A quick guide to Harvard referencing

Referencing is an important part of academic writing. It tells your readers what sources you’ve used and how to find them.

Harvard is the most common referencing style used in UK universities. In Harvard style, the author and year are cited in-text, and full details of the source are given in a reference list.

In-text citation Referencing is an essential academic skill (Pears and Shields, 2019).
Reference list entry Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019) Cite them right: The essential referencing guide. 11th edn. London: MacMillan.

This quick guide presents the most common rules for referencing in Harvard style.

Some universities publish their own guidelines for Harvard referencing – always check if there are specific rules you’re expected to follow.

Harvard in-text citation

A Harvard in-text citation appears in brackets beside any quotation or paraphrase of a source. It gives the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication, as well as a page number or range locating the passage referenced, if applicable:

The novel begins with the grim image of the train passengers’ faces, which are described as ‘pale yellow, the colour of the fog’ (Dostoyevsky, 2004, p. 5).

Note that ‘p.’ is used for a single page, ‘pp.’ for multiple pages (e.g. ‘pp. 1–5’).

An in-text citation usually appears immediately after the quotation or paraphrase in question. It may also appear at the end of the relevant sentence, as long as it’s clear what it refers to.

When your sentence already mentions the name of the author, it should not be repeated in the citation:

Woolf introduces the essay’s topic as ‘women and fiction’ (2000, p. 5), going on to discuss the various connotations of the phrase.

Sources with multiple authors

When you cite a source with up to three authors, cite all authors’ names. For four or more authors, list only the first name, followed by ‘et al.’:

Number of authors In-text citation example
1 author (Davis, 2019)
2 authors (Davis and Barrett, 2019)
3 authors (Davis, Barrett and McLachlan, 2019)
4+ authors (Davis et al., 2019)

Sources with no page numbers

Some sources, such as websites, often don’t have page numbers. If the source is a short text, you can simply leave out the page number. With longer sources, you can use an alternate locator such as a subheading or paragraph number if you need to specify where to find the quote:

(Scribbr, para. 4)

Multiple citations at the same point

When you need multiple citations to appear at the same point in your text – for example, when you refer to several sources with one phrase – you can present them in the same set of brackets, separated by semicolons. List them in order of publication date:

Several in-depth studies have investigated this phenomenon during the last decade (Singh, 2011; Davidson, 2015; Harding, 2018).

Multiple sources with the same author and date

If you cite multiple sources by the same author which were published in the same year, it’s important to distinguish between them in your citations. To do this, insert an ‘a’ after the year in the first one you reference, a ‘b’ in the second, and so on:

The results of the first study (Woodhouse, 2018a) were inconclusive, but a follow up study (Woodhouse, 2018b) achieved a clearer outcome.

Creating a Harvard reference list

A bibliography or reference list appears at the end of your text. It lists all your sources in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, giving complete information so that the reader can look them up if necessary.

The reference entry starts with the author’s last name followed by initial(s). Only the first word of the title is capitalised (as well as any proper nouns).

Harvard reference list example
Harvard reference list example

Sources with multiple authors in the reference list

As with in-text citations, up to three authors should be listed; when there are four or more, list only the first author followed by ‘et al.’:

Number of authors Reference example
1 author Davis, V. (2019) …
2 authors Davis, V. and Barrett, M. (2019) …
3 authors Davis, V., Barrett, M. and McLachlan, F. (2019) …
4+ authors Davis, V. et al. (2019) …

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Harvard referencing examples

Reference list entries vary according to source type, since different information is relevant for different sources. Formats and examples for the most commonly used source types are given below.


