What is the Harvard Referencing System?

The Harvard style is a system that students, writers and researchers can use to incorporate other people’s quotes, findings and ideas into their work in order to support and validate their conclusions without breaching any intellectual property laws. The popular format is typically used in assignments and publications for humanities as well as natural, social and behavioural sciences.

It is a parenthetical referencing system that is made up of two main components:

  • In-text references including the author’s surname and the year of publication should be shown in brackets wherever another source has contributed to your work

  • A reference list outlining all of the sources directly cited in your work

Whilst in-text references are used to briefly indicate where you have directly quoted or paraphrased a source, your reference list is an alphabetised list of complete Harvard references that enables your reader to locate each source with ease. Each entry should be keyed to a corresponding parenthetical reference in the main body of your work, so that a reader can take an in-text citation and quickly retrieve the source from your reference list.

Note that some universities, and certain disciplines, may also require you to provide a bibliography. This is a detailed list of all of the material you have consulted throughout your research and preparation, and it will demonstrate the lengths you have gone to in researching your chosen topic.

‘Harvard referencing’ is an umbrella term for any referencing style that uses the author name and year of publication within the text to indicate where you have inserted a source. This author-date system appeals to both authors and readers of academic work. Scholars find the Harvard format an economical way of writing, and it is generally more accessible to the reader as there are no footnotes crowding the page. Only the name of the author, the publication date of the source and, if necessary, the page numbers are included in the parenthetical references, for example: (Joyce, 2008).

Looking for a Harvard referencing generator to create your fully-formatted in-text references and reference list in the blink of an eye? RefME’s generator lets you do just that - create your references quickly, simply and smartly. Stop giving yourself extra pain and work for no reason and sign up to RefME today - your only regret will be that you didn’t use our open-generator sooner!

RefME’s Harvard Referencing Guide

The following guide provides you with everything you need to know to do justice to all your hard work and get a mark that reflects those sleepless nights. If you’re not sure how to format your Harvard references, what citations are, or are simply curious about RefME’s referencing generator, our guide will answer all of your questions whilst offering you a comprehensive introduction to the Harvard style. Keep reading to find out why you need to use a referencing system, how to add references in the body of your assignment, and how to compile a reference list.

Sometimes, students do not encounter referencing until they embark onto degree-level studies, yet it is a crucial academic skill that will propel you towards establishing yourself in the academic community. It’s a common mistake to leave citing and creating a complete and accurate bibliography until the very last minute, with RefME’s Harvard referencing generator you can cite-as-you-go.

So, if you need a helping hand with your referencing then why not try RefME’s automated referencing generator? The generator accesses knowledge from across the web, assembling all of the relevant information into a fully-formatted reference list that clearly presents all of the sources that have contributed to your work. Using this generator to cite your sources in Harvard referencing enables you to cross the finishing line in style.

It is important to bear in mind that there is a plethora of different referencing styles out there - the use of any particular one depends on the preference of your university, subject, professor or the publication you are submitting the work to. If you’re unsure which style you should be using, consult your tutor and follow their guidelines. If your lecturer or department does not ask you to use a particular style, we recommend using Harvard referencing because it is simple to use and easy to learn.

The powerful open-access generator above will create your references in the ‘Harvard Cite Them Right (9th Edition)’ format as standard, but it can auto-generate references in 7,500+ styles. So, whether your professor has asked you to adopt APA referencing, or your discipline requires you to use AMA or MLA, we have the style you need. To accurately create references in a specific format, simply sign up to RefME for free and select your chosen style.

Are you struggling with referencing an unfamiliar source type? Or feeling confused about whether to cite a piece of common knowledge? This guide will provide you with everything you need to get both your parenthetical Harvard references and reference list completed quickly and accurately.

Why do I Need to Reference?

Harvard referencing can be a confusing task, especially if you are new to the concept, but it’s absolutely essential. In fact, accurate and complete referencing can mean the difference between reaching your academic goals and damaging your reputation amongst scholars. Simply put - referencing is the citing of sources you have utilised to support your essay, research, conference or article etc.

Even if you are using our Harvard generator, understanding why you need to reference will go a long way in helping you to naturally integrate the process into your research and writing routine.

Firstly, whenever another source contributes to your work you must give the original author the appropriate credit in order to avoid plagiarism, even when you have completely reworded the information. The only exception to this rule is common knowledge - e.g. London is the capital city of England. Whilst plagiarism is not always intentional, it is easy to accidentally plagiarise your work when you are under pressure from imminent deadlines, you have managed your time ineffectively, or if you lack confidence when putting ideas into your own words. The consequences can be severe; deduction of marks at best, expulsion from university or legal action from the original author at worst. Find out more here.

