Harvard Format Citation and Referencing: Ultimate Guide

Harvard Format Citation and Referencing: Ultimate Guide

When it comes to the academic environment and writing different papers, you cannot do without citation and referencing. Otherwise, they can blame you for plagiarism and spoil your reputation or even expel you from college. Everything is more than serious here, so you shouldn't turn a blind eye to all these aspects. Besides, you should bear in mind that the list of referencing styles is not limited to APA, MLA, or Chicago. Thus, it is worth going deep down this question and finding out more information about another citation format, Harvard, that may come in handy. 

Harvard Writing Style

The name of this citation format is quite misleading since many people associate it with a world-famous university. However, there is no official connection between the citation style and academic institution. In fact, it is another name for the author/date citation format when you mention the writer and date in parentheses, for example, (Black 1984) to refer readers to the complete citations specified in the bibliography. Thus, don't expect to see that Harvard Library adheres to this specific style of university essay writing only. 

Nonetheless, if your professor has asked you to adhere to Harvard style formatting, you should utilize two types of citations in your paper. The first one represents in-text references within the central body paragraphs. After that, you have to create a reference list to specify the various sources you referred to or quoted in the paper. Unfortunately, referencing often turns into a stumbling block for many students, so we'll discuss this moment later in detail. 

Why Do You Need Harvard Formatting?

To get to the core of the question, it is crucial to understand why you need something in general. In our case, it is crucial to know why you should resort to exactly this type of referencing in an essay. Basically, referencing helps you emphasize that you know how to do academic research and demonstrates that you have devoted enough time to reading and studying the theme discussed. Besides, it is a wonderful way to eliminate plagiarism and accurately utilize other researchers' insights. 

Harvard referencing is proactively applied to create a comprehensive list of sources you have utilized to write your paperwork. Thus, your readers can find some information about the author, publication date, source's title, and stuff. A Harvard style paper will have a range of requirements that you should necessarily follow. Pay attention to the next moments:

  • you should write a reference list on a separate sheet at the end of your paper;
  • you should specify the authors in alphabetical order;
  • if you don't know the author, you should organize the sources in alphabetical order according to the title;
  • you should double-space the reference list.

In-text Citation: Harvard Format Paper

When it comes to in-text citation, it means that all the references will be mentioned within the body paragraphs of your paper. It can be about paraphrasing or using direct quotations from the original work. This type of reference is shorter and contains less information about the source. In fact, you mention only the author's (or editor's) last name, year of publication, and page number. For instance, if you decide to utilize a quotation from the work of an author named Christopher Birken, you can specify that in the following ways:

  •  Birken (2007, p. 36) states…;
  • (Birken, 2007, p. 36).

If your quotation refers to a range of pages, then you should write, for example, (Birken, 2007, pp. 36-38).

Two or More Authors

If you utilize a source that two or three authors have created, you should mention their last names in alphabetical order. It can look the following way:

  • Birken, Drake, and Jackson (2007, p. 36) state…;
  • (Birken, Drake, and Jackson, 2007, p. 36).

If you use quotations from a source with four or more authors, you mention the last name of the first author only followed by 'et al.' marking. It can look the following way:

  • Birken et al. (2007, p. 36) state…;
  • (Birken et al., 2007, p. 36).

Multiple Works by the Same Author

You may decide to reference multiple works created by the same author and published in the same year. In this case, you should mark the works with a letter in alphabetical order after the year. Bear in mind that you will transfer this allocation into the reference list, specifying everything alphabetically according to the author's last name and source title. You can choose one of the options:

  • (Birken, 2007a, p. 36);
  • Birken (2007b, p. 36).

However, if it is about different editions of the same work, you should specify the author's last name only once, followed by the editions divided by semicolons:

  • Birken (2007; 2018) states…;
  • (Birken, 2007; 2018).


It means that you involve a part of someone's work in your paper in the same form (words) as in its original source. When it is about direct quotation, your citation should include the page number. In the case of a short quote whose size doesn't exceed two lines, you should place it within the body text and necessarily use quotation marks. 

If you utilize a quote that exceeds two lines, you should put a colon and indent it from the rest of the text, presenting it as a new paragraph. In this case, quotation marks become useless, so you should exclude them. 

When you are quoting someone's work and decide to omit some phrases from the original source, you should utilize dots […] to specify this moment. However, bear in mind that you can resort to it only in the middle of the sentence. 

Basic Harvard Format Outline

When you have no idea what aspects your paper should involve, it is better to write an outline first. It will serve as a beacon, showing you a way to the destination. Many students claim that it is useful for taking notes. Working on your outline, you can utilize phrases to specify some key moments. On the internet, you can find numerous Harvard outline examples that will present you the whole picture.

