David Turner

Breaking Down a Reference

Referencing... Have you ever sat down and taken a look at just how much actually goes into creating one? Over the past week I have been looking into what exactly makes up a Harvard Reference. Turns out that there's a lot to creating a reference.

Referencing different types of media requires a pretty wide selection of elements. These are needed to cover all of the possibilities that exist for the different types of references both commonly, and uncommonly, made use of in research and documentation.

Anatomy of Harvard Referencing.

As mentioned above, I've been looking into what is actually needed to generate various references using the Harvard Referencing Style. Below is a table listing the types of references that I have found syntaxes for with the Harvard Referencing Style. It includes a breakdown the syntax that is to be used to generate the relevant reference.

Reference Type Reference Syntax
Book %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. *%%Title%%*. %%Edition%% %%Place%%: %%Publisher%%.
Book Chapter %%Contributing Author%%, %%Year%%. %%Chapter%%. *In*: %%Authors%%, %%Edition%% *%%Title%%*. %%Place%%: %%Publisher%%. %%Pages%%.
Journal Article %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. %%Article Title%%. *%%Title%%*, __%%Edition%%__(%%Issue%%), %%Pages%%.
Newspaper Article %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. %%Title%%. *%%Publisher%%*, %%Date%%, %%Pages%%.
Conference Paper %%Contributing Author%%, %%Year%%. %%Title%% *In*: %%Editor%% %%Edition%%. *%%Title%%*. %%Place%%, %%Pages%%.
Corporate Publication %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. *%%Title%%*. %%Place%%: %%Publisher%%.
Thesis %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. *%%Title%%*, %%Designation%%, %%Type%%. %%Institution%%.
Video *%%Title%%*, %%Year%%. %%Designation%%, %%Author%%. %%Place%%: %%Organisation%%. %%Pubdate%%.
Web/eBook %%Authors%%, %%Pubdate%%, %%Title%% [%%Homepage%%], [online]. Available: %%URL%% [%%Viewed%%].
eJournal %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. *%%Title%%*, [online]. %%Volume%%(%%Issue%%), Available from: %%URL%% [%%Viewed%%].
Email %%Authors%% (%%Author Email%%), %%Pubdate%%. *%%Title%%*. e-Mail to %%Recipient%% (%%Recipient Email%%).
CD/DVD %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. *%%Title%%*. [%%Media%%]. %%Place%%. Available from: %%Supplier%%.
Act of Parliament %%Authors%%, %%Year%%. (%%Chapter%%), %%Place%%: %%Publisher%%.

That's a whole lot of %%s, right? When piecing these syntaxes together I was thinking of what I would be doing with them. I want to have an easy to use syntax for creating references, which requires an easy way to separate the actual content with the elements that need to be replaced. Using %% seems like an ideal way to separate these elements, and defining common terms for referencing elements that appear regularly. This helps with data organisation and helped to give me an idea of the sheer scale of a referencing style.

I've also applied styling to the referencing syntax. It's not visible above due to the manner in which the styling is applied. I'm using Markdown, a way of coding that I was introduced to at the beginning of the year, to style the syntax of the references. I have done this for a couple of reasons:

  1. Flexibility - Markdown allows references to be styled up in multiple formats, such as plain Markdown, HTML code and Rich Text.
  2. User Friendliness - I know that I won't be able to research every referencing style out there. Using Markdown makes it simple for users of the site to suggest referencing style syntaxes that I can add to the site, as well as allowing users to create their own syntaxes for personal use.

Both points are of equal importance to my project. I want the site to provide users with the options to create references that can be used regardless of where they are going to be used. Ultimately, however, the second point is the most important one. The user base of my Major Project is the most vital aspect of things, and giving users the ability to create their own structure for their references is important. This will give users the ability to create referencing styles for personal use as well as providing a potential for expanding the capabilities of the site.

Now that I have a basic control over how references can be dynamically laid out I will be able to turn my focus to looking at how to create and display references. Expect more on this over the next week.