A complete guide to Harvard in-text citation

An in-text citation should appear wherever you quote or paraphrase a source in your writing, pointing your reader to the full reference.

In Harvard style, citations appear in brackets in the text. An in-text citation consists of the last name of the author, the year of publication, and a page number if relevant.

Up to three authors are included in Harvard in-text citations. If there are four or more authors, the citation is shortened with et al.

Harvard in-text citation examples
1 author (Smith, 2014)
2 authors (Smith and Jones, 2014)
3 authors (Smith, Jones and Davies, 2014)
4+ authors (Smith et al., 2014)

Including page numbers in citations

When you quote directly from a source or paraphrase a specific passage, your in-text citation must include a page number to specify where the relevant passage is located.

Use ‘p.’ for a single page and ‘pp.’ for a page range:

  • Meanwhile, another commentator asserts that the economy is ‘on the downturn’ (Singh, 2015, p. 13).
  • Wilson (2015, pp. 12–14) makes an argument for the efficacy of the technique.

If you are summarising the general argument of a source or paraphrasing ideas that recur throughout the text, no page number is needed.

Where to place Harvard in-text citations

When incorporating citations into your text, you can either name the author directly in the text or only include the author’s name in brackets.

Naming the author in the text

When you name the author in the sentence itself, the year and (if relevant) page number are typically given in brackets straight after the name:

Jones et al. (2016, p. 155) argue that the results of this method are ‘frequently unreliable’.

Naming the author directly in your sentence is the best approach when you want to critique or comment on the source.

Naming the author in brackets

When you  you haven’t mentioned the author’s name in your sentence, include it inside the brackets. The citation is generally placed after the relevant quote or paraphrase, or at the end of the sentence, before the full stop:

The results of this method have been described as ‘frequently unreliable’ (Jones et al., 2016, p. 155).

Multiple citations can be included in one place, listed in order of publication year and separated by semicolons:

Several other researchers have corroborated this claim (Smith, 2015; Wong, 2015; Patel, 2016).

This type of citation is useful when you want to support a claim or summarise the overall findings of sources.

Common mistakes with in-text citations

In-text citations in brackets should not appear as the subject of your sentences. Anything that’s essential to the meaning of a sentence should be written outside the brackets:

  • (Smith, 2019) argues that…
  • Smith (2019) argues that…

Similarly, don’t repeat the author’s name in the bracketed citation and in the sentence itself:

  • As Caulfield (Caulfield, 2020) writes…
  • As Caulfield (2020) writes…

Citing sources with missing information

Sometimes you won’t have access to all the source information you need for an in-text citation. Here’s what to do if you’re missing the publication date, author’s name, or page numbers for a source.

No date

If a source doesn’t list a clear publication date, as is sometimes the case with online sources or historical documents, replace the date with the words ‘no date’:

(Smith, no date)

No author

When it’s not clear who the author of a source is, you’ll sometimes be able to substitute a corporate author – the group or organisation responsible for the publication:

(Scribbr, 2019)

When there’s no corporate author to cite, you can use the title of the source in place of the author’s name:

(Lecture on republicanism, 1795)

No page numbers

If you quote from a source without page numbers, such as a website, you can just omit this information if it’s a short text – it should be easy enough to find the quote without it.

If you quote from a longer source without page numbers, it’s best to find an alternate location marker, such as a paragraph number or subheading, and include that:

(Google, 2019, para. 14)
(Scribbr, 2020, under ‘Creating a Harvard reference list’)

Frequently asked questions about Harvard in-text citations

When do I need to use a Harvard in-text citation?

A Harvard in-text citation should appear in brackets every time you quote, paraphrase, or refer to information from a source.

The citation can appear immediately after the quotation or paraphrase, or at the end of the sentence. If you’re quoting, place the citation outside of the quotation marks but before any other punctuation like a comma or full stop.

How do I cite a source with multiple authors in Harvard style?

In Harvard referencing, up to three author names are included in an in-text citation or reference list entry. When there are four or more authors, include only the first, followed by ‘et al.

In-text citation Reference list
1 author (Smith, 2014) Smith, T. (2014) …
2 authors (Smith and Jones, 2014) Smith, T. and Jones, F. (2014) …
3 authors (Smith, Jones and Davies, 2014) Smith, T., Jones, F. and Davies, S. (2014) …
4+ authors (Smith et al., 2014) Smith, T. et al. (2014) …

 

When should I include page numbers in a Harvard in-text citation?

In Harvard style, when you quote directly from a source that includes page numbers, your in-text citation must include a page number. For example: (Smith, 2014, p. 33).

You can also include page numbers to point the reader towards a passage that you paraphrased. If you refer to the general ideas or findings of the source as a whole, you don’t need to include a page number.

How do I cite a source I’ve only seen quoted in another source?

When you want to use a quote but can’t access the original source, you can cite it indirectly. In the in-text citation, first mention the source you want to refer to, and then the source in which you found it. For example:

Smith (1995, cited in Davies, 2005) divides the process into four steps…

It’s advisable to avoid indirect citations wherever possible, because they suggest you don’t have full knowledge of the sources you’re citing. Only use an indirect citation if you can’t reasonably gain access to the original source.

How do I cite multiple sources by the same author published in the same year?

In Harvard style referencing, to distinguish between two sources by the same author that were published in the same year, you add a different letter after the year for each source:

  • (Smith, 2019a)
  • (Smith, 2019b)

Add ‘a’ to the first one you cite, ‘b’ to the second, and so on. Do the same in your bibliography or reference list.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

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