Parenthetical referencing: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Parenthetical referencing is a citation style in which in-text citations must be enclosed within parentheses and embedded in the paragraph, as opposed to the footnote style.

The parenthetical citation may be a full citation, or a partial citation. If it is a fully cited, parenthetical reference, there may be no end section (It depends on one's choice of style guide), otherwise a list of the citations with complete bibliographical references is included in an end section. This lists must be sorted alphabetically by author's last name, and they're frequently called "References", "Bibliography", "Works cited", "Works consulted" or "A selected bibliography".

A style that allows for a parenthetical reference (in the text) to the full citation (in the list) is recommended by the British Standards Institution (BSI), the American Psychological Association (APA), and the Modern Language Association (MLA).[1] While remaining alphabetical in nature, the format of the list may be that a citation is embedded in a "content note"[2], which beyond simply citing the source, takes the opportunity to further explain or clarify the idea in the text.


Main substyles of parenthetical referencing

Within the parenthetical referencing style there are, mainly, two substyles that diverge in the way they present their in-text citations and end sections.

  1. "author-date", which is primarily used in the sciences and social sciences, and recommended by such professional organizations as the American Chemical Society and the American Psychological Association (APA); and
  2. "author-title" or "author-page", which is primarily used in the arts and the humanities and recommended by such professional organizations as the Modern Language Association (MLA).


In the author-date method (also called "Harvard style", "Harvard referencing", APA style, ACS style, or "Harvard system" in British-based educational institutions, but having no relation to Harvard University), the in-text citation is placed in parentheses after the sentence or part thereof that the citation supports, and includes the author's name, year of publication, and a page number where appropriate (Smith 2008, p. 1) or (Smith 2008:1). A full citation is given in the references section:

Smith, John (2008). Playing nicely together. San Francisco: Wikimedia Foundation.


According to an 1896 paper on bibliography by Charles Sedgwick Minot of the Harvard Medical School, the origin of the author-date method is attributed to a paper by Edward Laurens Mark, Hersey professor of anatomy and director of the zoological laboratory at Harvard University, who, according to Chernin, may have "adapted" it from the cataloguing system used by the library of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology and by other zoological libraries (Chernin 1988). In 1881, Mark wrote a paper on "the embryogenesis of the garden slug," in which he included an author-date citation in parentheses on page 194, the first known instance of such a reference (Mark 1881, p.194). Until then, according to Chernin, references had appeared in "inconsistent styles in footnotes, referred to in the text using a variety of printers' symbols, including asterisks and daggers" (Chernin 1988).

Chernin writes that "a 1903 festschrift dedicated to Mark by 140 students, including Theodore Roosevelt," attributes the author-date system to Mark's 1881 paper, praising him for having "introduced into zoology a proper fullness and accuracy of citation and a convenient and uniform method of referring from text to bibliography" (Chernin 1988).

It is, however, still not clear how the author-date style or system of parenthetical reference became attributed to "Harvard" (Chernin 1988). According to an editorial note in the British Medical Journal in 1945, an unconfirmed anecdote is that the term "Harvard system" was introduced by an English visitor to Harvard's Museum of Zoology library who was impressed by its author-date cataloguing system and dubbed it "Harvard system" upon his return to England (Chernin 1988).

The "Harvard system" is not actually affiliated officially with Harvard University (or Harvard College), and it is not featured on official Harvard University Library websites ( Nonetheless, the guidelines for the system have been gathered and published by several institutions such as the British Standards Institutions, the Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS), and the University of Chicago Press. The first of them, the British Standards Institution, published in 1978 the Recommendations for Citing and referencing published material (BS 5605: 2nd edition, 1990. Subsequently amended December 1998). The standard sets out recommended formats for both Harvard system citations and reference lists, and numeric system citations and reference lists, and has been widely used as the basis of UK-originated referencing guidance.[3]. In 2002, the AGPS changed the documentation style previously known as "the Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS) style, to incorporate the term Harvard in its title. It is part of the the sixth edition of the style manual prepared by the AGPS, which was revised and published by Snooks & Company in that year.[4][5]. Finally, the Chicago University Press has included in its Chicago Manual of Style a comprehensive list of guidelines for the author-date style of referencing.

