The Harvard System


As a student, it is important that you identify in your assessment when you are using the words or ideas of another author.  The most accepted way of acknowledging the work of another author is to use a referencing system.  At the Department of Lifelong Learning you are required to use the Harvard referencing system. 

The following guide tells you why you need to use a referencing system, shows you how to insert references in the text of your assignments, and shows you how to compile a reference list.  While there are many variations on the ‘Harvard’ system, the one presented in this guide is the most simple.  It does away with most usages of ‘p’ and ‘pp’ to signify page numbers and it replaces some of the commas with colons.  Also, this guide is by no means an exhaustive list of all the referencing conventions that you will require in your academic life. 

Why you should use a referencing system

As a part of an academic community, it is important that you show the reader where you have used someone else’s ideas or words.  Failure to properly reference using the Harvard system may make the reader think that you are cheating by claiming someone else’s work as your own.  In the academic environment, we call this plagiarism and it is seen as a very serious offence.  Please remember that plagiarism is not just when you directly copy words from another student’s or expert’s work.  Plagiarism also occurs when you re-word someone else’s ideas in your own work and you do not give credit to the original source.   

Plagiarism can have disastrous consequences for students.  If you are suspected of plagiarism you may find that your assignment receives a grade of zero.  In extreme or repeated cases, you may find that your enrolment at the university is reviewed.  For further information, please consult section 3 of the student handbook. 

On a more positive note, referencing is important for reasons other than avoiding plagiarism.  When you reference correctly you are demonstrating that you have read widely on a topic.  You are also supporting your hypothesis with comments from expert authors.  This lends credibility to your own work.  Also, by correctly referencing, you allow the marker or reader to follow-up your references and to check the validity of your arguments for themselves.  This is an important part of the academic process as it leads to student accountability.

Collecting all the details: Accurate referencing

In order to have an accurate record of what you have researched and therefore an accurate reference, it is important that you write down the details of your sources as you study.  When taking notes, use a separate page for each new book, journal article, or electronic source.  At the top of each page, clearly record the following information for future reference.

For books, record:

  • The author’s or editor’s name (or names)

  • The year the book was published

  • The title of the book

  • If it is an edition other than the first

  • The city the book was published in

  • The name of the publisher

For journal articles record:

  • The author’s name or names

  • The year in which the journal was published

  • The title of the article

  • The title of the journal

  • The page number/s of the article in the journal

  • As much other information as you can find about the journal, for example the volume and issue numbers

For electronic resources, try to collect the information on the left if it is available, but also record:

  • The date you accessed the source

  • The electronic address or email

  • The type of electronic resource (email, discussion forum, WWW page, etc)

In addition to these details, when you are taking notes, if you copy direct quotations or if you put the author’s ideas in your own words, write down the page numbers you got the information from. 

Writing the assessment: What to reference.

When you are writing your assessment, be sure to type in reference information as you add in the ideas of other authors.  This will save you time and will ensure that you reference all sources properly.  Whenever you use someone else’s ideas or words, you must put in a reference.  The only exception to this rule is when the information you have read somewhere is common knowledge or ‘public domain’ information.  For example, you would not need to include a reference if you stated in an assignment that Shakespeare wrote plays and sonnets in Elizabethan times.   

Always reference:

  • Direct quotations – this is when you copy another author’s material word-for-word.  You should show the reader that it is a direct quote by placing the material in inverted commas.  Traditionally, double inverted commas have been used (“) but it is now acceptable, and preferable to use single inverted commas (‘).  Sometimes it is difficult to avoid the direct quotation as the author’s words may precisely describe the point you are trying to make.  However, do try to avoid the overuse of direct quotations; try to paraphrase the author’s work where possible.  Please note that when you use direct quotations, you must reproduce the author’s words exactly, including all spelling, capitalisation, punctuation, and errors.  You may show the reader that you recognize an error and that you are correctly quoting the author by placing the term ‘sic’ in brackets after the error.

  • Paraphrasing – this is when you take another author’s ideas and put them into your own words.  You are still copying someone else’s work, so you must reference it.  You do not need to use inverted commas when you paraphrase, but you must clearly show the reader the original source of your information.