Format Author surname, initial. (Year) Book title. City: Publisher.
Example Smith, Z. (2017) Swing time. London: Penguin.
  • The city mentioned is the location of the publisher’s headquarters.
Format Author surname, initial. (Year) ‘Chapter title’, in Editor name (ed(s).) Book title. City: Publisher, page range.
Example Greenblatt, S. (2010) ‘The traces of Shakespeare’s life’, in De Grazia, M. and Wells, S. (eds.) The new Cambridge companion to Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–14.
  • The first name listed is the author of the individual chapter you’re referencing.
  • The editor of the book appears later in the reference, followed by ‘ed.’ (or ‘eds.’ if there are two or more).
  • The page range at the end shows the chapter’s location in the book.
Format Author surname, initial. (Year) Book title. Translated from the [language] by Translator name. City: Publisher.
Example Tokarczuk, O. (2019) Drive your plow over the bones of the dead. Translated from the Polish by A. Lloyd-Jones. London: Fitzcarraldo.
  • The translator’s name, unlike other names, is not inverted: the initial comes first.
Format Author surname, initial. (Year) Book title. Edition. City: Publisher.
Example Danielson, D. (ed.) (1999) The Cambridge companion to Milton. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • The edition appears only when it’s a second or later edition.
  • ‘Edition’ is always abbreviated to ‘edn’.
  • Note that this example is an edited collection of essays from different authors, and thus the editor is listed as the main author.

Journal articles

Format Author surname, initial. (Year) ‘Article title’, Journal Name, Volume(Issue), pp. page range.
Example Thagard, P. (1990) ‘Philosophy and machine learning’, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 20(2), pp. 261–276.
  • This format is also used for journal articles which you accessed online but which are available in print too.
  • There is no space between the volume and issue number (in brackets).
  • The page range shows where the article is located in the journal.
  • Unlike other titles, the name of a journal uses headline capitalisation; capitalise every important word.
Format Author surname, initial. (Year) ‘Article title’, Journal Name, Volume(Issue), page range. DOI.
Example Adamson, P. (2019) ‘American history at the foreign office: Exporting the silent epic Western’, Film History, 31(2), pp. 32–59. doi:10.2979/filmhistory.31.2.02.
  • When an article you accessed online has no print equivalent, include the DOI if available.
  • The DOI is preceded by ‘doi:’ – no capitalisation, no space.
Format Author surname, initial. (Year) ‘Article title’, Journal Name, Volume(Issue), page range. Available at: URL (Accessed: Day Month Year).
Example Theroux, A. (1990) ‘Henry James’s Boston’, The Iowa Review, 20(2), pp. 158–165. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20153016 (Accessed: 13 February 2020).
  • When an article you accessed online has no print equivalent and no DOI, include a URL and an access date.
  • Use the stable URL provided by the database if there is one.


Format Author surname, initial. (Year) Page title. Available at: URL (Accessed: Day Month Year).
Example Google (2019) Google terms of service. Available at: https://policies.google.com/terms?hl=en-US (Accessed: 27 January 2020).
  • Reference list entries for pages without a clearly identified author can begin with the name of the relevant site or organisation instead.
Format Author surname, initial. (Year) ‘Article title’, Blog name, Date. Available at: URL (Accessed: Day Month Year).
Example Leafstedt, E. (2020) ‘Russia’s constitutional reform and Putin’s plans for a legacy of stability’, OxPol, 29 January. Available at: https://blog.politics.ox.ac.uk/russias-constitutional-reform-and-putins-plans-for-a-legacy-of-stability/ (Accessed: 13 February 2020).
  • Here you include the year at the start as usual, but also the exact day of publication later in the reference.
Format Author surname, initial. [username] (Year) Title or text [Website name] Date. Available at: URL (Accessed: Day Month Year).
Example Dorsey, J. [@jack] (2018) We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation … [Twitter] 1 March. Available at: https://twitter.com/jack/status/969234275420655616 (Accessed: 13 February 2020).
  • Include the author’s username on the site in square brackets, if available.
  • If the post has a title, use it (in italics).
  • If the post is untitled, use the text of the post instead. Do not use italics. If the text is long, you can save space by replacing some of it with an ellipsis, as above.

Referencing sources with no author or date

Sometimes you won’t have all the information you need for a reference. This section covers what to do when a source lacks a publication date or named author.

No publication date

When a source doesn’t have a clear publication date – for example, a constantly updated reference source like Wikipedia or an obscure historical document which can’t be accurately dated – you can replace it with the words ‘no date’:

In-text citation (Scribbr, no date)
Reference list entry Scribbr (no date) How to structure a dissertation. Available at: https://www.scribbr.co.uk/category/thesis-dissertation/ (Accessed: 14 February 2020).

Note that when you do this with an online source, you should still include an access date, as in the example.

No author

When a source lacks a clearly identified author, there’s often an appropriate corporate source – the organisation responsible for the source – whom you can credit as author instead, as in the Google and Wikipedia examples above.

