Harvard Referencing and Citing Guide

Is Harvard Citation a Myth?

Contrary to popular belief, Harvard citation style is not actually that common at Harvard University. According to Harvard University, the Harvard citation style is “something of a misnomer,” because it has no official connection with the esteemed institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This article published in the British Medical Journal offers a more detailed history of the Harvard citation style of referencing material.

What About Harvard Bluebook?

Harvard Bluebook is different from Harvard style or Harvard citation rules. Whereas Harvard citation rules are relevant to multiple fields of scholastic inquiry, the Harvard Bluebook refers specifically to The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. The Harvard Bluebook, commonly called just “The Bluebook,” is a citation style used only for legal citations: such as when referring to case law, statutes, or legislation.

The Harvard Bluebook is jointly produced by several of America’s top law schools including the Columbia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, and of course, the Harvard Law Review.

Harvard Citation vs. Harvard Bluebook

If you are a legal student pursuing a J.D. or similar degree, you do need to familiarize yourself with Harvard Bluebook.

All other students can ignore the tenets and principles of Harvard Bluebook, instead focusing on Harvard citation, which applies to most other fields of study.

Why Harvard Citation is Important

It is true that scholars at Harvard University during the 19th century started to standardize their method of citing research material, developing what would become later known as the Harvard citation system. However, the Harvard citation style is currently used more in British Commonwealth countries such as the UK and Australia. At Harvard University in the USA, you are more likely to be asked to use MLA and APA. If you are a student in the UK or Australia or are attending a British university, you will, however, need to learn the Harvard citation style for formatting your references.

Even in the United States, some professors may prefer that you use Harvard citation style. The Harvard citation became the underpinning of almost all other citation styles used today in academia including MLA [SK1]  and APA [SK2] .

Harvard citation style is important to learn – showing that you have carried out relevant research and giving credit to others for their ideas and words.  Referencing or citing your sources is an important part of academic writing.   Harvard is a classic citation style that can be used when no citation style has been specified.

Harvard Referencing

Harvard citation uses the ‘author-date’ approach for in-text citations (LikeThis 2009).  If you are quoting directly, you will also include a page number, (LikeThis, 2009, p. 1). All references listed in the References list will emphasize the author, publication and year of a work.   We will talk about how to do that in detail later in this article.

By focusing on the most important elements of any reference, including author, date, and place of publication, the Harvard citation style is simple and straightforward. Using the Harvard citation style can make your work easier, reducing the amount of time you spent agonizing over what method of referencing to use.

Preventing Plagiarism with Harvard Citations

One of the benefits and functions of all academic citation styles is that it helps researchers and scholars avoid plagiarism. You cannot be accused of plagiarism when you cite your sources properly. Using Harvard citations means that you give credit where credit was due. You can quote from any source you like, as long as you indicate where the quote came from. Likewise, you can paraphrase or summarize someone else’s work, as long as you give the other person credit.

When you prepare an essay, term paper, or dissertation, you will frequently be integrating other people’s ideas with your own. Being aware of where your thoughts end and another person’s begin is not that hard. When in doubt, cite it! Someone else’s opinion, someone’s unique research, or someone’s research results all examples of when you would include a Harvard citation. Just because you cite something does not mean that you do not have original ideas. It is up to you to synthesize what you have read about and researched to prepare your own work.

How This Article Will Help You

This article will help you understand why Harvard citation is important. It will also help you to understand Harvard citation rules, and when to apply them. This guide will also give you detailed examples of how to cite your references in the References page and within the body of your paper.

Also, this guide to Harvard citations will be divided into different sections that will show you how to prepare Harvard style in-text citations, as well as Harvard style References page. As with APA formatting, the Harvard style references page is entitled “References,” and appears at the end of your document. In-text references use parenthetical (Author Date) format, but without the comma that is present in APA formatting (LikeThis 2017).

Harvard Style References Page

This section provides an overview of how to format references for your Harvard style References page. You will learn how to format references in Harvard style for different types of publications, including printed and digital materials.

Harvard Citations are Alphabetical

Always arrange your Harvard style References page in alphabetical order, by author’s last name.

Works that have no author will be alphabetized according to the first main word of the title.

More than one work by the same author will be listed chronologically as well as alphabetically, with the earliest work first:

Oates, J.C. 2012, Nonsense talk. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.

Oates, J.C. 2013. How to read books. The Journal of Literacy. 35(5), 43-49.

Same Author, Same Date

What if you are referring to three articles written by the same person? You use the letters a,b,c to differentiate between them:

Oates, J.C. 2013a, Nonsense talk. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.

Oates, J.C. 2013b. How to read books. The Journal of Literacy. 35(5), 43-49.

Harvard Citations: Which References to Include?

When using Harvard style citations, keep in mind the importance of synchronizing the references you cite in the body of your paper with the References list.

  • Your Harvard style References page should include all the sources cited in the body of your paper.
  • Your Harvard style References page should include only sources cited in the body of your paper. If you did not include an in-text citation, do not list that source in the References page.

Harvard Citation Style: Are There Inconsistencies?