It is done like that of APA but without the running header

Referencing in the text of your assessment

The following section shows you a number of different examples when quoting and paraphrasing in the text of your assessment.  In all references, you will need to list the author/editor name/s and the year of publication.  The year of publication can be found on the first couple of pages of the book, along with the other bibliographic information.  Look for the author’s name, a copyright symbol and then a date.  This will be the date of publication.  In most references you will also need to list the page number/s where you found the specific information.  The only type of reference where this is not required is when you paraphrase a summary of an entire piece of work.  As a hypothetical example, fictitious author John Phillips might have written a history book in 1999 that examines generational changes.  You might summarise and correctly reference the entire gist of his book in the following way.

Phillips (1999) suggests that generational change is inevitable and continuous.

In all other circumstances, please follow the guidelines below and be sure to include the author, date and page number/s.  The formats are similar for each example so please note the use of punctuation, spacing and the order of information.

Direct quote from a book or journal article with one author

When organising our time, Adair (1988: 51) states that ‘the centrepiece will tend to be goals and objectives’.


When organising our time ‘the centrepiece will tend to be goals and objectives’ (Adair, 1988: 51).

In these examples, ‘Adair’ is the author, ‘1988’ is the year of publication and ‘51’ is the page number where the direct quote can be found. 

Direct quote from a book or journal article with two authors

McCarthy and Hatcher (1996: 69-70) insist that with presentations ‘structure must be clear and precise’.


With presentations, ‘structure must be clear and precise’ (McCarthy and Hatcher, 1996: 69-70).

In these examples, the quote went over two pages therefore the page numbers were represented as 69-70, rather than as a single number.  Also notice from the examples so far, that when the quote ends the sentence, the full stop comes after the inverted comma.

Direct quote from a book or journal article with three authors

Fisher, Ury and Patton (1991: 37) suggest that when emotional issues cloud negotiation, ‘some thoughts are best left unsaid’.


Some thoughts are best left unsaid’ when emotional issues cloud negotiation (Fisher, Ury and Patton, 1991: 37).

If hypothetical authors Morris, Ling, Brown, Smith, and Diaz wrote a book published in 2000, a direct quote would look like this.  Note that in the next example, ‘et al’ means ‘and others’.

Direct quote from a book or journal article with more than three authors

Morris et al (2000: 47) state that ‘the debate of these particular issues should be left to representative committees’.

When you paraphrase, it will look much the same as the direct quotation examples, but without the inverted commas.  For example, if we paraphrased an example from the McCarthy and Hatcher book, it would look like this.

By improving your posture you can improve how you communicate feelings of power and confidence (McCarthy and Hatcher, 1996: 111).

When paraphrasing, use the same referencing style and conventions as you would for direct quotes, but with the material from the source put into your own words, and the inverted commas omitted.  Below is another comparative example of the direct quote versus paraphrasing.

Direct quote and paraphrasing from a source with a ‘corporate’ or government author

The DfEE (2001: 8) suggest that each year ‘some have estimated the cost to the country of poor literacy and numeracy skills to be as high as £10 billion’.


The effect of low levels of adult numeracy and literacy skills could be costing Britain around £10 billion each year (DfEE, 2001: 8). 

You might also like to rearrange the quote so that the reference comes at the end, as you have been shown in previous examples. 

When you are researching, you may come across a situation where the same author has written two books in the same year.  To distinguish one title from another in your referencing, place a lower-case letter after the publication date, with ‘a’ signalling the first reference, and ‘b’ signalling the second, and so on.

Sometimes the author you are quoting from will quote another author to support his or her argument, much in the same way that you do when writing assignments.  Sometimes you want to use the same quote that the author of the source has used.  When you do this, use the format below.

Eisenberg and Smith (in Bolton, 1986: 85) agree that ‘it is hard to assign general meaning to any isolated nonverbal sign’.

In the case above, Bolton in his 1996 publication has quoted Eisenberg’s and Smith’s research to prove a point he was making about non-verbal communication.

If the author of a source is anonymous, replace the author’s surname with the title of the work in the brackets containing the reference.  Consider the following fictitious example.

The flora and fauna of Britain ‘has been transported to almost every corner of the globe since colonial times’ (Plants and Animals of Britain, 1942: 8).

Reference newspaper and magazine articles in the same way you would for other books and journals.  However, when the author is anonymous, use the system below (adapted from Lewis, 1999: 26).

The Guardian reported that twenty-nine inmates were participating in the programme (‘Serving time’, 1996: 21).

When you paraphrase, sometimes you might be rephrasing the words and ideas you have found in more than one book or journal article.  If you find that a number of sources say similar things about a topic, an example of the correct referencing style is demonstrated below.  Notice in the example below how the listed sources are separated by a semicolon.

