Harvard Citation Style: A Detailed Guide From Experts


Harvard Citation Style: A Detailed Guide From ExpertsWe have put together this Harvard referencing guide to help you format your custom essay in the Harvard style. Here's what you can learn:

  • How to properly format your paper: general rules

  • Provide correct in-text citations

  • Create a perfect reference list

Learn to cite sources according to Harvard style instead of relying on citation generators — they aren't always accurate.

What Does Harvard Format Entail?

Harvard citation style is among the most popular formatting styles for academic papers, alongside APA, MLA, and Chicago. Harvard style dictates the overall layout of the paper, including margin sizes, preferred fonts, and more.

Harvard referencing style is often used in these fields:

  • Humanities. This includes subjects such as history, literature, philosophy, and cultural studies. Harvard referencing helps cite various sources like books, articles, and web pages, which are frequently used in humanities research.

  • Behavioral Sciences. Disciplines like psychology, sociology, and anthropology often use Harvard referencing to ensure proper citation of empirical studies, theoretical papers, and case studies.

  • Social Sciences. Fields such as political science, economics, and education also commonly use Harvard referencing. This style aids in maintaining consistency when citing diverse sources ranging from governmental reports to academic journals.

However, you might be asked to use the Harvard referencing system in other fields as well.

General Paper Formatting Guidelines

General Rules

  • Use 1-inch margins on all sides.

  • Recommended fonts are Times New Roman 12 pt. or Arial 12 pt.

  • Apply double spacing throughout the text.

  • Align the text to the left.

  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches.

  • Center the title on the first page, just before the main text.

  • Include headers and page numbers as detailed below.

  • The paper can have subheadings to divide sections, a title page, an outline, and/or a reference list (see below).

Title, Headers, and Page Numbers

  • Place a centered title before the text of your paper. Capitalize the main words, like this: How to Write an Essay. Do not capitalize articles, short conjunctions, or prepositions. Avoid indenting, italicizing, underlining, or bolding your title.

  • Add a page number in the top right corner of each page’s header.

  • Include your last name in the header, right before the page number.


General Guidelines

Subheadings break your paper into distinct parts. For instance, level 1 headings split the paper into major sections, while level 2 headings further divide those sections into smaller subsections.

Level 1 Headings

Level 1 headings resemble the title of the paper. They are centered, capitalized, and neither bolded, underlined, nor italicized. The text following a level 1 heading starts on a new line, with the first line indented by 0.5 inches.

Level 2 Headings

Level 2 headings are also capitalized but are aligned to the left margin and italicized. The text following a level 2 heading begins on a new line, with the first line indented by 0.5 inches.

Title Page

The title page, or cover page, is the first page of your paper and includes essential details:

  • Title of Your Paper. Write it in all caps, centered, and position it about one-third down the page.

  • Your Name. Centered and placed about halfway down the page.

  • Course Information. Centered, placed about two-thirds down the page, starting with the course name and number. On the next line, add your professor’s name, followed by the name of your university, and finally, the date on subsequent lines.


An outline is a blueprint for your paper. It follows the title page and lists all the sections and subsections. Start by writing the word "Outline" at the top center of the page. Then, use a numbered list to include all your level 1 subheadings, aligning them to the left and capitalizing each one.

If you have level 2 subheadings, place them under their corresponding level 1 headings as bullet points. Do not break the numbering of your level 1 headings. Align level 2 subheadings to the left and indent them slightly, about half an inch, for a cleaner look. Keep them capitalized, but don’t italicize them here.

When done correctly, your outline should be well-organized and easy to follow, resembling the structure provided in the template above.

Reference List

Title your Harvard references section as "Reference List," with both words capitalized and centered, similar to level 1 subheadings. This list should include a bibliographical entry for each source cited in your paper. Likewise, every source mentioned in your text must appear in this reference list.

Formatting Harvard In-Text Citations

General Rules

  • Cite All Your Sources. Whenever you incorporate information from other sources into your paper, you must provide in-text citations to indicate the origin of the information. Without these citations, your work could be considered plagiarized.

  • General Appearance of In-Text Citations. In Harvard style, in-text citations are parenthetical, including the author's surname and the publication year. They look like this: (Green & Ferguson 2017). You may also include the page number, like so: (Green & Ferguson 2017, p. 21).

  • Direct Quotes. If you use the exact words from a source, you must place the quote in quotation marks and include the page number in your citation. For example, (Green & Ferguson 2017, p. 38). When quoting a website, include the paragraph number, such as (Green & Ferguson 2017, para. 7). To find the paragraph number, simply count the paragraphs on the web page.