This may sound overwhelming, but plagiarism can be easily avoided by using our Harvard referencing generator and carrying out your research and written work thoughtfully and responsibly. We have compiled a handy checklist to follow whilst you are working on an assignment.

How to avoid plagiarism:

  • Formulate a detailed plan - carefully outline both the relevant content you need to include, as well as how you plan on structuring your work

  • Keep track of your sources - record all of the relevant publication information as you go (e.g. If you are citing a book you should note the author or editor’s name(s), year of publication, title, edition number, city of publication and name of publisher). Carefully save each quote, word-for-word, and place it in inverted commas to differentiate it from your own words. Tired of interrupting your workflow to cite? Use our Harvard referencing tool to automate the process

  • Manage your time effectively - make use of time plans and targets, and give yourself enough time to read, write and proofread

  • When you are paraphrasing information, make sure that you use only your own words and a sentence structure that differs from the original text

  • Save all of your research and references in a safe place - organise and manage your references using RefME’s Harvard referencing generator, or upgrade your account to RefME Plus to access our newest feature Folders. Now you can drag and drop, re-order and group your projects into folders simply by dragging one on top of the other. Find out How To Use Folders on our support page

If you carefully check your college or publisher’s advice and guidelines on citing and stick to this checklist, you should be confident that you will not be accused of plagiarism.

Secondly, proving that your writing is informed by appropriate academic reading will enhance your work’s authenticity. Academic writing values original thought that analyses and builds upon the ideas of other scholars. It is therefore important to use a Harvard referencing generator to accurately signpost where you have used someone else’s ideas in order to show that your writing is based on knowledge and informed by appropriate academic reading. This will show your reader that you have delved deeply into your chosen topic and supported your thesis with expert opinions.

Here at RefME we understand how precious your time is, which is why we created our Harvard reference generator and guide to help relieve the unnecessary stress of referencing. Escape assignment-hell and give yourself more time to focus on the content of your work by using RefME’s reference management tool.

How do I Create and Format Harvard Style In-text References?

In-text Harvard references are the perfect way to seamlessly integrate sources into your work, allowing you to strengthen the connection between your own ideas, and the source material that you have found, with ease. It is worth noting that in-text references must be included in your assignment’s final word count.

When adopting Harvard style referencing in your work, if you are inserting a quote, statement, statistic or any other kind of source information into the main body of your essay you should:

  • Provide the author’s surname and date of publication in brackets right after the taken information or at the end of the sentence

  • Example:

    There are many assumptions when it comes to the information processing approach to cognition… (Lutz and Huitt, 2004).

  • If you have already mentioned the author in the sentence, Harvard referencing only requires you to enter the year of publication in parentheses, directly after where the author’s surname is mentioned

  • Example:

    In the overview of these developmental theories, Lutz and Huitt (2004) suggest that…

  • If you are quoting a particular section of the source (rather than the entire work), you should also include a page number, or page range, after the date, within the parenthetical Harvard reference

  • Example:

    "...the development of meaning is more important than the acquisition of a large set of knowledge or skills ..." (Lutz and Huitt, 2004, p.8), which means that ...

  • Note that if the source has four or more authors, you do not need to write out all of their surnames; simply use the first author’s surname followed by the abbreviation ‘et al.’ (meaning ‘and others’) in italics

  • If you are reading a source by one author and they cite work by another author, you may cite that original work as a secondary reference. You are encouraged to track down the original source - usually this is possible to do by consulting the author’s reference list - but if you are unable to access it, you must only cite the source you did consult as you did not actually read the original document. Include the words ‘cited in’ in the in-text reference to indicate this

  • Example:

    Fong’s 1987 study (cited in Bertram 1997) found that older students’ memory can be as good as that of young people…

    (Fong, cited in Bertram 1997)

Why use a Harvard referencing tool? As well as saving you valuable time, RefME’s generator will enable you to easily avoid common errors when formatting your in-text citations. So, if you’re looking for an easy and free way to credit your source material, simply login to your RefME account, select ‘Harvard - Cite Them Right 9th Edition’, then ‘Create reference’, to copy, save and export your in-text references instantly.

How do I Format My Reference List?

Utilising and building on a wide range of relevant sources is a guaranteed way of impressing your reader, and a comprehensive list of the source material you have used is the perfect platform to exhibit your research efforts. A reference list is always required when you cite other people’s work within your assignment, and the brief in-text Harvard references in your work should directly link to your reference list.

