What Are the Advantages of Using the Harvard Writing Style?


The Harvard writing style is also known as parenthetical style or referencing. It encompasses two main types of in-text referencing: author-date and author-title. Parenthetical citations are used by the American Chemical Society, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA). The generally preferred reference method for the arts and humanities is MLA, making the Harvard writing style a popular referencing method in colleges and universities.

Harvard Writing Style

The Harvard writing style originated with Harvard zoology professor Edward Laurens Mark, possibly first evidenced in a landmark paper he published in 1881. The Harvard system is reasonably simple to implement consisting of inserting into the text, within parentheses, the author's last name followed by the date of publication, work title, or page number. Variations exist for situations where the author's name is already referenced directly in the text, multiple author-text citations and subsequent references to a previously referenced author or work. A reference list with complete citations for every referenced work is then included at the end of the text.


The primary advantage of the Harvard writing style is the convenience in referencing for both author and reader. For the author, Harvard writing style eliminates the often cumbersome process of footnote insertion necessitated by other reference styles, such as Turabian. Instead of inserting complicated footnotes or endnotes after each citation, simple parentheses enclose the two pieces of information necessary for proper citation. Parenthetical references also save readers from turning to find the citation information in an endnote, providing all the necessary information immediately within the text.


Parenthetical citations help professors and readers more quickly verify the accuracy and academic strength of a publication or paper. When sources are immediately referenced within a text, it becomes instantly clear which sources were heavily relied on for information and if a variety of sources was included. In addition, the author-date method of citation also provides immediate clues as to which information may be outdated, particularly helpful in scientific papers, like those sourced by the American Chemical Society or the American Psychological Association.

Factual Footnotes

Parenthetical referencing also eliminates the confusion that arises when citation footnotes are paired with footnotes containing additional factual or anecdotal information about the text. This creates the need for a double list of footnotes, which can be complicated from both a layout and an interpretive standpoint. By including citations in-text per the Harvard writing style, authors are free to include informational footnotes uncluttered by citations.

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