The semicolon can be used to separate two sections of a compound sentence that have a similar theme (Turabian, 1996: 56; Petelin and Durham, 1992:169).

Sometimes you may wish to use material from lectures, discussions, interviews, or distance learning courses to supplement your assignments.  Use the following conventions to ensure that your referencing is correct (adapted from Lewis, 1999: 26).

Mr Bob Builder, Managing Director of Builder’s Construction, stated in an interview on 5 September 2000 that ‘customers were increasingly asking for traditional methods and materials to be used in construction projects’.

Dr Wilma Flintstone stated in her lecture on 5 September 2000 that acid jazz has roots as far back as 1987.

Adult learners should learn the art of effective note taking for the simple reason that students ‘are more likely to remember what they have heard or read if they take an active part in their learning’ (Dhann, 2001:3).


Adult learners should learn the art of effective note taking for the simple reason that students ‘are more likely to remember what they have heard or read if they take an active part in their learning’ (Department of Lifelong Learning, 2001: 3).

Electronic sources such as WWW pages, electronic databases and electronic journals are cited in the text in much the same way as traditional print sources, with the exception of page numbers.  The author’s name is followed by a publication date, but no page numbers are listed.  If no publication date is available, and this might be the case for WWW pages, then where the date should go, insert (n.d.) which stands for ‘no date’.  If no author is listed for an electronic source, use the title of the publication in the same way as you would for any other anonymous source. 

Creating a reference list

All of the sources you refer to in the main body of your assignment need to be listed at the end of the assignment in a reference list.  In a reference list, you only need to list those sources from which you have either quoted or paraphrased.  For example, you do not have to list books you used for background reading purposes. 

When creating a reference list, the sources should be listed alphabetically by author’s surname, should be left justified, and the references should never be preceded by a bullet-point or number.  Where the author is anonymous or unknown for any one source, insert that source in the alphabetical list using the title of the source instead of the author’s name.  All sources should be listed together; there should not be separate lists for books versus journal articles versus electronic sources.  The reference list should be on a separate page from the rest of the assignment and should be simply titled ‘References’ or ‘Literature Cited’ and the title should be in the same font and size as the other headings in your assignment. 

When you use the Harvard System, you are only usually required to produce a reference list.  However, some lecturers and tutors may want you to produce a bibliography instead of a reference list.  In cases where you are asked to produce a bibliography, you must list all sources you have consulted, regardless of whether you cited from them or not.  Also, some lecturers or tutors may ask you to produce an annotated bibliography or reference list.  This simply means that after each source listed, you write a couple of sentences that appraise the book’s usefulness in relation to the topic.   

The following is a guide to how to list references in a reference list.  If you have an example that is not covered by the list below, please check with your tutor or the Student Support Officer regarding the correct technique.

Book with one author

Adair, J. (1988) Effective time management: How to save time and spend it wisely, London: Pan Books.

Book with two authors

McCarthy, P. and Hatcher, C. (1996) Speaking persuasively: Making the most of your presentations, Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Book with three or more authors

Fisher, R., Ury, W. and Patton, B. (1991) Getting to yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in, 2nd edition, London: Century Business.

Book – second or later edition

Barnes, R. (1995) Successful study for degrees, 2nd edition, London: Routledge.

Book by same author in the same year

Napier, A. (1993a) Fatal storm, Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Napier, A. (1993b) Survival at sea, Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Book with an editor

Danaher, P. (ed.) (1998) Beyond the ferris wheel, Rockhampton: CQU Press.

If you have used a chapter in a book written by someone other than the editor

Byrne, J. (1995) ‘Disabilities in tertiary education’, in Rowan, L. and McNamee, J. (ed.) Voices of a Margin, Rockhampton: CQU Press.

Books with an anonymous or unknown author

The University Encyclopedia (1985) London: Roydon.

Unpublished, verbal sources such as interviews and lectures are not reproduced in the reference list.  However, you must put any published course materials that you have used in the reference list using the conventions below.

Written course material, for example distance learning unit material

Dhann, S. (2001) CAE0001LWR Unit 5: Note taking skills from lectures and readings, Exeter: Department of Lifelong Learning.


Department of Lifelong Learning (2001), CAE0001LWR Unit 5: Note taking skills from lectures and readings, Exeter: Author.     