As a general rule a reference list includes every source that you have cited in your work, whilst a bibliography also contains any relevant background reading which you have consulted (even those sources that are never mentioned in the narrative). Your bibliography should start on its own page, with the same formatting as the rest of the paper and aligned to the left with the sources listed alphabetically. Many people use the terms ‘reference list’ and ‘bibliography’ interchangeably, and if you are using Harvard referencing you may be required to provide a bibliography as well as a reference list, so be sure to check this with your tutor.

Follow these guidelines when compiling your reference list:

  • Start your reference list on a new page at the end of your document

  • General formatting should be in keeping with the rest of your work

  • Use ‘Reference List’, ‘References’ or ‘Works Cited’ as the heading

  • Copy each of your full-length Harvard references from the generator into a list

  • Arrange the list in alphabetical order by the author’s last name (titles with no author are alphabetised by the work’s title, and if you are citing two or more sources by the same author they should be listed in chronological order of the year of publication)

  • When there are several works from one author or source, they should be listed together but in date order - with the earliest work listed first

  • Italicise titles of books, reports, conference proceedings etc. For journal articles, the title of the journal should be printed in italics, rather than the title of the journal article

  • Capitalise the first letter of the publication title, the first letters of all main words in the title of a journal, and all first letters of a place name and publisher

Creating and managing your reference list with RefME’s Harvard referencing generator will transform and improve the way you reference and conduct research.

Reference list / bibliography examples:

  • Book, one author:

  • Bell, J. (2010) Doing your research project. 5th edn. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

  • One author, book, multiple editions:

  • Hawking, S.W. (1998) A brief history of time: From the big bang to black holes. 10th edn. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group.

  • Ebook:

  • If all information resembles a book, use the template for a book reference

    If a page number is unavailable, use chapter number. URL links are not necessary, but can be useful. When including a URL, include the date the book was downloaded at the end of the Harvard reference:

    Available at: URL (Downloaded: DD Month YYYY)

  • More than three authors, journal article*:

  • Shakoor, S., Jaffee, S.R., Bowes, L., Ouellet-Morin, l., Andreou, P., Happé, F., Moffitt, T.E. and Arseneault, L. (2011) ‘A prospective longitudinal study of children’s theory of mind and adolescent involvement in bullying’, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 53(3), pp. 254–261. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2011.02488.x.

    *Note that unlike within your in-text references, multiple authors must never be reduced to ‘et al.’ in the reference list.

  • Conference papers:

  • Drogen, E. (2014) ‘Changing how we think about war: The role of psychology’, The British Psychological Society 2014 Annual Conference. The ICC, Birmingham British Psychological Society, 07-09 May 2014.

Are you struggling to find all of the publication information to complete a reference? Did you know that our referencing generator can do it for you?

Time is of the essence when you’re finishing a paper, but there’s no need to panic because you can compile your reference list in a matter of seconds using RefME’s Harvard referencing tool. Sign in to your RefME account to save and export your reference list straight from the generator into Microsoft Word, EndNote, Evernote and more. Or save even more time by upgrading your account to RefME Plus to cite as you write within your document with RefME for Word 2016 for Windows, Mac and iPad.

Harvard Style Formatting Guidelines

Accurate referencing doesn’t only protect your work from plagiarism - presenting your source material in a consistent and clear way also enhances the readability of your work. Closely follow the Harvard referencing system’s formatting rules on font type, font size, text-alignment and line spacing to ensure that your work is easily legible. Before submitting your work check that you have formatted your whole paper - including your reference list - according to the style’s formatting guidelines.

How to format in Harvard referencing:

  • Margins: 2.5cm on all sides

  • Shortened title followed by the page number in the header, aligned to the right

  • Double-space the entirety of the paper

  • ½ inch indentation for every new paragraph (press tab bar)

  • Suggested fonts: Times New Roman, Arial and Courier New for Windows; Times New Roman, Helvetica and Courier for Mac, 12pt size. Ensure that all Harvard citations are in the same font as the rest of the work

  • Reference list on a separate page at the end of the body of your work

Even when using a Harvard referencing generator, always check with your professor for specified guidelines - there is no unified ‘Harvard style’ for the formatting of a paper. Make sure that you apply the recommended formatting rules consistently throughout your work.

A Brief History of the Harvard Style

The author-date system is attributed to eminent zoologist Edward Laurens Mark (1847-1946), Hersey professor of anatomy and director of Harvard’s zoological laboratory. It is widely agreed that the first evidence of Harvard referencing can be traced back to Mark’s landmark cytological paper (Chernin, 1988). The paper breaks away from previous uses of inconsistent and makeshift footnotes through its use of a parenthetical author-date reference accompanied by an explanatory footnote.