When that’s not the case, you can just replace it with the title of the source in both the in-text citation and the reference list:

In-text citation (‘Divest’, no date)
Reference list entry ‘Divest’ (no date) Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divest (Accessed: 27 January 2020).

Frequently asked questions about Harvard referencing

What’s the difference between Harvard and Vancouver referencing styles?

Harvard referencing uses an author–date system. Sources are cited by the author’s last name and the publication year in brackets. Each Harvard in-text citation corresponds to an entry in the alphabetised reference list at the end of the paper.

Vancouver referencing uses a numerical system. Sources are cited by a number in parentheses or superscript. Each number corresponds to a full reference at the end of the paper.

Harvard style Vancouver style
In-text citation Each referencing style has different rules (Pears and Shields, 2019). Each referencing style has different rules (1).
Reference list Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019). Cite them right: The essential referencing guide. 11th edn. London: MacMillan. 1. Pears R, Shields G. Cite them right: The essential referencing guide. 11th ed. London: MacMillan; 2019.
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) …


What’s the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?

Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference in meaning:

  • A reference list only includes sources cited in the text – every entry corresponds to an in-text citation.
  • A bibliography also includes other sources which were consulted during the research but not cited.
Is this article helpful?
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.


18 June 2021 at 01:22

How do you reference web organisations? so for example UNICEF or Clapa. As I cannot find an author. thanks. this page is very helpful by the way as I've always struggled with referencing


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
23 June 2021 at 17:08

Hi Vikki,

Glad you're finding the page helpful. When there's no individual author identified, you can use the name of the organisation as the author. This is done in a few of the examples here — for example, listing 'Google' or 'Scribbr' as the author. Just write the organisation name where the author would usually go. Hope that helps!


Esther Opisa
17 June 2021 at 11:19

Hello, when dealing with a journal article with four or more authors, how do i indicate in the reference list? Do i indicate the surname, Initial of the first author followed by et al OR do i write surname, initial for all the authors?


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
23 June 2021 at 17:10

Hi Esther,

With four or more authors, you should use 'et al.' in your in-text citations and in your reference list. So as you say, just the surname and initial of the first author, followed by 'et al.' Hope that helps!


Hajaru Baba Dua
4 April 2021 at 01:38

When referencing using Havard, can I choose to omit the brackets the year is in? Let's say (2018) - 2018


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
6 April 2021 at 16:28

Hi Hajaru,

I'm not totally sure what you mean. The brackets around the year are mandatory in both in-text citations and reference entries in Harvard style, as shown in the examples here; you can't omit them. If that's not what you meant, let me know :)


Rida Azam
10 April 2021 at 06:57

Can you please also mention the full formatting in Harvard format except just citations, the formatting of the whole document?


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
16 April 2021 at 16:27

Hi Rida,

Harvard is just the name for a generic style of referencing; it doesn't cover other formatting issues, just how to cite your sources. It's best to check with your instructor or institution whether there are any specific formatting guidelines you need to follow other than those related to referencing.


Joanne Lowe
20 March 2021 at 19:30

If I am quoting extensively from the same text, eg. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, do I need to say (Dickens, 2020 p.x) each time I include a quote? I have a very limited word count available and really need to use the words for important points.
Thank you.


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
22 March 2021 at 13:25

Hi Joanne,

When it's clear what source you're citing from the context, you can always just include page numbers. For example, if you cite the same Dickens novel several times in the same paragraph, you could include the full citation the first time and then just page numbers for subsequent quotations.

If you cite another source in between though, or go a long stretch of text without citing Dickens and then do so again, do include the full citation again to clarify what you're citing. Basically, use your own judgement to see when you can cut down your citations without the possibility of confusion.

Hope that helps!


Nicholas Searle-Donoso
18 March 2021 at 14:00

Hi, I was just wondering how the Havard style works in terms of footnotes in addition to in-text citations?


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
22 March 2021 at 13:30

Hi Nicholas,

Harvard citations don't use footnotes, but you can always use a footnote where relevant to provide additional information that doesn't fit into the main text. It's best not to do this too much, as it can break up the flow of your text, but there's nothing wrong with using footnotes when relevant.

Hope that helps!


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