Having produced previous work in accordance with the Harvard system, I have found the writing of this book a refreshing change. I am very much in agreement with a recent piece in the Times Higher Education Supplement (24 April 1992) in which Rodney Barker points out the lunatic extremes to which the system has been taken. Intended to simplify things—by removing the little numbers, by no longer obliging the reader to jump to the bottom of the page or the end of the chapter (or book), by removing the necessity to swim upstream through masses of op cit.’s or ibid.’s—the Harvard arrangement placed references, repeatedly if necessary, directly in the text.
This has become the problem. References are now used not only to indicate vital referencing details, but also as ‘academic credit cards’, flashed incessantly and needlessly in front of a bemused reader, whose task now approximates pushing through treacle wearing Doc Marten’s’. The treacle is hard to avoid, however; Barker says that Harvard references ‘will not tolerate being skipped over. They demand attention, like [please insert evangelical religious group of choice] at the front door.’ Hedging themselves in with superfluous references presumably gives even those with little to say a sense of authority and scientific validity. Alas, the pompous trappings often reveal shivering emperors. The Harvard system also seems to go hand-in-hand with endless qualification of the ‘it might perhaps be suggested that, given the particular experimental context, some small correlation may conceivably exist, mutatis mutandis, between…’ variety. A fictitious but not unfair example might be something like:
Smith (1958) has demonstrated reasonably well—though one might quarrel slightly with his use of orthogonal rotation in the factor analysis (Zinot, 1945)—that coal miners are perceived as less feminine than young fashion models (see also Jones, 1962; White 1967a, 1967b; Young, 1968; and, for a slightly divergent view, Murphy, 1965, in press c), although there is some historical suggestion that the basic relationship was not unknown from earliest times (Plato, 1974; Rousseau, 1949; Wittgenstein, 1991).