  • Parenthetic author-year reference, page 194 of Mark’s 1881 paper:

  • [...] The appearance may be due solely to reflection from the body itself. (Comp. Flemming, ‘78b, p. 310.*)

  • Mark’s rationale for his citational scheme:

  • *The numbers immediately following an author’s name serve the double purpose of referring the reader to the list (p. 591) where the titles of papers are given, and of informing him at once of the approximate date of the paper in question.

A tribute dedicated to Mark in 1903 by 140 students credits Mark’s paper with having ‘introduced into zoology a proper fullness and accuracy of citation and a convenient and uniform method of referring from text to bibliography’ (Parker, 1903). Today Harvard referencing is widely considered one of the most accessible styles and, although it originated in biology, these days it is used across most subjects - particularly in the humanities, history and social science.

The Evolution of the Harvard Referencing Style

Due to its simplicity and ease of use, the Harvard format has become one of the most widely adopted referencing styles in the world. However, many universities offer their own unique Harvard style guide, and each has its own nuances when it comes to punctuation, order of information and formatting rules. UK university-specific styles are all available via RefME’s generator - simply go to the RefME website to login to your RefME account and search for the version you need. Make sure you apply consistency throughout your work.

It is increasingly easy for writers to access information and knowledge via the internet, and in turn both the Harvard style guidelines and our open-generator are continually updated to include developments in electronic publishing. RefME’s Harvard generator currently uses the ‘Harvard Cite Them Right 9th Edition’, which has evolved in recent years to match the rapidly advancing digital age. In order to avoid plagiarism, you must be cautious about pulling information from the internet, and ensure that you accurately reference all source material used in your written work - including all online sources that have contributed to your research.

Key differences from previous Harvard referencing Cite Them Right editions:

  • Previous editions required printed books and eBooks to be referenced differently - in the 9th edition, both are now referenced using the same template (if all the necessary information is available). An Ebook is considered to be the digital format of a published book (or a book that is only published in digital format) that is meant for reading on an electronic device.

  • URLs are no longer a requirement for digital media if the information provided in the Harvard citation is sufficient to find the source without it. They should be included if the source is difficult to find, or pieces of source information - such as an author name - are missing.

These days students draw on a diverse range of digital sources to support their written work. Whether you are citing a hashtag on Instagram, a podcast or a mobile app, RefME’s Harvard reference generator will take care of all your references, regardless of the type of source you want to cite. So don’t be held back by sources that are difficult to cite - locating unusual source material will help your work to stand out from the crowd.

How do I Create Accurate References?

Creating complete and correctly formatted references can be a challenge for many writers, especially when documenting multiple source types. Our primary goal at RefME is to offer support to students and researchers across the globe by transforming the way in which they perceive referencing. We hope that after using our generator and reading this Harvard referencing style guide, what was once considered an arduous process, will be viewed as a highly valued skill that enhances the quality of your work.

Disheartened by the stressful process of referencing? Got a fast-approaching deadline? Using RefME’s fast, accessible and free generator makes creating accurate references easier than ever, leaving more time for you to focus on achieving your academic goals.

Create a free account to add and edit references on the spot, import and export full projects or individual entries, utilize our add-ons and save your work in the cloud. Harvard referencing gets even easier with RefME for Chrome - an intuitive, handy browser extension that allows you to instantly create and edit a reference whilst you browse the web. Use the extension on any webpage that you want to reference, and add it to your chosen project without interrupting your workflow.

Cite on-the-go with your mobile phone or tablet - when you scan the barcode of your book with the mobile app, the generator will automatically add the fully-formatted reference to your chosen project. It is available on both iOS and Android.

Unlock the full power of RefME’s multi-platform Harvard referencing generator by upgrading your account to RefME Plus. As well as accessing RefME for Word and Folders, you can capture citations in a flash on your phone with Photo Quotes. Save time copying out long quotes by turning printed text into digital text with your smartphone camera, and save it as a quote.

RefME’s reference management tool is here to help you, so what are you waiting for? Accurate Harvard referencing is just a click away!

Reference List

Chernin, E. (1988) The ‘Harvard System’: A mystery dispelled. Available at: http://www.uefap.com/writing/referenc/harvard.pdf (Accessed: 4 July 2016).

Parker, G. (ed.) (1903) Mark anniversary volume. New York: Henry Holt.

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