How to reference a PDF in Harvard referencing style

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This guide covers how to reference PDFs in Harvard style. PDF stands for ‘portable document format’ and is one of the most reliable formats to export read-only documents and share with others or release publicly while retaining the layout of a page. 

You’ll often find PDFs on the internet. It is common for journal articles, reports, and other similar documents to be posted in PDF format. As a general rule, you’ll simply include the link to the PDF in your reference, which will take your reader directly to the PDF you are citing. The rest of your reference will follow the rules for the particular type of source you are citing.

How to cite a PDF in Harvard referencing style 

General citation structure 

The in-text citations remain the same for most PDFs, as the in-text reference generally uses the author name (or company name) and year of publication. 

In-text citation template:

(Author Surname, Publication Year)


(Mukherjee, 2015)

Reference list template:

Author Surname, Initial(s)./Company Name (Publication year) Title.  Available at: URL (Accessed: Date).


Kelly Services (2020) 2019 annual report. Available at: (Accessed: 13 October 2020).

PDF with multiple authors

You’ll often find journal articles published in PDF format. You should point the reader to where you found your source, even if it is not on the official journal page. For a PDF with two or three authors, follow the standard Harvard style. The following example shows you how to cite a journal article with a direct link to a PDF. Alternatively, you could replace the PDF link with the DOI. It is important to use a reference structure that matches the type of source you are citing (here, a journal article).

In-text citation template:

(Author 1 Surname and Author 2 Surname, Publication year)


(Langhans and Romps, 2015)

Reference list: 

Author 1 Surname, Author 1 Initial(s). and Author 2 Surname, Author 2 Initial(s). (Publication year) ‘Title of article’, Journal Title, Issue information, pp. XX-XX. Available at: URL (Accessed: Date).


Langhans, W. and Romps, D.M. (2015) ‘The origin of water vapor rings in tropical oceanic cold pools’, Geophysical Research Letters, 42, pp. 7825-7834. Available at: (Accessed: 8 December 2016).

Referencing a PDF with four or more authors

If your source has four or more authors, you’ll use the first author’s surname followed by et al. in your in-text citation. Your reference list can also use et al. or, if your institution requires it, a listing of each author in the full reference.

In-text citation structure:

(Author 1 Surname et al., Year of publication)


(Thacker et al., 2003)

Reference list example:

Thacker, S.B. et al. (2003) ‘The Impact of Stretching on Sports Injury Risk: A Systematic Review of the Literature’, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(3), pp. 371-378. Available at: (Accessed: 5 February 2006).


Published October 29, 2020.

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