Referencing dilemma – what to do?

I find it frustrating when in-text references read (Keynes 1973) or (Quesnay 1963). This leaves me to go and find the bibliographical notes to try and discover which works are being referred to and when they were written.  Often the when is significant to understand what is being said by Quesnay, or ‘which’ Keynes is writing – the 1943 Treasury Civil Servant or the young man frustrated with the Versailles Treaty in 1919. If an article then refers to Keynes several times from a ‘collected works’ edition, the time context is almost impossible to decipher as every reference is to 1973 and the reader needs to check page-numbers and chapters to find the original dates. Some authors add extra text before every quote and citation which reads “In year xxx, Dr. yyy wrote”.  I feel this makes the reading slow, tedious and I still have to double-check the years after reading a quote or citation. Such referencing, to me, does not work. But what might be the best practice for referencing translated and re-printed works in the text?

Having checked the brief Harvard guide (that’s the system I’m stuck with) there does not seem to be a rule… There is a rule for translated work in the reference section – using the original year first. Similarly for articles in edited volumes the original date is noted first, with the edited volume’s year of publication later in the reference. From this I infer that the reference in the text would be to the original year and not the edited work. So what do you feel is the best practice?

Let’s take an example: There is a poem by Voltaire written in 1736 entitled Mondrain, translated first by Tobias Smollet [as Man of the World] in 1901 and this translation is re-produced (ad verbatim) in a collected volume by Henry Clark in 2003, which I am using. All this detail is in the full reference at the back. The year of the poem matters to the exposition – as Voltaire will write for another 40+ years, so what do you feel is the best reference in-text? Is it (Voltaire 1738), (Voltaire 1901), (Voltaire 2003) or something fourth, or fifth with square brackets perhaps?


3 thoughts on “Referencing dilemma – what to do?

  1. Dear Benjamin,
    Articles that use in-text author-date citations of the kind you describe should contain a reference list at the end that corresponds to the citations. You should be able to see from the reference list which particular work is being cited. However, the system is not foolproof, and a good example is the citation of something like Keynes’s Collected Works as a whole (Sraffa’s Ricardo edition is another)–a practice that is best avoided for the reasons you bring up. If one simply cites Keynes 1971-89, 3:204, there is no way to tell from the citation, unless one is intimate with the contents of the CW, which particular work is being cited. If one is citing from the Collected Works, it’s best to cite not the Collected Works as a whole, but the individual item as reproduced in the CW. Thus, a citation for the General Theory could appear as follows: Keynes, J. M. [1936] 1971. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. Vol. 7 of the Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, edited by D. E. Moggridge. London: Macmillan. The date in square brackets is the original date of publication; the second date is the date of the publication of the volume of the CW in which it appears. (N.B.: For purposes of this example, I am presuming the volume was published in 1971. I do not have a copy on hand to verify that.)

    Regarding your Voltaire question, I would give the date as [1736] 2003.

    Paul Dudenhefer

    1. Paul does what I try to do. Additionally, in the references at the end of the article which contains the Voltaire passage, I’d follow the form:

      Voltaire 1736. Voltaire Title, etc. Trans. Tobias Smollett, Smollett title, pub info, 1901, pp. xx-xxv, in Henry Clarke, Clarke title, publisher etc. 2003, pp. xxx-xxxv.

      This makes sense of the in text citation (Voltaire [1736] 2003, xxxi) with the xxxi being the place you found the quoted Voltaire material in English.

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