If you’re used to writing essays and want to improve your coursework, you’ll know all about the importance of good grammar, great essay writing skills, and of course, Harvard referencing.

However, it isn’t as common at school as it is at university, so if you’re making the transition to graduate level studies then it’s best to go in prepared.

It may seem like there’s a lot to learn to master Harvard referencing, just as there’s a lot of words to learn to sound smarter, but once you know a few key things, it will eventually become second nature to you.

The other thing to bear in mind if you ever get stressed out when told to include Harvard referencing in your essay, is that you can always look up real-life examples to double-check what you are doing is correct.

This guide should help put you on the right track when it comes to doing things right the first time.

The Basics of Citing Sources

Stack of books
Nailing the basics of Harvard referencing is half the battle

If you take anything away from this guide, this should be it.

Once you understand the basics of Harvard referencing, you should have a much better idea of what you need to be doing when the time comes to cite a source.

There are really only three main pieces of information that you should focus on getting right at first, since the rest is fairly simple to pick up.


The most common type of citation will refer to something that has been written by an author.

An author here can mean the writer of an article as much as it can the writer of a book.

When you cite a source, you can do so either by directly referring to the text with a quote, or by offhandedly referring to a point made by an author.

Either way, you will only need to use the author’s surname when you mention the text, since you will give more information in the reference list.

At the end of your essay, you will need a reference list that will inform the reader of the exact sources you referred to during the text.

This list should feature the author’s names in alphabetical order. So a ‘King’ would appear before a ‘Smith’.

If you happen to have references to more than one text written by a single author, then you should list them in chronological order according to the year the work was published.


The date of the text or book always refers to the year of publication.

So in your essay if you need to cite a text from an author called

Smith that was published in 1982, you could write ´according to Smith (1982)´.

If you were to make a direct reference you would instead write the quote from the chosen text, followed by ´Smith, 1982, p.3´.

Page Numbers

The last essential piece of information for citing as you write will be the page number of the text you’re referring to.

This is only applicable if you are using a direct quote though.

So you would write the quote out in quotation marks, then in brackets you would write the name of the author, the date of publication, then the page number in question.

In the rare instance that you can’t locate the page number, you can refer to a paragraph number, and if that’s not available, you can use the abbreviation ´n.p´.

Citation Sources

If you can remember the basics of Harvard referencing, then half the battle is won already.

However, where things can get a little tricky sometimes is when you have to quote from different mediums.

Unfortunately quoting from a book isn’t exactly the same as quoting from an article.

Plus, with the soaring popularity of multimedia content and social media, there is a need to keep on top of citing a wide variety of mediums.

Citing Books

Books can certainly be the easiest medium to refer to in your essays, but there are still some important things to keep in mind.

How you cite text from a book will depend on the number of authors, and whether you’re taking it from a chapter of a larger book or not.

If you’re not sure exactly how to reference from a book using the Harvard referencing style, then you can skim through the following list and find the specific example that applies to you for clarity.

Books with a Single Author

This will likely be the most common citation you make, and it’s very straightforward.

Surname, first initial. (Year). Title of book. Edition (if applicable). Publication city: Publisher.

Here’s an example of what that would look like in a reference list:

Holt, D.H. 1997. Management principles and practices. Sydney: Prentice-Hall

And an example in-text:

(Holt, 1997, p.4)

Multiple Books by Same Author

For multiple books by the same author, you just cite the sources as usual following the previously mentioned format.

You should do so in chronological order of the date of publication.

If two books by the same author were released the same year, you should write the letter 'a', 'b', or 'c' after the date to let the reader know which came first.

Chapter in a Book

If you’re citing from a textbook or large edited book, and need to refer to a specific chapter, you’ll need to use a different format.

Surname, first initial. (Year). Chapter title. In: Editor’s name (ed) Book Title. Edition. City of Publication: Publisher. Page number/s.

Books with 2-3 Authors

For books that have several authors, all you need to do is add the second and/or third names next to the first.

Surname, first intial., Surname, first initial., and Surname, first initial. (Year). Title. City of publication: Publisher.

Books with 4+ Authors

For books that have four authors or more, the only thing to bear in mind is a slightly different way to refer to them in-text, and that you should list them in the order with which they are credited in the book.

In-text to refer to a book with 4 or more authors you would write the main author’s name and then ‘et al.’, this lets the reader know that others were involved.

Here’s how the citation would look in a reference list:

Surname, first initial., Surname, first initial.,Surname, first initial., and Surname, first initial. (Year). Title. City of publication: Publisher.

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How to Reference Articles

Newspapers are an unlikely source to cite, but they can come in handy

The second most common medium you’ll likely cite in your essays will be articles.

Article citations follow more or less the same format as book citations, but with a few adjustments depending on whether the article came from.


Newspapers are simple to cite, but there is a difference between referencing an article from the print version versus online.

Since some newspaper articles are behind paywalls these days, you will only need to provide the URL if the article can be viewed for free.

  • Print

Surname, First initial. (Year). Article Title. Newspaper name, Page/s.

  • Online

Surname, First initial. (Year). Article Title. Newspaper name, Page/s. Retrieved from: Journal name/URL if available freely.


Magazines are cited much the same way as newspapers, except for one thing: you have to mention the volume number of the magazine.

You also need to provide the URL of the magazine if you’re citing an online article.

  • Print

Surname, First initial. (Year). Article title. Magazine name, volume number, Page/s.

  • Online

Last name, First initial. (Year, Month Day). Article Title. Magazine name, (online) Page/s. Retrieved from: URL

Academic Journals

Academic journals can be a useful resource to draw upon for lending credibility to your argument in an essay.

As for how to reference a journal, they aren’t as difficult as you might expect, but there are a few minor differences to keep in mind.

  •  Print

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title. Journal name, Volume (Issue), Page/s.

  •  Online

Last name, First initial. (Year). Article Title. Journal name, Volume (Issue), Page/s. Available from: URL. [Accessed: date].

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Referencing Online Content

Typing on a laptop
Online content can provide one of the most interesting sources to cite

Online content can come in the form of a website, a social media post, or even a YouTube video.


The question of how to reference a website that isn’t associated with a journal or newspaper can be tricky, but if if you have to do it, here’s the format to follow:

Author/Source if no specific author (Year). Title of web document/page. [online]. (Last updated: if this information is available). Available at: URL [Accessed date: Day/Month/Year].

Social Media

Yes, that’s right, you can indeed cite something you saw on social media in your essay.

Here’s how to do it:

Surname, First initial. (Year). Title of page [Social media format]. Day/month/year written. Available from: URL. [Accessed: Day/Month/Year].


It may be the case that you found an endlessly fascinating video that raises some thought-provoking questions you want to engage in your essay.

If so, and the video is listed on YouTube, then here’s how to cite it correctly:

Username of contributor. (Year). Video Title, Series Title (if relevant). [type of medium]. Available at: URL. [Accessed: Day/ Month/ Year].

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.