How works are cited

The structure of a citation under the Harvard referencing system is the author's surname, year of publication, and page number or range, in parentheses, as illustrated in the Smith example near the top of this article.

  • The page number or page range is omitted if the entire work is cited. The author's surname is omitted if it appears in the text. Thus we may say: "Jones (2001) revolutionized the field of trauma surgery."
  • Two authors are cited using "and" or "&": (Deane and Jones, 1991) or (Deane & Jones, 1991). More than two authors are cited using "et al.": (Smith et al., 1992).
  • In some documentation systems (e.g., MLA style), an unknown date is cited as having "no date of publication" by the abbreviation for "no date" (Deane n.d.).[6]
  • In such documentation systems, works without pagination are referred to in the References list as "not paginated" with the abbreviation for that phrase (n. pag.).[6]
  • "No place of publication" and/or "no publisher" are both designated the same way (n.p.) and placed in the appropriate spot in the bibliographical citation (Harvard Referencing. N.p.).[6]
  • A reference to a republished work is cited with the original publication date either in square brackets (Marx [1867] 1967, p. 90) or separated with a virgule (Marx, 1867/1967, p. 90).[7] The inclusion of the original publication year qualifies the suggestion otherwise that the publication originally occurred in 1967.
  • If an author published several books in 2005, the year of the first publication (in the alphabetic order of the references) is cited and referenced as 2005a, the second as 2005b and so on.
  • A citation is placed wherever appropriate in or after the sentence. If it is at the end of a sentence, it is placed before the period, but a citation for an entire block quote immediately follows the period at the end of the block since the citation is not an actual part of the quotation itself.
  • Complete citations are provided in alphabetical order in a section following the text, usually designated as "Works cited" or "References." The difference between a "works cited" or "references" list and a bibliography is that a bibliography may include works not directly cited in the text.
  • All citations are in the same font as the main text.

Examples of book references are:

  • Smith, J. (2005a). Dutch Citing Practices. The Hague: Holland Research Foundation.
  • Smith, J. (2005b). Harvard Referencing. London: Jolly Good Publishing.

In giving the city of publication, an internationally well-known city (such as London, The Hague, or New York) is referenced as the city alone. If the city is not internationally well known, the country (or state and country if in the U.S.) are given.

An example of a journal reference:

  • Smith, John Maynard (1998). "The origin of altruism," Nature 393: 639–40.

An example of a newspaper reference:

An example of an article (with an author identified in his byline) from the online version of an encyclopedia:

Content notes

A content note generally contains useful information and explanations that do not fit into the primary text itself. Content notes may be given as footnotes or endnotes or even a combination of both footnotes and endnotes. Such content notes may themselves contain a style of parenthetical referencing, just as the main text does.

