How to Cite Sources Using the Harvard Referencing Style

There are various referencing styles that can be used for citations. When you receive dissertation or thesis guidelines, you must check which style of referencing your professor invites you to use. You could lose your precious marks if you use a style that is not the one written in your guidelines. Harvard referencing style is simple to learn, easy to use, and in case if you get caught up, there is plenty of resources available for your assistance.

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In this guide, we introduce you to the Harvard referencing style, which generally uses an ‘author-date’ format.

Basics of Harvard Referencing Style

When you use the work of some other person in your dissertation or thesis, either by incorporating their quotation or by linking to their thoughts, you should acknowledge all of their contribution to your work. Generally, this acknowledgment of other’s work in your own work is called citation. If you are using the Harvard referencing style, your citation must contain these important attributes which are the author the cited work and the year of publication of the cited work.

Cite Sources Using the Harvard Referencing Style

 Some Major Rules Relating to Citations in Harvard Referencing Style

 There are some important rules relating to citations that depend on the number of authors for particular work. We will use the same example to make you understand easily.

  1. Citing one author:  If you are including the work of only one author then you must include his name and year. For example – “A recent study shows that Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto (John, 2000).”
  2. Citing Two or Three Authors: If your work has two or three authors then include all the names of the authors in your citation. For example – “A recent study shows that Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto (John & Albert, 2000).” ; example 2 – “A recent study shows that Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto (John, Albert & Arnold, 2000).”
  3. Citing Four or More Authors:  If your work includes four or more authors then the abbreviation ‘et al.’ must be used after the name of the first author. For example – “A recent study shows that Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto (John et al., 2000).”
  4. Citing works by the same author in the same year: When you cite a new work of the same author that was written in the same year as an earlier citation, you must include a letter (lower case) after the year to distinguish both the works. For example – “A recent study shows that Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto (John, 2000a; John, 2000b).”
  5. Citing from parts written by various authors: If you cite some parts of the book written by different authors then simply acknowledge the author who wrote that part only.
  6. Secondary Referencing in Harvard Style: In some cases, the primary source is not available and then an author refers to another author’s work as a secondary reference. When you cite this type of a work, the author of the primary source and the author of the work it was cited in, should be acknowledged. For example – “According to John and Albert (2000) as cited by Arnold et al. (2005) Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto.”
  7. Citing Quotation from an Author: If you are citing a quotation directly by the author of a book then you must include a single quotation mark and the page number. For example – “John (2000) states that ‘Russia has a larger surface area than Pluto’ (p.1)”

How to Create Reference List and Bibliography in Harvard Style:

Your reference list must include the complete details of all your in-text references arranged alphabetically A to Z by author name. The terms Reference List and Bibliography are often used interchangeably, though a Reference List contains parts you have referenced in your dissertation or thesis whereas, a Bibliography also consist offs parts used to prepare your dissertation or thesis.

For example, the book (print) should have a following basic reference list format:

  1. Author
  2. Publication year
  3. Title
  4. Place of publication
  5. Publisher

John & Albert (2000) The World’s Amazing Facts. USA, Town Publishing Company


Harvard referencing style is a system that usually students, researchers, and writers use to integrate other people’s works and findings into their work in order to support and authenticate the conclusions of their dissertations, thesis or research writing projects without violating any scholarly property laws. Harvard referencing is a popular format and is normally used in publications for humanities and social sciences.