Note: This is an advanced guide to Harvard, useful for professional editors, academics, and students looking to bump up their grades with flawless referencing! If you’re new to Harvard and feel a little lost, check out our introduction to Harvard referencing. For extra help from Harvard experts, try our student proofreading services for free, or learn more about our editing services for businesses.
Harvard referencing refers to the general citation style of listing a source’s author and date in parentheses within the text, with a corresponding entry in a reference list at the end of the work.
If a customer says they’ve been asked to use the Harvard referencing style, it could be one of many variations. You should check if a particular version has been specified. If there isn’t, use this guide to apply the version we use, but add a note for the customer to check with their institution. Also, pay attention to the requested dialect. Quotation marks, for instance, will vary depending on whether the citation is written in US or UK English.
Essentially, the surname of the author of the source and the year of its publication must be given in the text. If it is not known when a source was published, it must be indicated with “no date” (abbreviated to “n.d.”) in place of the year.
If a direct quote is made from a source, then the in-text citation must also include the page number (or paragraph) of the quote. For page numbers, the basic form is “p.” for a single page and “pp.” for quotes spanning multiple pages. For paragraphs, use “para.” (e.g., for websites that don’t have pages); for long documents without page numbers, you can choose to include the section or chapter number or name (e.g., Smith, 1998, Section title, para. 3), but do check with your institution’s style guide.
Those key pieces of information are given in parentheses in the same font as the surrounding text and separated by commas. The bracketed citation should immediately follow the portion of the sentence that comes from the external source. If the author is mentioned in the sentence, then the bracketed citation (which will then just include the year of publication) will need to follow directly after the author’s name.
In-text citations can take three basic forms:
If the source doesn’t come from an author with a surname – a corporate body, for example – then the name of that organization takes the place of the surname:
These basic rules will need to be adapted to various circumstances, which we will discuss next.
When there are multiple authors of the same work, the main thing to remember is that in-text citations name one or two authors. For three or more authors, only the first is mentioned, followed by “et al.” (in which case, note that a period is used in addition to a comma because “al.” is an abbreviation).
NB: When it comes to the full list of references at the end, all authors – some institutions put a cap on this, but others simply say to consult the course tutor – should be listed.
When both authors are named, the in-text citation will spell out “and” rather than use an ampersand (“&”).
An exception to only giving the surname of the author is if there are authors with the same surname and publications from the same year. In that case, the author’s initials should be added for clarity. Whether that initial comes before or after the surname, and whether or not it should have a period, will depend upon the university’s style guide. Our general approach is to put a period after an initial, as you would in any writing, but you should go for consistency within the document and flag the issue with a comment.
More frequently, you may come across citations for more than one work by the same author. If they were from different years but cited together, there is no need for the author’s name to be repeated. The years of publication are then listed in reverse chronological order (i.e., the newest comes first) with the years separated by semicolons. Each individual source is then listed in the reference list.
NB: When it comes to the full list of references at the end, the order of sources by the same author is chronological (i.e., with the earliest first).
If, however, the author has multiple works from the same year, a lowercase letter should be added to the year to differentiate the sources. The lettering should be alphabetical in the order that the sources are cited in the text.
NB: The crucial thing to check here is that the same system is reflected in the reference list at the end.
If there is more than one source cited in support of a statement (e.g., multiple works by the same author), they will need to be cited in reverse chronological order and separated by semicolons. If the list includes works from the same year, they should be cited alphabetically by author.
NB: If the customer has consistently cited references in chronological order, then you should simply add a note for them to check whether this is what their university requires. Given the many variations on the Harvard theme, this could well be the case.
You may see cases where the title of the source is given in place of the author. This is likely because the source has no named author (whether individual or corporate). In these cases, using the title of the source (the book, collection, etc.) is an acceptable variation, but it’s advisable to flag it with a comment to make sure.
If you’re presented with a reference to a work within a work (i.e., the customer hasn’t read the original but has come across it as a reference in another), this is a secondary citation.
The Harvard style requires a full list of all the sources that are cited within the text to be provided at the end of the document. The standard formatting requirement is to include it on a separate page titled Reference List.
Sometimes, a university will require a list of all the sources considered within a piece of work, even if they haven’t all been cited. This type of list is called a Bibliography.
In either case, the sources are listed alphabetically by the first item in the source’s full reference (usually the author’s surname). A corporate author or title of a work (if that comes first) starting with “The,” “A,” or “An” should be listed as if that word weren’t there (e.g., a source from the Open University would be listed under “O,” not “T”).
Detailing the sources in a reference list is probably the biggest cause of headaches for both writers and proofreaders. This is because the particular requirements differ depending on the type of source – and there are many.
The information itself is usually straightforward; it’s the formatting that gets tricky. In general terms, you could use the following as a checklist:
Let’s start with the most common types and see how those translate from in-text citations to full reference listings so that you can easily recognize them and, if necessary, fix them.
These sources are most likely to follow the general checklist given above. Within the list, “year of publication” is abbreviated to “year.” For particular issues relating to authors and years, please refer to the notes on in-text citations.
Here’s where things start to get different.
Some additional information is required here, most commonly:
With a wealth of sources available, there will always be something that doesn’t quite fit with the general principals. At the end of this guide is an alphabetical list of some you may come across and how they may appear (remembering that there may be variations between universities).
The aim of the list is to provide a baseline so that you know the main elements to expect. Consistency of presentation is key, as is the use of the commenting tool to point out where information may be missing – or the format may require checking with the university’s own preferences.
To summarize, the Harvard referencing style can be – and is – interpreted in a wide variety of ways. We’ve set out the Proofed standard approach, so here’s what to do when it almost inevitably differs from the approach taken by the customer:
The main purpose of referencing is for writers to avoid plagiarism. For that same reason, there is a limit on what can be done for a customer.
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