How to cite Facebook, twitter, and Wikipedia using Harvard

My girlfriend/partner/room-mate/collaborator, Beth is putting the finishing touches on an article about “Spectrums of Collaboration and Control in Public Archaeology” for World Archaeology. As she was checking her citations she asked me if I knew how to cite websites using the Harvard referencing style.

As a Chicago man, I was unable to answer her question. Since I happen to post on a blog which discusses how to reference websites, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to learn more about the Harvard style.

For those, like me, who don’t have the slightest idea what Harvard style is, Harvard is a parenthetical referencing style thought to have been developed around the end of the nineteenth century by Edward Laurens Mark, Hersey professor of anatomy and director of the zoological laboratory at Harvard University.

Unlike my beloved Chicago that uses footnotes to store citations, Harvard inserts citations into the main text using the following format – author’s surname, year of publication, and page number or range.

If I were to cite the book I’m currently reading, Groundswell Expanded and Revised Edition: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, it would look like this: (Bernoff and Li, 2011).

Referencing a website in text would follow the same format. If you were to cite this very article, you would simply write (Hunt, 2012).

Bibliographical references a little more complicated. If you were to use Harvard to cite a website, you follow this format: AUTHOR(S) (Year) Title of document [Type of resource, e.g. CDROM, email, WWW] Organisation responsible (optional). Available from: web address [Date accessed].

A reference to this article would look like:

R.A. HUNT (2012) How to cite Facebook, twitter, and Wikipedia using Harvard [WWW]. Available from: [23 May, 2012].

Harvard does something a little strange when it comes to referencing online content – they make distinctions between websites and blogs.

Unlike websites, blogs follow this format:

AUTHOR. (Year) Title of the posting (if applicable). Title of the site. Weblog [Online] day/month of posting. Available from: web address. [Accessed date].

This distinction feels somewhat dated to me. I’ve often wondered, make distinguishes a website from a blog? I personally would ignore this rule and cite only use the website reference.

Wikis (including Wikipedia) are referenced using the following format:

WIKI NAME. (Year) Title of article. [Online]. Available from: web address. [Accessed date].

Harvard maintains that since social networking sites (i.e. Facebook, twitter, Google+,, Heello, etc…) are websites, they should be cited as such. Social networks, therefore, would be referenced as follows:

AUTHOR(S) (Year) Title of page. [Title of web site] Day/month of posted message. Available from: web address. [Date accessed].

Podcasts are referenced using the following format:

BROADCASTER (if available). (year) Name of podcast [type of resource e.g. podcast]. Organisation/publisher responsible (optional), day of podcast (day, month) Available from: web address [date accessed].

Finally, online videos (i.e. Youtube, Vimeo) are referenced like this:

SCREEN NAME. (Year). Title of film [type of resource]. Available from: web address [Date accessed].

So that’s a basic walk through of how to cite and reference online resources using the Harvard style. But whenever I write one of these how-to reference posts I’m always left with the same question – does any of this really matter?

Citing online resources, regardless of the style, always seems clunky because these styles were created to reference books and other written sources. Copying and pasting a URL into an article always seems so inelegant to me. URL are not meant to be read by human eyes, they are meant to be read by computer – to link digital information together.

I can only imagine that these citation styles for online content are part of a larger transition. As more publications move online and away from print, more references will take the form of hyperlinks. But even hyperlinks aren’t a permanent solution since small changes in the web can break hyperlinks, creating dead ends.

What do you think? Do you have the same problem with citing digital content using standard reference styles? How do you see the future of referencing?

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