A quick guide to Harvard referencing
Referencing is an important part of academic writing. It’s how you let your readers know what sources you’re using, and how to find them.
Whenever you use information from another source in your text, it’s important to properly reference it, and the Harvard referencing style is one popular way of doing so.
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||Macmillan provides a clear guide to referencing (Pears and Shields, 2019).|
|Reference list entry||Pears, R. and Shields, G. (2019) Cite them right: The essential referencing guide. 11th ed. London: MacMillan.|
This quick guide presents the most common rules for referencing in Harvard style.
Harvard in-text citation
In Harvard referencing, an 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Creating a Harvard reference list
The reference list, sometimes called a bibliography, 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).
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) …|
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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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).|
|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).|
|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).|
|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).|
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’, Scribbr Knowledge Base. 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.
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). In: Merriam-Webster. [online] Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Inc. Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/divest [Accessed 27 Jan. 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 parentheses. Each 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 ed. 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?
An 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.