Harvard Referencing – A guide

As you may know, there are a range of different ways of writing references. Some of them involve using footnotes, or having separate lists called ‘References’ and ‘Bibliography’, and generally give you a headache. `Most recommend the ‘Harvard’ system of referencing, which is straightforward, and widely-used by publishers and academics.


It’s quite simple. When you quote or paraphrase something, you cite the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page reference, in brackets. For example:

The popularity of baked beans soared when Elvis Presley was seen to eat six whole tins on Entertainment Tonight in 1959 (Heinz, 2000: 34).

At the end of the essay you then include a ‘References’ section which must include every item you’ve referred to in the essay. If there are two or more works by an author published in the same year, distinguish them as 2000a, 2000b, and so on. References are written in the following style:

Type of reference: Example of reference:
Book Heinz, Edward (2000) A History of Baked Beans, London: Arnold.
Article in book Johnson, Sarah (1998a) ‘The Cornflake in History’ in Norman Jennings (ed.) Food for Thought, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Article in journal Johnson, Sarah (1998b) ‘Deconstructing the pre-millennial diet: Special K and postmodernism’, Cultural Studies 11, 1: 32–44. Explanation: This means that an article by Sarah Johnson called ‘Deconstructing the pre­millennial diet: Special K and postmodernism’ was published in the journal Cultural Studies, volume 11, number 1, on pages 32 to 44. This issue of the journal was published in 1998. The piece is listed here as ‘(1998b)’ since it’s the second of two articles by Sarah Johnson, which we are referring to, published in 1998.
Article in newspaper Ratner, Clifford (2000) ‘Magazine sparks love feud’, The Independent, 10 October 2000, Thursday Review section: 14.
Article from the internet Wherever possible, identify the author, so you can have a reference like this: Holmes, Amy (2000), ‘Greenpeace wins media war’, at http://www.independent. co.uk/international/green25.htm (accessed: 25 November 2000). Always state the date you visited the site. If you can’t state the author, have a reference like this: BBC Online (2000) ‘Radical autumn shake-up’, at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ 10276.htm (accessed: 8 December 2000).

And that’s it. The Harvard system is easy to use, relatively simple to produce, and the reader doesn’t need to keep stopping to look up references in footnotes. Instead, as you write your essay you can use footnotes for extra bits of information which are surplus to requirements in the main body of the essay, such as extra details about the subject, or interesting quotes.

However, remember that when writing footnotes, just as when you are writing the main body of the essay, you should draw out the relevance of the material you are using. Use them to enhance the impact of your argument.

Of course, you could always get a website or app to do it for you:



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