Author-date in your text problems

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This page lists some of the questions students have asked when entering a reference in their own writing when using the Author-date system of referencing. For basic guidance, see Author-date in your text.

  • The source has more than one author. Here, departments differ. The most usual rule is that when a source has two authors, give both surnames in your own text, linked by &; when there are more than two authors, give the first, followed by et al.. (Other departments ask students to list all the authors on the first mention of the source, but to use 'X et al.' in all other references; some reject '&' and insist on 'and'.)
  • The source has no apparent author. Many good sources have no named author, and are to be trusted: the Department of Health, for example, and other Government offices. Financial and commercial data are often only to be obtained from a company's accounts and balance sheet, which are produced collaboratively. Media sources such a newspapers often carry unsigned articles, which may be a result In such cases, use the corporate name (= the name of the corporation, or organisation), such as 'DoH', 'Nike', 'BBC' and so on.
If there is no apparent author, and no corporation, you must ask yourself whether the source is reliable. This is a matter of judgement. In academic circles, anonymous sources should not be relied on; but at times they may be the best information available to you. The usefulness of such unnamed sources varies between different subjects, and one of the skills that all students should be learning is how to assess the value of such to them and their studies.
In on-line sources, which often have no author's name, it may be easiest to use a tag that is a single 'word', or near-word, from the URL. Then you explain the 'word' in your List of References, even if only by putting the URL in. Never put the whole URL as the tag in your text.
  • There is no publication date to be found. Here, the easiest is to give the date as (n. d.) (= no date). In a website, you can sometimes find a 'last updated on DD/MM/YY': if you do, that (at least the YY, the year) will count as a date of publication.