The Ways of Harvard – Using Parenthetical Referencing
Harvard referencing, commonly referred to inappropriately as “Harvard citation,” is an often misunderstood method of academic referencing. Harvard referencing specifically references the use of in-line parenthetical references, rather than the use of footnotes or endnotes common to many academic publications. This technique first appeared in a paper on the embryogenesis of the garden slug in 1881, written by Hersey professor of anatomy and zoological laboratory director at Harvard University, Edward Laurens Mark. The referencing style quickly became the standard of Harvard University, bringing order out of the previous chaotic environment of inconsistent and often confusing footnote referencing styles, though unification of actual citations would not occur until sometime later.
Today, the two most common found citation guidelines which utilize Harvard referencing are the APA (American Psychological Association) style and the MLA (Modern Language Association) style. The British Standards Institution also cites Harvard referencing as its preferred style. The Council of Science Editors and the Chicago Manual of Style both cite it as one of several referencing systems that are recommended.
Basic Harvard Referencing
Under Harvard referencing, the in-line citation reference is placed in parentheses at the end of the sentence or sentence portion that the citation supports. The author’s name, year of the publication, and where appropriate the page number of the referenced materials are included in the citation.
In Harvard referencing, each work cited in the document is referenced using an author-date format, though this rule has exceptions. Several variations of this exist when faced with missing information or multiple authors. Harvard references are commonly used in scientific and science-regulated citation guidelines.
Harvard Referencing Examples
A full Harvard reference might look something like this: The time limit to address these issues is believed by some to be only two to three decades. (Wyldstar 2009, pg. 100) Alternatively, the author may be mentioned directly, followed by a modified referencing: In his book, Tabren Wyldstar (2009, pg. 100) believes we may only have two or three decades to address these issues. This modification can be further extended, of course: In his 2009 book, Tabren Wyldstar wrote that he believes we may only have two or three decades before these issues become irreversible. (pg 100)
When dealing with two authors, the last names of each are put in place of the author data: We may have only two or three decades to effectively address these issues before their effects become irreversible. (Wyldstar and Van Winkle 2009, pg. 100) When dealing with multiple authors (more than two), only the last name of the first author is included, but the Latin phrase “et al” is added. “Et al” is short for “et alia,” meaning “and others.” Inclusion of the date and page notation remains unchanged in either case of dealing with more than one author.
Modifications of Parenthetical Referencing
Another parenthetical referencing option is the author-work citation reference, which utilizes the name of the work being referenced, rather than the date of publication. This technique stands separated from Harvard referencing and has fallen out of favor in recent years. It is typically found only when the date of publication is unknown. The page number of the referenced materials should still be incorporated into the parenthetical reference when available.
The third common parenthetical referencing style is the work-date reference. This is used when the author of a document or source is unknown. In a work-date reference, the title of the work cited or a significant abbreviation thereof is used in place of the author’s name. The citation writer should make all due attempts to identify the author, the year of publication, and the relevant page number or numbers with any parenthetical citation but should not panic if one or more elements is missing.
Limitations of Parenthetical Referencing
A major limitation of Harvard referencing is revealed when dealing with an author or authors who publish multiple works each year, as with journalists. In a typical modification of Harvard referencing, this issue is addressed by modifying the date notation with a roman letter attached to the year of publication (2009a for example). The letter refers to the order in which the affected citations are found in the bibliographic appendix.
Another limitation is revealed when comparing Harvard referencing to the use of footnotes and endnotes. Footnotes and endnotes are frequently used to note not only the citation of a source, but also relevant and occasionally interesting information about the cited reference or topic of the paragraph that does not fit in the flow of the main document. It is, naturally, cumbersome and inappropriate to include such explanative materials in a Harvard parenthetical reference. To address this limitation, some authors use footnotes or endnotes in conjunction with Harvard referencing, using the footnotes and endnotes to contain the informative notes and the Harvard referencing addressing the issues of citation.
It is additionally important to note that Harvard referencing does not address the issue of specific bibliographic citation format. However, it does call for such a bibliography to be included in the final document. Subsequently, specifications of the formats for bibliography citations have been defined over the years by other organizations and are found in various citation guidelines such as the APA style guide or MLA study guide, both of which prefer the use of Harvard parenthetical referencing.
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