How to Use Harvard Referencing

Written by vanessa reich
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How to Use Harvard Referencing
When composing academic work, it is extremely important to cite your sources. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

When writing an academic paper, you should always cite your sources. Failure to do so is plagiarism, and can result in a failing grade or even legal action. The Harvard System of Referencing was started by Harvard zoologist Edward Laurens Mark in 1881, which is how it got its name. Although this system follows strict guidelines, it is simple and straightforward.

Skill level:


    Referencing in the text of your work

  1. 1

    Use the author's name and date of publication, whether it is a book, article, or web page. For example, "Phillips (1999) suggests that generational change is inevitable and continuous." This is mostly used for referencing a whole body of work. If you are referencing or quoting from a specific page, you must include the page number as well. For example, "When organising our time, Adair (1988: 51) states that 'the centrepiece will tend to be goals and objectives'." The number following the year of publication is the page number.

  2. 2

    Place the author's name and year of publication in an appropriate part of the sentence if you are referencing a piece of work or research without mentioning the author. For example, "Making reference to published work appears to be characteristic of writing for a professional audience (Cormack, 1994)."

  3. 3

    Cite the source as follows when there is more than one author: "Morris et al (2000: 47) states that 'the debate of these particular issues should be left to representative committees'."

  4. 4

    Cite your sources when paraphrasing, too. This will look like this: "By improving your posture you can improve how you communicate feelings of power and confidence (McCarthy and Hatcher, 1996: 111)."

  5. 5

    Place a lower-case letter after the publication date, such as "a" or "b," when you are using two titles by the same author: "Eisenberg (1986a: 85) claims 'it is hard to assign general meaning to any isolated nonverbal sign'."

  6. 6

    Reference articles from newspapers and magazines the same way you would for books.

  7. 7

    Use the speaker or interviewee's name and the date of the lecture or interview you want to use. For example, "Mr. Bob Builder, Managing Director of Builder's Construction, stated in an interview on 5 September 2000 that 'customers were increasingly asking for traditional methods and materials to be used in construction projects'" or "Dr Wilma Flintstone stated in her lecture on 5 September 2000 that acid jazz has roots as far back as 1987."

    Creating a reference list

  1. 1

    Include every source you mentioned throughout your text in the reference list, which appears at the end of your work on a separate page with the header "References" or "Literature Cited."

  2. 2

    List the sources alphabetically by last name. It does not matter what format the source is. Journal/magazine articles, books, lectures, electronic sources and any other source you used will be listed all together. Format the list as left-justified.

  3. 3

    List every source you used, whether or not it was quoted in your work, only if you are asked to do a bibliography instead of a reference list.

    Formatting works in your reference list

  1. 1

    Use the title page for details when citing a book. The last name will be spelt out and the first name will be the author's initials only. When the book has one author, it will be formatted like this: Author, Initials., Year. Title of book. Edition. (only include this if not the first edition) Place of publication (this must be a town or city, not a country): Publisher. For a book with more than one author, it should look like this: Author, Initials., Year. Title of book. Edition (only include this if not the first edition). Place: Publisher.

  2. 2

    Cite books that are edited as such: Author, Initials., ed., Year. Title of book. Edition. Place: Publisher. For a chapter in an edited book, the correct format is: Chapter author(s) surname(s) and initials. Year of chapter. Title of chapter followed by In: Book editor(s) initials and surnames with ed. or eds. after the last name. Year of book. Title of book. Place of publication: Publisher. Chapter number or first and last page numbers followed by a period.

  3. 3

    Cite multiple works by the same author as: Author, Initials., Year. Title of book. Place: Publisher. For example: "Soros, G., 1966a. The road to serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press" and "Soros, G., 1966b. Beyond the road to serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press."

  4. 4

    Use this format for a journal article: Author, Initials., Year. Title of article. Full Title of Journal, Volume number (Issue/Part number), Page numbers. If the article is in a journal online, the correct format is: Authors, Initials., Year . Title of article, Full Title of Magazine, [online]. Available at: web address (quote the exact URL for the article) [Accessed date].

Tips and warnings

  • It is important to keep track of your sources by writing a list while you are researching. Always reference direct quotations.
  • Always reference paraphrasing.
  • There are many more types of sources than what are listed here.
  • Plagiarism is not just taking someone else's words and copying them without citing the source. It is also when you reword someone's words without citing the source.

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