I am using natbib and harward referencing.

I want the cite in the text to say (private communication, Svennson, 2016) for example.

  • I am really not sure what you are asking. Is this supposed to appear in the bibliography? Are you asking if citing a private communication is alright for a thesis? Are you asking of to get private communication inside the parentheses?
    – Johannes_B
    May 20 '17 at 12:20
  • 1
    By the way, the natbib manual even covers priv.\ comm.
    – Johannes_B
    May 20 '17 at 12:26
  • see also tex.stackexchange.com/questions/87272/… Oct 11 '20 at 20:15

Use a @misc entry where you can then capture the essence of the conversation in a comment field, to maintain the information in a more complete form than in the document.

For example:

  author       = {Joel M. Person},
  howpublished = {{Private Communication}},
  year         = {2015},
  address      = {Anytown, MN, USA},
  comment      = {We talked about items x, y, and z and he showed me that x = z.},
  institution  = {Big Corporation},
\citetext{private communication, Svennson, 2016}

that is all you need to do in natbib.

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