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 Harvard 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 in the Harvard referencing system to briefly indicate where you have directly quoted or paraphrased a source, your reference list is an alphabetized list of complete 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 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).

Use RefME’s Harvard referencing generator to create your fully-formatted in-text references and reference list in the blink of an eye.

RefME's Harvard Referencing Guide

Not sure how to format your Harvard references, what references are, or simply curious about RefME’s Harvard referencing tool? Our guide can answer all of your questions and offer you a comprehensive introduction to the style.

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. So, if you need a helping hand with your referencing then why not try RefME’s Harvard referencing generator? RefME’s automated referencing 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 open-access generator to cite your sources enables you to cross the finish 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. The powerful Harvard 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 OSCOLA referencing, Vancouver 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? Our Harvard reference generator and this guide will provide you with everything you need to get both your parenthetical references and reference list completed quickly and accurately.

Why do I Need to Reference?

Referencing can be a confusing task, especially if you are new to the concept, but it’s absolutely essential. Simply put - referencing is the citing of sources you have utilised to support your essay, research, conference, article etc. Even if you are using our Harvard referencing tool, 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

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

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

  • 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

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. 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 RefME’s referencing tool and Harvard referencing guide to help relieve the unnecessary stress of referencing.

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

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, you should enter only the year of publication in brackets 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 within the brackets after the date.

  • 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.

As well as saving you valuable time, RefME’s Harvard referencing tool will enable you to easily avoid common referencing errors. Login to your account, select ‘Harvard - Cite Them Right 9th Edition’ and ‘Create reference’ to copy, save, and export your in-text references instantly.

How Do I Format My Harvard Style Reference List?

The brief in-text Harvard references in your work should directly link to your 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.

Follow these Harvard referencing guidelines when compiling your reference list:

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

  • Use ‘Reference List’ as the heading

  • Copy each of your full-length references from the Harvard referencing tool 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)

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

  • 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

As a general rule a Harvard 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. You may be required to provide a bibliography as well as a reference list, so check this with your tutor.

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 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 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 Harvard reference 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 generator. Sign in to your RefME account to save and export your reference list straight 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:

  • Margins: 2.5cm on all sides

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

  • 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)

  • Reference list titled ‘Bibliography’ 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.

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 evidences of the citation style 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 citation accompanied by an explanatory footnote.

  • Parenthetic author-year citation, 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 is used across most subjects.

The Evolution of the Harvard Referencing Style

Due to its simplicity and ease of use, the format has become one of the most widely adopted citation styles in the world. However, many universities offer their own unique style guide, and each has its own nuances when it comes to punctuation, order of information and formatting rules. UK university-specific styles, such as Bristol University Harvard, are all available via RefME’s Harvard referencing 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.

RefME’s Harvard reference generator currently uses the Cite Them Right 9th Edition, which has evolved in recent years to match the ever advancing digital age. It is increasingly easy for writers to access information and knowledge via the internet, and in turn the Harvard referencing guidelines are continually updated to include developments in electronic publishing.

Key differences from previous 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 reference is sufficient to find the source without it. They should be included if the source is difficult to find, or if pieces of information needed for Harvard referencing 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 referencing tool will take care of all your references, regardless of the type of source you want to cite.

How do I Create Accurate References?

Disheartened by the stressful process of referencing? Got a fast-approaching deadline? Using RefME’s fast, accessible and free Harvard 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, utilise our add-ons and save your work in the cloud. Things get 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 Harvard referencing tool on any webpage that you want to reference, and add it to your chosen project without interrupting your workflow.

Use RefME’s reference management tool to 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 smartphone with Photo Quotes.

RefME’s reference management tool is here to help you, so what are you waiting for? Accurate Harvard style references are 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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