Pros and cons of the author-date method

  • The principal advantage of the author-date method is that a reader familiar with a field is likely to recognize a citation without having to check in the references section.
  • Another advantage is that if the same reference is cited more than once, even the casual reader not familiar with the author may remember the name. And when many in-text citations for different pages of the same work are used, author-date referencing can be simpler for the reader than flipping back and forth to footnotes or endnotes full of "ibid." citations.
  • With author-date referencing, there is no renumbering hassle when the order of in-text citations is changed, which can be a scourge of the numbered endnotes system if house style or project style insists that first citations never appear out of numerical order. (Reference-management software can automate this aspect of the numbered system [for example, Microsoft Word's endnote system, Wikipedia's <ref> system, or various applications marketed to professionals]; but many users either don't have the right software [e.g., the professional-oriented applications], or have it but don't know how to use it [e.g., Microsoft Word's endnote system].) Harvard referencing makes the renumbering problem moot.
  • Parenthetical referencing works well in combination with substantive notes. When the note system is used for source citations, two different systems of note marking and placement are needed—in Chicago Style, for instance, "the citation notes should be numbered and appear as endnotes. The substantive notes, indicated by asterisks and other symbols, appear as footnotes" ("Chicago Manual of Style" 2003, 16.63-64). This approach can be cumbersome in any circumstances. When it is not possible to use footnotes altogether probably because of the publisher's policy, it results in two parallel series of endnotes, which can be confusing to readers. Using parenthetical referencing for sources avoids such a problem.
  • The principal disadvantage of parenthetical references is: they are especially space-consuming and distracting to a reader when many references are made in a single place (which often occurs when reviewing a large body of previous work), whereas numbered footnotes or endnotes are not so since they can be combined into a range, e.g. "[27-35]".
  • It also requires more space in the main text body (but it may be more economical for the overall document since, for instance, ``Smith 2008: 34" would take up a whole line in a footnote or endnote but only so much space with a parenthetical reference).
  • Rules can be complicated or unclear for non-academic references, particularly those where the personal author is unknown, such as government-issued documents and standards.
  • When removing a portion of text which has citations in it, the editor(s) must also check the Reference sections to see if the sources cited in the removed text is used elsewhere in the paper or book, and if not, to delete any reference not actually cited in the text. If done manually, this task is error-prone with a real possibility of unused sources remaining in the Reference section. However, this task can be simplified with the Find function in modern word processors or the use of some reference management software.
  • The system may be unfamiliar and distracting to a general readership, who are unfamiliar with journal articles. However, it is essentially easy enough to ignore the parenthetical citations, if readers are unsure as to the meaning of them.
  • Out of the two major parenthetical referencing systems, the author-date referencing system, originating in science, is less well-designed for arts and humanities, in which titles/authors are more important than dates in the citations. Author-date systems lead to citations in the arts and humanities such as "Spinoza 2007: 34", where "Spinoza, Theological 67" (as in the MLA author-title style) would be more helpful. In empirical or scientific disciplines, dates are important to give an idea of the timeliness of a particular study or experiment, whereas timeliness is less of an issue in the arts and humanities (as the Spinoza example indicates). Moreover, in the arts and humanities, one is more likely to know the title of a work rather than its date (as opposed to the sciences, where it is common to refer to, for example, "the 2004 study by Jones, et al.").
    • The use of author-date systems can be confusing when used in monographs about particularly prolific authors. In-text citation and back-of-the-book listings of works arranged by date of publication can lead to frequent errors between works by the same author listed as, for example, Harvey 1996a, Harvey 1996b, Harvey 1996c, Harvey 1996d, Harvey 1995a, Harvey 1995b, Harvey 1986a, Harvey 1986b, and so on.
    • In certain disciplines, works by important authors might be reprinted in various volumes, and so "Spivak 1985", "Spivak 1987", and "Spivak 1996" might all refer to the same essay—and might be better referred to as "Spivak 'Subaltern'" (as in author-title or author-page systems) and then arranged alphabetically by title in the list of references rather than numerically by date.[8]


In the author-title or author-page method, also referred to as MLA style, the in-text citation is placed in parentheses after the sentence or part thereof that the citation supports, and includes the author's name (a short title only is necessary when there is more than one work by the same author) and a page number where appropriate (Smith 1) or (Smith, Playing 1). (No "p." or "pp." prefaces the page numbers and main words in titles appear in capital letters, following MLA style guidelines.) A full citation is given in the references section:

Smith, John. Playing Nicely Together. San Francisco: Wikimedia Foundation, 2008.

