[Portal] Parenthetical referencing

Parenthetical referencing is a citation system in which in-text citations are made using parentheses. Parenthetical referencing may be used instead of footnotes or endnotes; or, in the case of some documentation systems, with the use of footnotes and/or endnotes, called "content notes".[a]

Full citations are collected in alphabetical order by author's last name under a "references", "bibliography", or "works cited" heading at the end. It is one of the citation styles recommended for Wikipedia, although it is less common than footnotes (or endnotes). The other two are embedded links and footnotes. See Wikipedia:Citing sources for more details. Short citations that use <ref> tags are not parenthetical references; see WP:CITESHORT for that method.

There are two main styles of parenthetical referencing: the "author-date system", which is primarily used in the social sciences and exemplified in the official style manual and related style guides published by the American Psychological Association (APA), such as The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association; and the "author-title system", which is primarily used in the arts and the humanities and exemplified in the MLA Style Manual and the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, both official publications of the Modern Language Association (MLA).[b]

Both "author-date"[c][d] and "author-title" systems are used in journal publications and in book publishing. Book publishers specify their publishing "house styles" for their authors, directing which documentation system to use. Many American book publishers, such as the University of Chicago Press and Duke University Press, for example, require documentation systems presented in The Chicago Manual of Style, which is flexible in that it offers writers a choice of several different formats, including both "author-date" and "author-title" parenthetical citation referencing methods, depending on which method the publisher and its editorial staff considers most appropriate to the content discipline(s).[b]

"Author-date" referencing (or the "Harvard system" or "Harvard style" of parenthetical referencing) is common in articles published in Wikipedia, though "author-title" referencing is also used in articles in Wikipedia; both styles are acceptable citation formats in Wikipedia.[e] The remainder of this essay focuses on the author-date method.

Origin of author-date (Harvard style)

The "author-date" method of parenthetical referencing is sometimes referred to as the "Harvard style" or the "Harvard system", so named after it was first used in a paper on "the embryogenesis of the garden slug" published by "the eminent zoologist Edward Laurens Mark (1847–1946), Hersey professor of anatomy and director of Harvard's zoological laboratory until his retirement in 1921", in which Mark included an author-date citation in parentheses on page 194.[1] The "author-date" method was later attributed to him and named after Harvard, though it never became affiliated officially with that university.

Inline citation in the body of the article

Under the author-date referencing system, a book is cited in the text in parentheses, after the section, sentence, or paragraph for which the book was used as a source, using the surname of the author and the year of publication only, with the parentheses closing before the period, as in (Author 2005). A complete citation is then placed at the end of the text in an alphabetized list of "References".

  • The parentheses close before the period marking the end of the sentence, as in the fake example at the end of this sentence (Jones 2005).
  • You may name the author within the article itself, in which case only put the year in parentheses; for example Smith (2005) says...
  • For two authors, use (Smith & Jones 2005).
  • For three or more authors, use (Smith et al. 2005).[f]
  • If the same author has published two books or articles in 2005, and both are being referenced in the text, this is written as (Author 2005a) and (Author 2005b).
  • The specific page, section, or division of the cited work can follow the date in this way: (Author 2006, p.28) or (Author 2006:28).
  • If the date of publication is unavailable, use n.d. (meaning, no date).
  • Newspaper articles may be cited by the byline, as in (Traynor 2005), though this is less common.
  • Newspaper articles may alternatively use the name of the newspaper and the date of publication after the sentence (Guardian, December 17, 2005).
  • A book republished long after the original publication may be cited (Marx [1867] 1967).
  • For a quotation that is within the text and marked by quotation marks, the citation follows the end-quotation mark ("), and is placed before the period (.), "like this" (Smith 2005).
  • For a quotation that is indented, the citation is placed after the period, like this. (Smith 2005)
  • In cases where the author is unknown:[d]
    • If the article is written for an organization or periodical then use its name, as in (Department of Transport 2001) or (National Geographic Society 2005) or (National Geographic 2005),
    • otherwise, use the article title, italicized, as in (Advertising in the Western Cape 1990: 14).

Page numbers

When citing books and articles, provide page numbers where appropriate. Page numbers must be included in a citation that accompanies a specific quotation from or a paraphrase or reference to a specific passage of a book or article.

  • According to Jessica Benjamin, one weakness of radical politics has been "to idealize the oppressed" (Benjamin 1988: 9).
  • Jessica Benjamin has argued that radical politics has been weakened (Benjamin 1988: 9).

Page numbers are especially important in case of lengthy or sparsely-indexed books. As different editions of a book may be paginated in different ways, it is useful to include, either with the citation, or in the reference section, the edition of the book which is being cited. In books, articles, and web pages, if there are chapters or section headings, these may be included in the citation, if it makes it easier for readers to find the cited information.

Page numbers are not required when a citation accompanies a general description of a book or article, or when a book or article, as a whole, is being used to exemplify a particular point of view.

  • In the 1980s several feminists explored feminist readings of psychoanalytical thought (e.g. Gallop 1985, Hamilton 1982, Rose 1986, Benjamin 1988).
  • Jessica Benjamin argues that the relationship between males and females is paradigmatic of domination and submission (Benjamin 1988).

Full citation in the reference section of the article

Information on creating a full citation is available in Wikipedia:Citing sources.

Full citations must be provided, in alphabetical order, in a References section following the text.

For a book: in the case of (Author 2005a) and (Author 2005b), this might be:

  • Author, A. (2005a). Harvard Referencing, New York: Random House. ISBN 1899235744.
  • Author, A. (2005b). More Harvard Referencing, New York: Random House. ISBN 1899235744.

