found

Updated March 23, 2017

Receiving the "Error! Reference Source Not Found" message while trying to create a document is both an annoyance and a hindrance to productivity. This is a common error when working with forms in Microsoft Word. A form is a locked template often used for professional and legal documents, which can you can only edit in specific fields highlighted in grey. If one of these fields is deleted or empty for any reason, you will get the reference source not found error message. You can correct the error in a number of ways.

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  1. Click "Edit" and select "Undo." Alternatively, you can hold down "Ctrl" and press "Z" on your keyboard or click the curved error pointing to the left on your toolbar at the top of the screen. This engages Word's "Undo" procedure. If you have not done anything else since deleting the field, the deleted field will come back. You can repeat the "Undo" procedure for up to 10 edits in a document.

  2. Print the document and look it over. If there is a section that looks strange on the printed page, displaying numbers and symbols rather than the text you typed, that field is causing the error. Right-click the field in the document and select "Refresh Field." Print the document again. If the document is correct, you will not see the error again.

  3. Place the cursor inside the field and press the "Space bar" to place a space in the field. This will make the program think that the field is completed and the error will not appear.

  4. Right-click the field and select "Properties." In the dialogue box that pops up, set the field default as:

  5. {Ask Answer "Question" \d " "}

  6. This will allow you to proceed with a blank field and not receive the error.

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About the Author

Carl Carabelli has been writing in various capacities for more than 15 years. He has utilized his creative writing skills to enhance his other ventures such as financial analysis, copywriting and contributing various articles and opinion pieces. Carabelli earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Seton Hall and has worked in banking, notably commercial lending, since 2001.

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