Unlike MLA or APA style formatting, which are tied to their formal organizations (Modern Language Association and American Psychological Association, respectively), the Harvard style is often interpreted differently depending on the university. Remember, this is not true for Harvard Bluebook, which is a more formal citation style used in law school only.

Depending on the preferences of your university or professor, the precise formatting details of a Harvard style reference may vary, such as where to put commas, periods, or parentheses. In fact, the most common discrepancy is whether to use parentheses for the date of publication.


The Imperial College of London, for example, recommends the use of parentheses in the References list for all publications, as follows:

Example of using parentheses with the publication date in a Harvard citation:

Khyber, P. K. & Maunder, S. K. (2003) Proprietary owners and profitability: Property rights, control, and the performance of firms. Journal of Law & Economics, 42 (1), 209-238.

On the other hand, the University of Leeds recommends not using parentheses when listing the date of publication:

Example of not using parentheses with the publication date in a Harvard citation:

Khyber, P. K. & Maunder, S. K. 2003. Proprietary owners and profitability: Property rights, control, and the performance of firms. Journal of Law & Economics, 42 (1), 209-238.

If you are unsure of whether or not to use parentheses for the date in your Harvard style citation, check with your instructor.

This guide will alternate using both parentheses and no parentheses for the dates.

To Capitalize or Not?

One of the things you may notice about the Harvard citation style is that you only capitalize the first word of the article or book. Thus, you would not write War and Peace, but rather War and peace. This is one of the unique features of the Harvard citation style. Most other citation styles like APA and MLA capitalize each letter of the title of a book, but not so with Harvard style.

How to Cite


You will frequently be citing material that appears in printed magazines, periodicals, or peer-reviewed journals. The general Harvard citation style for printed material that appears in any periodical is as follows:

General Format for Printed Journals: Author. (Year of publication) Title of journal article. Title of journal (this should be in italics), Volume number (Issue number), Page numbers of the article.

Hint: In Harvard style citations, we do not use the abbreviation ‘p’ before the page numbers. See the examples below.


Khyber, P. K. & Maunder, S. K. (2003) Proprietary owners and profitability: Property rights, control, and the performance of firms. Journal of Law & Economics, 42 (1), 209-238.

Online Journals:

Most academic journals are available in a digital format, usually acquired through an academic database. When you cite peer-reviewed journals in Harvard style, the method is similar to that used for a printed academic journal.

Hint: If an electronic journal article has a doi (digital object identifier), you can use this instead of the URL.


Aramid, M. & Garner, H. (2012) A tale of two citations. Nature. [Online] 451 (71), 397-399. Available from: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7177/full/451397a.html   [Accessed 20th July 2013].



Susiana, F., Maiden, G., Morley, J. & Taser, R. (2007) The evolution of new media. Part 1: Experimental investigation. Applied Communications. [Online] 27 (17-18), 2893-2901. Available from: doi:10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2005.06.011 [Accessed 15th July 2012].


Reports are often put out by organizations or governments. Occasionally those reports are authored, but sometimes they are not. When an individual author is not mentioned, it is appropriate to credit the organization with the reference.

Example of an Authored Report:

Gilbert, S. (2012) Whales, dolphins, and porpoises of the western North Atlantic. U.S. Dept. of Commerce. Report number: 43.

Example of an Un-Authored Report.

United States Department of Commerce (2012) Whales, dolphins, and porpoises of the western North Atlantic. Report number: 43

Books, Printed Materials

General Format:  Printed books are relatively easy to cite using a Harvard citation. You will list the author’s Last Name, First Name, followed by the date, and then the title of the book in italics. Remember, only the first word of the title of the book is capitalized!

After the title of the book, you will list the place of publication, which can be found towards the beginning of the book, and the name of the publishing house.

If your book has an editor instead of an author, that fact will be clearly indicated on the book jacket. For example, the book will say “Edited by Jim Polansky,” or “By Jim Polansky, Ed.” Likewise, when referencing a book with an editor using a Harvard citation, you will simply write the abbreviation “ed.” after the name. The following examples will help you.



Oakes, J. (2016). How to write a book. London: Best Publishing House Ever.



Oakes, J. (ed) 2016. How to write a book. London: Best Publishing House Ever.


Hint: List authors in the order in which they appear on the source, as they are displayed on the book cover or title page.


Schneider, Z., Whitehead, D. & Elliott, D. 2012, Midwifery research: methods and appraisal for evidence-based practice, 3rd edn, Elsevier Australia Mauriceville, NSW.

McGregor, N. E., Menes, B. & Reynolds, M. (2011) A Short Course in Wetland Delineation and Engineering. London, Thomas Telford Publishing.

Book in electronic format (e-book):

Electronic or digital books are becoming increasingly commonplace, requiring you to cite them properly using Harvard format. The method of citation is similar to printed material, with the inclusion of the digital location of the text and the date of access.


Tylor, N. E., Menes, B. & Matthews, M. (2009) A short course in wetland delineation and engineering. [Online] London, Thomas Telford Publishing. Available from: http://www.myilibrary.com?ID=93941  [Accessed 18th June 2013].