For an article: in the case of (Traynor 2005) or (The Guardian, December 17, 2005), this might be:

Whether or not to use only the initial, as in Traynor, I. or the full name., as in Traynor, Ian, is a matter of personal preference.

A book published long after the original publication:

  • Marx, Karl. [1867] (1967). Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol. 1. Ed. Frederick Engels. New York: International Publishers. ISBN 1899235744.

N.B.: The most important thing is to provide some information about where you found your material, even if you do not know how to format the citation. (The information that you provide may enable others to format the citation accurately and consistently, following the article's prevailing citation format.)[g]

Linking inline and full citations

Creating a clickable link within the inline citation which links to the full reference is recommended. There are several ways to do this and no method is preferred. This section describes the two most common methods.

N.B.: Wikipedia:Citing sources requires that all articles use a consistent citation style throughout and that editors should not change the citation style of an article without achieving consensus to do so on the article's talk page.

Using templates

This can be accomplished using {{Harv}} and a citation template such as {{citation}}, {{cite book}}, {{cite web}}, etc. (A complete list of citation templates with linking ability is at {{citation/core}}). {{Harv}} is used for the inline citation in the body of the article; for example, {{Harv|Ritter|2002}} renders as (Ritter 2002).

The citation template is used in the references section at the bottom of the article to format the full citation.

Markup Renders as
 * {{Citation|last=Ritter|first=R.|year=2002|title=The Oxford Style Manual|location=Oxford|publisher=[[Oxford University Press]]|isbn=0198605641}}

Ritter, R. (2002), The Oxford Style Manual, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0198605641

Notice that clicking on the inline citation highlights the full citation.

By hand

Alternatively, one can format the HTML link by hand. For example:

Markup Renders as
([[#Ritter2002|Ritter 2002]])

You can create an anchor to Ritter's work in the References section like this:

Markup Renders as
{{wikicite |ref=Ritter2002 |reference=Ritter, R. (2002). ''The Oxford Style Manual''. Oxford: [[Oxford University Press]]. ISBN 0198605641.}}

Ritter, R. (2002). The Oxford Style Manual. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198605641.

Pros and cons versus other referencing systems

Parenthetical referencing is common in print articles about humanities, society, arts, and culture and its use may encourage contribution from academics in those fields. It also requires no special knowledge of templates, coding, or tags and is thus helpful for new editors. Using the standard templates will allow the reader to click on the reference to go directly to the full citation, but this does require that editors have some knowledge of the templates.

For editors, it has the advantage of removing the clutter of huge citation templates from the body of the article, and the full citation need only be given once (no matter how many references there are to it), in an alphabetized list at the end. On the other hand, some readers might consider a parenthetical reference to be more obtrusive than the equivalent superscript used in other referencing systems; nor is parenthetical referencing a familiar system to readers without a scientific, literary or academic background.

Some house styles also employ the jarring formatting of placing a date in parentheses before a title, as the (1716) Kangxi Dictionary. In common with other citations in this style, the parenthetical date should be placed after the title the Kangxi Dictionary (1716) or, as a simple matter of phrasing, placed before the title without parentheses the 1716 Kangxi Dictionary.


Several templates have been developed for Harvard referencing. Detailed information about the harvard citation templates is at Template:Harvard citation documentation. Information on all the citation templates is in Wikipedia:Citation templates. More examples of use are at Wikipedia:Harvard citation template examples. Alternatively, the Footnote3 family of templates includes a template designed for Harvard referencing: {{note label}}.

The use of citation templates is neither recommended nor discouraged.


Parenthetical referencing is a useful and appropriate style for many articles. If you choose to use this style, however, it should be used for all citations in the article, not merely a selected subset.

For example, you should not use inline footnotes (using <ref> tags) for reliable sources that are websites, and parenthetical citations for those reliable sources that are books.

  • Yes: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog (Smith 2008:12, Wikipedia 2009).
  • No: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog (Smith 2008:12).[3]


There are thousands of Wikipedia articles that use this style for inline citations. Actuary and Irish phonology are featured articles that use this style.

Edit notice

Please use {{Parenthetical referencing editnotice}} to identify pages using this citation style. That will display a simple note whenever the editors open the page for editing:

See also


  1. ^ See, e.g., The Chicago Manual of Style#Overview and The MLA Style Manual#Content notes.
  2. ^ a b For the most accurate information, see these official publications, as cited in The Chicago Manual of Style#Overview.
  3. ^ See, e.g., "Author-Date System", in "Bibliographic Format for References", University of Georgia, as based on the material on this system in the Chicago Manual of Style.
  4. ^ a b See also: "Harvard System of Referencing Guide", Anglia Ruskin University. Retrieved on 20 June 2013.
  5. ^ For further information, please see Wikipedia:Citing sources.
  6. ^ An abbreviation of the Latin et alii/aliae/alia which means "and others." The abbreviation is not italicized; Latin words are otherwise italicized.[2]
  7. ^ For further information, please see Wikipedia:Verifiability, a Wikipedia core editing policy, and Wikipedia: Citing sources, a Wikipedia editing style guideline, linked with the other Wikipedia editing style guidelines in Wikipedia:Manual of style.


  1. ^ Eli Chernin (1988), ""The 'Harvard system': a mystery dispelled""., British Medical Journal, 297 (22 October 1988): 1062–1063.
  2. ^ "et al. – definition of'et al. in English". Oxford dictionaries. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  3. ^ Pangrams at Wikipedia, 2009. (sample reference)

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