  • Mentioning Authors in the Text. When you mention the authors' names within the text, omit them from the parentheses and use "and" instead of the ampersand (&). For instance, you might write: In their book, Green and Ferguson (2017, p. 16) claim that jumping from a skyscraper might be bad for your health.

  • Citing an Author Discussed in a Different Source. If you're referring to an author mentioned in a secondary source, acknowledge the original author but note that this author is "cited in" the source you are using. For example, if Kant discusses Descartes, you can say:
    Descartes argued for the existence of innate ideas (cited in Kant 1756).

Note: in this case, you must provide a bibliographic entry for Kant and not for Descartes in the Reference List.

  • Several Sources in One Citation. When citing multiple sources within the same parentheses, list them in the order they appear in your Reference List, separated by semicolons, like this: (Ferguson 2017; Green 2017).

Various Types of Harvard In-Text Citations With Examples

In Harvard referencing, in-text citations vary based on the number of authors in your source. Here are examples for each scenario, showing both cases where the source is mentioned in the text and where it is not.

One Author

  • It is advised to plant Peonies in the fall (Howard 2018).

  • Howard (2015) recommends planting Peonies in the fall.

Two Authors

  • Many students struggle with academic stress (Tanner & Ostin 2019).

  • According to Tanner and Ostin (2019), many students struggle with academic stress.

Three Authors

  • Glaciers will melt completely by the year 2050 (McLane, Lestor & Duval 2012).

  • According to McLane, Lestor and Duval (2012), glaciers will melt completely by the year 2050.

Four or More Authors

  • Botanically speaking, bananas are berries, while strawberries are not (Harmon et al. 2018).

  • Harmon et al. (2018) states that botanically speaking, bananas are berries, while strawberries are not.

Edited Source

  • Some cacti can store enough water to last them for months, which is why they can survive in harsh desert environments (eds Perez-Latrell et al. 2013).

  • According to the book edited by Perez-Latrell et al. (2013), some cacti can store enough water to last them for months, which is why they can survive in harsh desert environments.

Note: In a parenthetical citation, use "ed." before the name if there is only one editor, and "eds" (without a period) if there are multiple editors. When mentioning their names in the text, simply state that the source was "edited by" before listing the name(s).

No Authors

If the authors of a source are not mentioned, use the source's title in your in-text citation. In the Harvard referencing system, the title is italicized for books, brochures, periodicals, and reports. For websites, articles, newspapers, or chapters, the title is enclosed in single quotation marks. Only capitalize the first word of the title.

For books, periodicals, brochures, and reports:

  • Octopuses have three hearts (The Physiology of Octopuses: An Introduction 2011).

  • According to The Physiology of Octopuses: An Introduction (2011), octopuses have three hearts.

For newspapers, articles, chapter titles, and web pages:

  • Archaeologists have found honey pots in ancient Egyptian tombs that are over 3,000 years old and still edible (‘Facts about honey’ 2019).

  • The article ‘Facts about honey’ (2019) curiously suggests that Archaeologists have found honey pots in ancient Egyptian tombs that are over 3,000 years old and still edible.

You may also shorten the title if it is too long. For instance, in the example above, you may write just The Physiology of Octopuses (2011) instead of The Physiology of Octopuses: An Introduction (2011).

No Date

If the source does not provide a date, use the abbreviation “n.d.” (no date). All other citation rules remain the same.

  • While Mount Everest is the highest point above sea level, Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the tallest mountain when measured from its base on the ocean floor, totaling about 33,500 feet. ('Mount Everest Guide' n.d.)

  • One might not be surprised to learn that electric eels can generate an electric shock of up to 600 volts, according to Rogers (n.d.).

Formatting the Reference List

General Rules

  • Alphabetical Order. Your Harvard reference list should be alphabetized by the first letter of the first word of each entry (usually the first author’s surname). Ignore the words "a," "an," or "the" when alphabetizing. For instance, if the title is "The importance of doing things well," alphabetize it under "I" for "importance."

  • Placement of Entries. Each bibliographical entry in the Harvard reference system must start on a new line, aligned to the left, with no indentation. This format may look a bit cluttered, but it is the standard. Ensure that the entire reference list is double-spaced for consistency.

  • Capitalization. In titles of books, book chapters, and articles from the web, capitalize only the first letter. However, when citing scientific journals or newspapers, capitalize all the main words of their titles (excluding prepositions, articles, conjunctions, etc.). See specific Harvard reference examples below.