Chapter in an edited book:

Some books are compiled of essays or short stories written by different authors. When citing a chapter in a book like this, list the actual author of the essay or chapter in the References page. You will mention the name of the text and its editor later in the citation, as well as the page range in which it appears, as follows:


Partridge, H. & Halim, G. (2013). Evidence-based practice and information literacy. In: Lippi, S., Williamson, K. & Lloyd, A. (eds.) Exploring methods in information literacy research. Sydney, Australia, Centre for Information Studies, pp. 149-170.

Book without Author (includes encyclopedias and dictionary).

Scholarly writing usually does not include references to dictionaries or encyclopedias, but occasionally you might need to refer to them in your paper. When you do, you will find that many articles appearing in reference books do not have an author.

According to the rules of Harvard citation styles, when referencing from a dictionary or an encyclopedia with no author there is no requirement to include the source in the reference list. You may only want cite the title and year of the source in the text, an exception to the general rule of thumb that all in-text references must have a corresponding entry in the list of References.

However, some encyclopedias do have authored article entries. For an authored dictionary/encyclopedia, treat the source as a chapter in an edited book.


Guide to wind energy and meteorological phenomenon 2009, 2nd edn, Secretariat of the World Meteorological Organization, Geneva.

Harvard Citation for Website and other Digital Materials

Although some web-based materials may not be considered credible sources, you may need to cite and refer to online articles, websites, or multimedia for your research. Depending on the source or type of media, you can rely on the following Harvard citation guide:

Web page/website:

It is important to differentiate between articles on Web pages, and material that is on a more general website or web page. When you are citing an organization or company’s main page, you would use the following citation.


European Space Agency. (2011) ESA: Missions, Earth Observation: ENVISAT. [Online] Available from: http://envisat.esa.int  [Accessed 13th July 2013].

Email: (personal):

Personal emails should always be referenced as personal communication, unless you have permission from the sender and receiver to include their details in your reference list.


McMullen, J.T. (2012) Email sent to Tabatha Lowry, 8th June.

Online Newspaper Article:

Wentworth, WC 1999, Possibility of Time Travel, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 January, p. 11, viewed 30 April 2013, Sydney Morning Herald Archives database.


Wagner, G. (2013) Structural and functional studies of protein pairs in gene expression. [Lecture] Imperial College London, 12th April.

Harvard In-Text Citations

Basics for In-Text Harvard Citations

Harvard in-text citations follow the (Author Date) format.

Whenever you are quoting from or paraphrasing one of your sources, uou will include the author and the date of publication in parentheses.

You can use the in-text citation anywhere in your sentence.

When you do not quote directly from the source, you do not need a page number. When you do quote directly, include the page number. Some examples of proper Harvard in-text citations follow.

When you omit the author's name in your sentence:

Sometimes you will write an entire sentence, and need to cite the source at the end.

Example with a paraphrase:

It is necessary to use empirical evidence to support an argument (Andreessen 2001).

Example with a quote:

It is “necessary to use empirical evidence to support an argument,” (Andreessen 2001, p. 1).

When you include the author's name in your sentence:

Sometimes you will integrate the name of the author(s) into the sentence, to create a nice flow to your writing.

Example with a paraphrase:

Andreessen (2001) notes that it is important to use empirical evidence to inform public policy.

Example with a quote:

Andreesen (2001) points out, “It is important to use empirical evidence to inform public policy,” (p. 1).

Occasionally, you may need to indicate the page number in the middle of the sentence for clarity:

Researchers like Andreesen (2001, p. 3) used the term “terrible” to describe the situation, whereas Johnson (2003, p. 9) simply indicated that there were “challenges.”

Two or three authors:

The rules for Harvard in-text citations do not vary when there are two or three authors. Each author’s last name is listed, separated by commas and/or an ampersand (&) symbol.

Example with two authors:

Smog is caused by a combination of factors, including pollution from automobiles (Schneider & Elliot 2013).

Example with two authors:

Schneider & Elliot (2013) found that smog is caused in part by automobiles.

Example with three authors:

Smog is caused by a combination of factors, including pollution from automobiles (Schneider, Whitehead, & Elliot, 2013).

Example with three authors:

Schneider, Whitehead, & Elliot (2013) found that smog is caused in part by automobiles.

More than three authors:

Works by more than three authors will require the use of the Latin abbreviation et al., which means “and others.”


This is what they were used to (Belen et al. 2006).

No Author:

Occasionally you will cite material that does not have any author credits. In these cases, simply use the title, or an abbreviated version thereof.


Experts agree that there are many ways to approach green energy (Guide to Wind Energy 2009).


Harvard citations and Harvard style is a common method of formatting in the UK, Australia, and British Commonwealth countries. Occasionally it is used in the United States, too.

Not to be confused with Harvard Bluebook, Harvard style is a straightforward and flexible notation style that does have some variations in formatting and punctuation. Therefore, it is always best to check with your professor or school’s writing guidelines before formatting your document.

Using Harvard citation style means avoiding plagiarism and creating papers that are easy to read and reference.

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