Harvard referencing pitfalls

Like many univerrsity students, the ones who I teach are asked to include referencing, so that we can see what sources have been used.  We recommend the Harvard referencing system where a reference to a particular source in the text is indicated by the surname of the author, and the year of publication, and there’s a compete list of references including titles etc at the end of the document.  Incidentally there are quite a few variations of the Harvard system around; my recommendation to students would be to stick with one variation and to be consistent.

There are a few common mistakes that many students make when using the Harvard system – so as a quick cautionary reference, here are some pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Don’t put footnotes with details of your references in them.  The Harvard approach is based around just one complete list of references, which you would put as endnotes at the end of your essay.  Putting these references in more than one place just introduces duplication of information and the risk of incostencies between the same information in different places.
  2. Don’t put authors’ initials into the citations in the text.  The citation should be marked by just the surname (or the name of the publication of website if no author’s name is available) of the author and the date.  You do put authors’ initials in the references listed at the end of the document
  3. Don’t make spelling mistakes in the names of authors who you cite.  Especially when the author is somebody who teaches you and might have a part in marking your work
  4. Don’t mix different styles of referencing within one document.  Even if you can think of perfectly legitimate reasons to use one method in your introduction, and another method in the text that follows, please don’t because it will look to a marker as though the work might have plagiarised.

Incidentally, the paper on Jazz that’s linked from my ‘cadenza learning’ post does include both footnotes and endnotes.  It’s an excellent paper but I don’t recommend any students reading it to follow its style of referencing.   In general, and especially in anything to do with the social sciences Unless you are Garrison Keillor, it’s a good idea to keep footnotes to a mimimum anyway


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