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The Ways of Harvard – Using Parenthetical Referencing

Harvard referencing (also referred to erroneously as “Harvard citation”) is a method of academic referencing. First used by a Harvard professor and director named Edward Laurens Mark in 1881, Harvard referencing uses in-line parenthetical references, rather than footnotes or endnotes found in many academic publications, both of which predate Harvard parenthetical referencing.

Since Harvard referencing only addresses the use and format of in-line parenthetical references, students and professionals must turn to citation guidelines such as the APA style guide or MLA style guide, both of which cite Harvard parenthetical referencing as their preferred method of source references.

Harvard Referencing

Using a basic author-date format, Harvard citation references are placed in parentheses at the end of the sentence or sentence portion that the citation supports. The basic format for Harvard citations is Author-Date-Page. Modifications are frequently found when one or more of these components is missing or when one or more of them is directly mentioned in the sentence or paragraph text.

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)

Additional modifications are found when mentioning more than one author:

  • Two authors (Author and Author 2001, pg 999)
  • Multiple authors (Author-1 et al 2001, pg 999).

The title of the work is typically used to replace either the author name or publication date if one or the other is missing.

Limitations of Parenthetical Referencing

Harvard referencing has three fundamental limitations in its use, the first of which is revealed when dealing with an author or authors who publish more than one work each year. In a significant modification of Harvard referencing, this problem is addressed by modifying the date notation with a lower-case roman letter attached to the year of publication (2009a for example) which references the bibliographic citations in their relative order found in the bibliography.

Harvard referencing is also limited when compared to the use of footnotes and endnotes. Footnotes and endnotes frequently contain not only the relevant citation of a source, but also interesting information about the cited reference or topic of the paragraph that disrupts the flow of the main document. It is inappropriate to include such explanative materials in a Harvard parenthetical reference. Some authors use footnotes or endnotes in conjunction with Harvard referencing to address this issue, limiting the use of footnotes and endnotes to containing the extraneous information.

It is additionally important to note that Harvard referencing does not address the issue of bibliographic citation formats. Subsequently, writers must look to the specifications of bibliographic citation styles defined over the years such as the APA style guide or MLA style guide. Both styles prefer the use of Harvard referencing.

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