(NB – ‘Author’ at the end means that the publisher is the same as the author)

Government publications

Department for Education and Employment (DfEE), (2001) Skills for life: The national strategy for improving adult literacy and numeracy skills, Nottingham: DfEE Publications.

Conference papers

Hart, G., Albrecht, M., Bull, R. and Marshall, L. (1992) ‘Peer consultation: A professional development opportunity for nurses employed in rural settings’, Infront Outback – Conference Proceedings, Australian Rural Health Conference, Toowoomba, pp. 143 – 148.

Newspaper articles

Cumming, F. (1999) ‘Tax-free savings push’, Sunday Mail, 4 April, p. 1.


Tax-free savings push’, Sunday Mail (4 April 1999), p. 3.

The conventions for listing journal articles are similar to books, but note the extra information required in the example below and apply this to all journal article listings.

Journal article

Muller, V. (1994) ‘Trapped in the body: Transsexualism, the law, sexual identity’, The Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 3, August, pp. 103-107.

In this example, Muller has written the journal article ‘Trapped in the body: Transsexualism, the law, sexual identity’ and it has appeared in the journal ‘Australian Feminist Law Journal, in it’s 3rd volume that was published in August of 1994.  The article appears on pages 103 to 107 of the journal.  Please note that sometimes, instead of ‘volume’ there may be an ‘issue’ number, and instead of a month of publication, there may be a season.  Sometimes there will be a volume number and an issue number.  In those cases, list both the volume and issue numbers as has been done below.

Journal article with both volume and issue number

Muller, V. (1994) ‘Trapped in the body: Transsexualism, the law, sexual identity’, The Australian Feminist Law Journal, vol. 3, no. 2, August, pp. 103-107.

 Electronic and web based references can be listed in the following ways.

Journal article from CD-ROM, electronic database, or journal

Skargren, E.I. & Oberg, B. (1998) ‘Predictive factors for 1-year outcome of low-back and neck pain in patients treated in primary care: Comparison between the treatment strategies chiropractic and physiotherapy’, Pain [Electronic], vol. 77, no. 2, pp. 201-208, Available: Elsevier/ScienceDirect/ O304-3959(98)00101-8, [8 Feb 1999].

In this example, [Electronic] refers to the type of media that you found the source on.  If you found the source on a CD-ROM, you would put [CD-ROM] in the square brackets instead of ‘Electronic’.  As with a normal journal example, the volume number, issue number and page numbers are listed.  At the end of this example, note that the name of the database has been listed, along with the identification/access number of the article, and an access date (in square brackets).

Examples of other electronic references are listed in the box below. 

Electronic mail (e-mail)

Johnston, R. (2001) Access courses for women, e-mail to NIACE Lifelong Learning Mailing List (, 22 Aug. [24 Aug 2001].


Robinson, T. (2001) Re: Information on course structure, e-mail to S. Dhann (, 12 Jul. [13 Jul 2001].

Discussion list

Berkowitz, P. (1995) April 3, ‘Sussy’s gravestone’, Mark Twain Forum [Online], 3 Apr, Available e-mail: TWAIN-L@yorkvm2.bitnet [3 Apr 1995].

World Wide Web page

Young, C. (2001) English Heritage position statement on the Valletta Convention, [Online], Available: [24 Aug 2001].

In the WWW page example, sometimes the author’s details or the date of publication/update might be missing.  When the author’s name is missing, use the name of the web page to list the reference, as you would with any other anonymous source.  If the date of publication or update is missing, omit this information, but be sure to still include in square brackets the date you accessed the information.


It is extremely important that students correctly reference all paraphrasing and direct quotations.  While there are many referencing rules and conventions under the Harvard system, in most cases it is generally important in the text of an assignment to show the reader the author’s name, date of publication and page numbers of the original source.  In the reference list, it is important that the author’s name, the year of publication, relevant titles, and other access information is faithfully reproduced.  At first, the referencing system may seem time-consuming and fussy but it will soon become second nature to you and will become part of the long list of skills you will have gained as a university student. 

The author would like to acknowledge that certain citation and reference examples were taken from the following publications and that these publications influenced that way in which the author arranged the document.

Central Queensland University ESLS Unit (2001) Referencing: The Harvard referencing system, [Online], Available: [14 Aug 2001]

Lewis, D. (ed.) (1999) The written assignment, Brisbane: QUT Publications.

Wells, D. (2001) Harvard referencing, [Online], Available: [14 Aug 2001].

(Samantha Dhann, 2001)