Author-date system of referencing

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The name of the author-date referencing system points to one of its distinguishing features. The name Harvard system suggests that Harvard University uses it; in fact it does not. (See Harvard referencing for more.)

  • The author-date system is designed to interrupt a writer's words as little as possible, and aims to limit the information to two words in the first instance: the name of the author, and the date of publication of the source being cited. This is the tag in the text. A reader can use it to find the full bibliographical details in the List of References. For more detail on how to put a reference in the text of your writing, see Author-date in your text.

To put that in another way:

  • For your academic work, your reader needs to know where any checkable source can be checked. In the author-date system, you simply use the [surname of the] author and the date [of publication] as the tag in the text for any source that you want to refer to for any idea or fact. When you use a quotation, or the sort of detailed fact like a statistic that comes from one Table, you use the [surname of the] author, the date [of publication] and the number of the page [on which the quotation or statistic etc can be found] as the tag. Readers who want to check the reference then go to your List of References for the full bibliographical details.

(The reason for preferring the name author-date system is that Harvard University (in the United States) does not use this system.)