AskDefine | Define parenthetic

Dictionary Definition

parenthetic adj
1 as if using parentheses; "a parenthetical style" [syn: parenthetical]
2 qualifying or explaining; placed or as if placed in parentheses; "parenthetical remarks" [syn: parenthetical]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Of, pertaining to, or as if using parentheses
  2. In the context of "of speech": That digresses; discursive or rambling

Extensive Definition

Author-date referencing — also known as Harvard referencing or parenthetical referencing — is a citation system used for writing and organizing the citation of source material.
Under the author-date referencing system, a brief citation to a source is given in parentheses within the text of an article, and full citations collected in alphabetical order by author's last name under a "references," "bibliography," or "works cited" heading at the end. 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. Playing nicely together. San Francisco: Wikimedia Foundation, 2008.
Author-date referencing is the preferred style of the British Standards Institution, the American Psychological Association, and the Modern Language Association (MLA). It is one of several systems recommended by the Council of Science Editors and the Chicago Manual of Style.


According to an 1896 paper on bibliography by Charles Sedgwick Minot of the Harvard Medical School, the origin of author-date referencing is attributed to a paper by Edward Laurens Mark, Hersey professor of anatomy and director of the zoological laboratory at Harvard University, who may have copied it from the cataloguing system used then and now by the library of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology (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 Eli Chernin writing in the British Medical Journal, 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, confirms that the author-date system is attributable to Mark. The festschrift pays tribute to Mark's 1881 paper, writing that it "introduced into zoology a proper fullness and accuracy of citation and a convenient and uniform method of referring from text to bibliography." (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 University library, who was impressed by the citation system, and dubbed it "Harvard system" upon his return to England (Chernin 1988).
A strange feature of the 'Harvard system' is that according to Harvard's own Widener Library, "The Harvard system is something of a misnomer (Bourneuf n.d.)". In the UK and some of the Commonwealth of Nations, formerly the British Commonwealth, the name 'Harvard System' is widely used, but not in the university after which it is named. It has been said by a professor at Harvard that "It sounds like what we call the Social Science System".

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).
  • An unknown date is cited as no date (Deane n.d.). A reference to a reprint is cited with the original publication date in square brackets (Marx [1867] 1967, p. 90).
  • If an author published two books in 2005, the year of the first (in the alphabetic order of the references) is cited and referenced as 2005a, the second as 2005b.
  • 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. "The origin of altruism," Nature 393, 1998, pp. 639–40.
An example of a newspaper reference:
An example of an article from another encyclopedia:

Content notes

A content note generally contains information and explanations that do not fit into the primary text itself, but are useful for giving additional points of explanation about information in the text or information being referred to. Content notes are generally given as footnotes or endnotes. These content notes may also contain Harvard referencing, just as the main text does.

Pros & cons


  • The principal advantage of author-date referencing 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 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.
  • Author-date referencing works well in combination with substantive footnotes. When footnotes are used with endnote-style source citations, two different systems of note marking are needed: usually numbers for source citations, and other symbols, such as asterisks and daggers, for the substantive notes. This approach can be cumbersome in any circumstances; for unpaginated material it results in two parallel series of endnotes, which can be confusing to the reader. Using author-date citations for sources avoids the problem (Chicago Manual of Style 2003, 16.63–16.64).


  • The principal disadvantage of author-date referencing is that it requires more space.
  • 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 cited sentences, editors must also check the references sections, to see if the reference is used elsewhere in the article, and if not, delete the reference. This can be a complicated manual task, so articles that use Harvard referencing can end up with references that in fact are not used in the article. However, this task can be made simple with the Find function in modern web browsers accessed through CTRL-F 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.
  • The system can be seen to break the flow of a sentence or essay in the way other less intrusive references, such as footnotes or endnotes, do not.



  • American Psychological Association (2001). Citations in Text of Electronic Material, APA Style.
  • Bourneuf, Joe. (n.d.) Harvard style. Widener Library.
  • British Standards Institution (1990). Recommendations for citing and referencing published material, 2nd ed., London: British Standards Institution.
  • Chernin, Eli (1988). , British Medical Journal, v. 297, 1062-1063, October 22, 1988.
  • Chicago Manual of Style (2003), 15th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. book: ISBN 0-226-10403-6 ; CD-ROM: ISBN 0-226-10404-4 ;
  • Council of Science Editors (2006). Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, 7th ed. Reston, VA (USA): CSE. ISBN 0-9779665-0-X. - introduction
  • Mark, Edward Laurens (1881). Maturation, fecundation, and segmentation of Limax campestris. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology vol. 6, part 2, no. 12: 173–625.
  • Roediger, Roddy (2004). "What should they be called." APS Observer, 17.4.

Further reading

parenthetic in German: Autor-Jahr-Zitierweise
parenthetic in Spanish: Estilo Harvard de citas
parenthetic in Dutch: Bronvermelding in Harvardstijl
parenthetic in Indonesian: Sistem penulisan referensi Harvard
parenthetic in Japanese: ハーバード方式
parenthetic in Swedish: Harvardsystemet

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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