  • Referencing Multiple Authors. Even though in-text citations require you to use “et al.” when there are four or more authors in a source, you need to list all the authors in the bibliographical entry. Yes, all of them, even if there are 25.

  • Several Works by the Same Author. In a Harvard-style reference list, sources by the same author should be arranged by the year of publication. If there are several works by the same author published in the same year, arrange them in alphabetical order of their titles and add letters “a,” “b,” “c,” etc., after the year, like so:

Peters, AB 2017a, Book 1, Book 1 Publisher, London, UK.

Peters, AB 2017b, Book 2, Book 2 Publisher, London, UK.


General Book Format

Last Name, Initials Year of Publication, Title of the book: subtitle of the book, if any, Publishing House, City, State Abbreviation or Country.

Book With One Author

Watts, A 2013, Legal work: the basics, Routledge, New York, NY.

Book With Two Authors

Jerome, M & Davidson, AJ 2009, The globalisation of healthcare, Radcliffe Publishing, Oxford, UK.

Book With Three Authors

Fomin, O, Lewy, RB & Peterson, T 2015, Risk management for global enterprises, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

Book With Four or More Authors

Doyle, J, Chester, P, Ramone, D & Twain, S 2006, Female leadership, Manchester University Press, Manchester, UK.

Edited Book

Pascal, A, Grishem, M, Pelzner, B, Leroux, I & Killian, JC (eds) 2017 Risk management 101, Routledge, New York, NY.

Note: If there is only one editor, use (ed.) after the name. If there are multiple editors, use (eds) after their names.

Book — Edition Other Than First

Cooper, A 2014, About breeding chickens, 4th edn, SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Translated Book

Pilzner, M 2021, Kayaking across the US, trans. T Gemison, Dover Publications, New York, NY, original work published 1905.

Chapter in an Edited Book

Edna, EM 2016, 'History of local breweries', in A Pelosi, M Miller, B Wisner, I Potter & JC Gaillaghan (eds), Brewing traditions, Routledge, New York, NY, pp. 42-76.

No Author

The Oxford Campus 1999, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.


Donner, M 2016, Social media: the origins, Routledge, viewed 21 April 2016, via Google Books.


Journal Articles

Nathan, JE 2016, ‘The rise of communism’, Historical Press, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 12-17.

Conference Proceedings

Mayday, SP 1967 'On the development of delivery lines', Proceedings of 5th Annual Cunnings Conference on machinery, New York, NY, pp. 7-19.

Newspaper Articles

Krayton, J 2009, ‘Saving America’, NY Times, 13 May, p. 14.

Online Newspapers

Sanderson, J & Edmundon, LW 2019, 'Protesting in Williamsburg, The Contemporary Press, 14 May, viewed 25 June 2019, <www.website.com/exampleone>.

Other Sources

Web Pages

Doel, S 2015, Protests in Lewisville peaked, viewed 25 April 2019, <www.website.com/exampletwo>.

Blog Articles

Sage, A 2017, 'About Harvard Citation Style', Referencing: Harvard Style, web log post, 21 June, viewed 25 April 2017, <www.website.com/blog/examplethree>.

Dissertation or Thesis

  • Print version:
    Mill, A 2016, 'About Abraham Lincoln', PhD Thesis, The University of Utah.

  • Retrieved from the Web:
    Preston, AC 2015, 'A study of arts', MSc Thesis, The University of Arts, viewed 26 April 2016, <www.website.edu/dissertationexampleone>.

Note: Specify the type of thesis (BA Thesis, MSc Thesis, PhD Thesis, etc.).

Motion Picture (Movie)

Sweet cherry blossoms 2005, motion picture, Creative Films, Auckland, NZ. Produced by Emily Roth; directed by Cole Tompson.

Television Program

Romantic Show 2010, television broadcast, ABC TV, Campbell, 6 May. Presented by Anthony Tomlinson.

Radio Broadcast

Fishing Quest 2007, radio broadcast, ABC Radio National, Houston, 16 June.

Essay Assistance From Our Professionals

When it comes to citing sources using Harvard style or author-date style, it's essential to check the specific requirements with your instructor. Unfortunately, there's no single official method. Different institutions, such as the University of Western Australia and Cardiff University, have their own variations. If your instructor is unavailable and can't provide the necessary information, I recommend visiting their websites to ensure you follow the correct guidelines. Consistency in your formatting is key, regardless of the approach you choose. Harvard citation style offers some flexibility in how you format your work. Pick a method that suits you and stick to it! Make safe choices with your formatting. For example, while Times New Roman is often recommended, Arial or Calibri are also acceptable. Best of luck with your essay!

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