See also


  1. ^ See .html The Chicago Manual of Style]. 15th ed. Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 2003. ISBN 0226104036. CD-ROM: ISBN 0226104044. Cf. "References and Source Material", ALA Standards Manual.
  2. ^ See, e.g., The MLA Style Manual#Content notes.
  3. ^ See for example Citing References: a guide for users, Nottingham Trent University, References and Citations Explained, Leeds University Library
  4. ^ See the Australian university guides, such as that posted by the University of Southern Queensland Library, which includes a link to the 6th edition of the AGPS manual, revised and published by Snooks & Company in 2002.
  5. ^ See AGPS Manual, 6th ed., as posted in "References/Bibliography: AGPS STYLE 6th ed, Rev. by Snooks & Co: 'How-to' guide". The webpage includes examples with this preface: "The following are examples of one style previously known as the Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS) style, but now revised by Snooks & Co, 2002. It is based on the Harvard or author-date system for books, articles and 'non-books'. (Some Departments prefer to use other variations on the Harvard system.)"
  6. ^ a b c Cf. "References with missing details", in "Harvard System of Referencing Guide", University of East Anglia or other academic online guides. This guide says to use various designations of missing information in dates and the initials s and l (s.l.) and s and n (s.n) in such circumstances.
  7. ^ American Psychological Association (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC, USA: American Psychological Association. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-55798-791-4.  
  8. ^ This issue pertains to disciplinary differences among the social sciences, physical science, and the humanities. A 1965 scientific study is unlikely to be reprinted in a 2006 journal given that its research will be out of date, whereas one might find a nineteenth-century article reprinted in a history or literature journal, in which case it would be absurd and confusing to refer to it by its more recent date; for example, "the 2006 essay by Charles Dickens" or "Dickens 2006: 39"). Such an ambiguity may be resolved by referring to the edition actually used and by putting the publication year of the earliest edition in brackets before the recent publication year in the bibliography and/or in the note citation.


American Psychological Association (2001). Citations in Text of Electronic Material, APA Style.

British Standards Institution (1990). Recommendations for citing and referencing published material, 2nd ed., London: British Standards Institution.

Chernin, Eli (1988). "The 'Harvard system': a mystery dispelled"PDF, British Medical Journal. 297 (October 22, 1988): 1062-1063.

Chicago Manual of Style (2003), 15th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226104036 (hardcover). ISBN 0226104044 (CD-ROM).

Council of Science Editors (2006). Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th ed. Reston, VA (USA): CSE. ISBN 097796650X.

Mark, Edward Laurens (1881). Maturation, fecundation, and segmentation of Limax campestris, Binney. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College (Part II). 6 (12): 173–625. (See Digitized version uploaded in Google Books. Retrieved on March 11, 2009.)

Modern Language Association of America (2009). The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: MLA. ISBN 1603290249 (10). ISBN 9781603290241 (13). ISBN 1603290257 (10). ISBN 9781603290258 (13).

––– (2008). MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 3rd ed. New York: MLA, 2008. Print. ISBN 0873522974 (10). ISBN 9780873522977 (13). ISBN 0873522982 (10). (hardcover) ISBN 9780873522984 (13). (large-print) [S182C]. (Also listed as available as an Audio book.)

Roediger, Roddy (April 2004). "What should they be called." APS Observer, 17 (4). Web. Association for Psychological Science, 2009. Retrieved on March 11, 2009. ("This column first appeared as a Presidential column in the APS Observer." It illustrates the use of parenthetical referencing in psychology, which incorporates research from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities.)

Further reading

"Lamont Libraries Lead RefWorks Workshops" (2006). Press release. Harvard College Library. Harvard University Library, (last updated) December 21, 2006. Web. Retrieved on March 11, 2009. (Reference assistant "Steve Kuehler, for instance, navigated online to a popular e-journal and performed a search. He then explained how to select the relevant items and export the citation information into RefWorks, and from there how to turn these references into a bibliography according to the style required. Since there’s no shortage of styles—be it ALA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago, or the many, many journal styles—RefWorks can save time and confusion.")

"Research Service Libraries Take Part in Pilot Project" (2009). Press release. Harvard College Library. Harvard University Library, (last updated) February 18, 2009. Web. Retrieved on March 11, 2009.

Turabian, Kate L., et al. (2007). A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 7th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226823369 (10). ISBN 9780226823362 (13). ISBN 0226823377 (10). ISBN 9780226823379 (13). OCLC 70866962. [6th ed. (1996) rev. by John Grossman and Alice Bennett; 2001 publication is the 4th printing of the 6th ed. and is listed as by Kate L. Turabian and John Grossman. 7th ed. lists Kate L. Turabian as author (WorldCat). "Notes: 'Portions of this book have been adapted from The Craft of Research, 2nd edition, by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, 1995, 2003 by The University of Chicago; and from The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, 1982, 1993, 2003 by The University of Chicago'--T.p. verso" (WorldCat).]

External links

Online guides


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