Harvard Referencing Style Guide

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What is referencing?

Whenever you write, the writings of others will influence your work. Although it is difficult to gauge all the influences, many of your ideas can be traced back to the resources and materials that you have consulted. These might be books, images, articles, reports, or, of course, the internet. These sources help enrich your writing by giving you ideas to build on. It is important always to give credit to the original thinkers and authors.

Referencing is the method that gives credit to the sources you have used in your work. You should provide references whenever you use a direct quote, paraphrase someone else’s idea, or borrow conceptual words and phrases.

Referencing not only allows credit to be given where credit is due, but it also helps track the various influences on any original piece of writing. If you do not cite the sources of the ideas that you have used in your work, you run the risk of plagiarism. Plagiarism is not only unethical but is also an actual crime in some of its forms. But how do you reference?

Elements of Harvard referencing style

Harvard referencing is a popular method of adding citations to your work. Its appeal lies in the simplicity of the basic system it uses – the author-date structure. Along with this, in Harvard style, you only need to mention the source in two locations: in the in-text reference(s) and in the reference list. Both elements together incorporate all the necessary details about a source in the most efficient way.

So, while reading something, when you come across a citation that looks something like this:

Furley (1999) or (Furley, 1999)

it is an in-text reference that follows the author-date system.

This is an entry in the reference list for the same in-text reference.

Furley, D. (1999) Routledge history of philosophy volume II: from Aristotle to Augustine. 1st edn. London: Routledge.

These Harvard referencing examples provide details about the citation formats for different types of sources.

In-text reference/citation

As is obvious from the name, Harvard in-text citations are references included within the text, that is, inside the sentences that make up its content. These can either be direct statements or quotes, or a paraphrasing of the original work. This type of reference helps in precisely pointing out which portions of the text are borrowed from or influenced by which particular source.


In his work, Furley (1999) wrote about…
…from Aristotle’s works (Furley, 1999).

As you can see, in-text references provide the author’s surname and the year of publication. The year is provided because sometimes two or more works by the same author are referenced. In this case, the year helps in distinguishing between these works. Note that if you are citing a direct quotation, the in-text citation should also include the page number of that quote, for example (Furley, 1999, p. 2).

However, in-text citations don’t provide other important details about these resources. Rather, they are short enough that you don’t get interrupted while reading the text. Other details are presented in the reference list that you include at the end of your paper.

Reference list

A reference list presents the details of all the resources cited throughout the text in the form of a list at the end of your paper. It includes detailed entries about each of the referenced sources.

Citation structure:

Surname, Initial. (Publication year) Name of the document. Place of publication: Publisher.

Every in-text citation corresponds to an entry in the reference list. So, the reference list entry for the in-text citations discussed above would be:

Furley, D. (1999) Routledge history of philosophy volume II: from Aristotle to Augustine. 1st edn. London: Routledge.

Einstein, M. (2004) Media diversity: economics, ownership, and the FCC. New Jersey: Routledge.

This entry can also include other details like page numbers, editor’s name, edition, URL, access date, etc., depending upon the type of resource. A reference list allows you to provide all the necessary information without crowding your paper. With this list, you can keep track of how many materials you have consulted and even see if you need to include any more or any other kind of references in your text.

The difference between a bibliography and the Harvard referencing system

Typically, you’ll refer to multiple sources and materials for writing a text, and just using a bibliography can be confusing. You can use the Harvard referencing system to point out the exact location of all your references.

By marking the in-text reference, you can easily locate which idea or quote corresponds to which author. This makes your work easy to read and understand. This way, you and your reader can easily trace the specific portions of the work back to the original texts.

You can also show how much of your text uses source material (whether directly or indirectly) and how much of it is your own ideas and thoughts.

Format for Harvard Referencing

Typically, a paper that uses Harvard referencing has the following format:

  • 2.5 cm OR 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Recommended fonts: Arial 12 pt or Times New Roman, with double-spacing
  • Title is in the center of the page just above the text
  • Left-aligned text, with the first sentence of every paragraph indented by 0.5 inch
  • Last name is at the top-right corner of the header, followed by page number
  • Title page is centre-aligned
  • Subheadings are in sentence case and left-aligned

Key takeaways

  • Referencing is a way of crediting the various resources consulted while writing a text. Harvard referencing is a system that allows you to include information about the source materials. It is based on the author-date system.
  • It includes references: 1) as in-text citations and 2) in a reference list (which is different from a bibliography).
  • In-text citations: (Author Surname, Year Published).
  • Reference list entry: Author Surname, Initial. (Year Published) Title. Place of Publication: Name of Publisher.

For more help creating citations in Harvard style, try the EasyBib Harvard referencing generator!

Published October 25, 2020.

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