  1. Introduction 
    1. General intro 
    2. Thesis Statement
  2. Body paragraph 1 
    1. Claim
    2. Argument
    3. Importance 
  3. Body paragraph 2 
    1. Claim
    2. Argument
    3. Importance
  4. Body paragraph 3
    1. Claim
    2. Argument
      1. Argument 1 
        1. Sub-point of argument 1 
        2. Sub-point of argument 1 
      2. Argument 2
    3. Importance 
  5. Conclusion 
    1. Sum up points 1, 2, and 3. 
    2. State the importance of the thesis.

Harvard Style Guidelines: Tips on Citing

Every citation format has a wide range of peculiarities that help it stand out from the rest, and Harvard style is no exception. We'll consider the most useful tips on citing when you complete your assignment, adhering to this format:

  1. If a citation utilized doesn't have a page number, you should indicate the number of the paragraph if possible. 
  2. If you cannot specify the paragraph number, you can direct your audience to a specific part of the work used and then the paragraph number.
  3. If the name of the part is too long, you can mention the first few words of the part using quotation marks. 
  4. If you utilize the author's name as part of body text, you should mention the year in parentheses, for instance, According to Birken (2007).
  5. If you don't use the author's name in the body text, you should mention both the name and year in parentheses (Birken 2007).
  6. When you adhere to the Harvard referencing style, you shouldn't use the acronyms 'ibid' and 'idem.'
  7. If you utilize several citations of the same author and year of publication, you should separate them with the help of a lower-case letter following the year. For instance, it was proved that… (Birken 2007a). It was backed up by… (Birken 2007b).
  8. If you come across authors who have the same last names and whose works were published in the same year, you should utilize their initials to specify them. For example, it was proved that… (Birken, J. 2007). Nonetheless, it was argued that… (Birken, K. 2007).
  9. It may happen that you will have to cite a few pieces of work for an idea. In this case, you should utilize a semicolon to separate the references and cite them chronologically, e.g. (Birken 2007; Jonas 2011).
  10. If you cite the author representing themselves as a corporation, you should specify the corporation's name in full unless everyone knows their abbreviation. Thus, you should specify the company either as (Berkshire Hathaway 2018) or (UNICEF 2016)
  11. If you need to cite a work created by an anonymous author, you should utilize 'Anon' as a name (Anon 1762).
  12. If the publication year is not provided, but you can find it out, you should do it. However, if you don't know the exact date, and you cannot establish it, you should involve an approximate date followed by a question mark or mention 'ca.' before it. Thus, the possible options may look like the following: (Birken 2007?), (Birken ca. 2007), or (Birken 21st century).
  13. If you decide to involve an ancient text that doesn't provide you with the slightest clue on the approximate date, you can specify the author and 'no date.' For instance, (Karlsson no date).

Harvard Referencing in an Essay: Basics

Everyone who has something to do with the academic environment knows the importance of a reference list. If your paper doesn't contain it, you can hardly expect to get a high grade. Moreover, you can find yourself in big trouble, so one should treat this moment extremely seriously. A reference list represents a full list of all the sources utilized in paperwork. It involves more broad information about the sources, such as publication date, source title, and stuff. When you adhere to Harvard style, your reference list should necessarily include the following moments:

  • you should create a separate sheet and place it at the end of the document;
  • you should organize the reference list in alphabetical order by author, but if there is no one, you should do the same by the source title;
  • if you utilize multiple works created by the same author, you should organize the list by date. However, if the works were created in the same year, you should order the list alphabetically by the title and attribute a letter (a, b, c, etc.) after the year;
  • you should double-space the list;
  • you should provide full references for all in-text citations utilized;
  • you should eliminate secondary referencing wherever possible. 

How to Cite an Old-School Book and e-Book

When it comes to citing a book in the Harvard style, you should keep in mind that you should italicize the title. If it is not a proper name, you should capitalize only the first letter of the first word. You should know that edited books require a different approach. They represent a collection of chapters written by different authors. The reference style resembles the one you apply for book referencing. Still, instead of the author's name, you should specify the editor's name followed by 'eds.' to separate authors from editors.

It is not news that modern students prefer to resort to the internet when necessary to find some information. Thus, they often utilize online documents and electronic books while working on their papers. However, it doesn't mean that they should turn a blind eye to referencing the sources used. On the contrary, they should follow all the requirements connected with specifying this type of book. Thus, you should provide information about its collection, web address, and the date of publishing. Furthermore, when you cite an e-book, you should also indicate the author's last name, title, and publication year.

How to Cite a Journal and a Newspaper Article

If you decide to cite a journal, you should necessarily write the article's title within single quotation marks and the newspaper's title in italics. Bear in mind that it is important to capitalize the first letter of each word. Mention the volume and the demanded issue number after the paper's name.

When it comes to citing a newspaper article, you do almost the same, but instead of the volume and the page number, you specify the publication date and the journal's edition.