Journals Higher Education

Author–date citations (Harvard)

Social science texts often employ author–date citations, also known as Harvard-style citations. This style is also appropriate for many types of humanities texts. The author–date style is an efficient and clear method of providing citations to published sources, which appear in a reference list at the end of the chapter or book. No superscripts are used, which means that reordering of the text does not require renumbering of notes. Instead of superscript numbers, a parenthetical citation (consisting of author name and date of publication) appears in the text and leads the reader to a full entry in a reference list that appears at the end of the chapter or book.


The method works particularly well when most of your citations are to published books or journal articles. It works less well if you are frequently citing unauthored material or otherwise untraditional sources. Unlike numbered notes, author–date citations cannot accommodate translations or glosses outside the text proper: it is possible to combine author–date citations (for bibliographic citations) with numbered notes (for explanatory text).

In-text citation

References are cited parenthetically within the text by using the author’s last name and a date. A page number can be present if needed. If the author’s name appears in the sentence containing the citation, you need only use the date. Complete bibliographical information is given in a reference list at the end of the chapter or text.

Up to two author names can be used in the in-text citation. For three or more names, use the first author’s last name plus ‘et al’.

In the event that you cite multiple references by the same author published in the same year, distinguish between them by adding ‘a’ and ‘b’ (and so on) to the year in both the citation and the reference list.

Structure of the reference list

The reference list appears at the end of the chapter or text in alphabetical order. The name of the first author is inverted. In science contexts, author initials are often used in place of the first name.

Required bibliographic elements are given below for the most common types of reference citations, along with optional elements which should be used consistently. Other elements below are required if applicable (for example, you need a page number or other locator if you are quoting a precise part of a large work, but you can skip it if the reference is to the work as a whole).

Do not use long dashes to substitute for the name of an author whose name is repeated in the bibliography. This creates problems when linking that entry in an online context, where the entry may not appear immediately following the entry with the full name. Repeat the name in full.

Authored book

Required elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials. Year of Publication. Title of Work.

With optional elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials. Year of Publication. Title of Work, City of Publication: Publisher.

With required if applicable elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials, and Firstname/initials Lastname. Year of Publication. Title of Work, 2nd ed. City of Publication: Publisher.

Chapter in an edited book

Required elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials, Year of Publication. ‘Title of Chapter in an Edited Book’. In Title of Edited Volume, edited by Firstname Lastname.

With optional elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials,Year of Publication. ‘Title of Chapter in an Edited Book’. In Title of Edited Volume, edited by Firstname Lastname, City of Publication: Publisher.

With required if applicable elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials, and Firstname/initials Lastname. Year of Publication. ‘Title of Chapter in an Edited Book’. In Title of Edited Volume, edited by Firstname Lastname, page number(s) [or alternative locator info]. 2nd ed. City of Publication: Publisher.

Journal article

Required elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials,Year of Publication. ‘Title of Article’. Name of Journal vol. number: start page.

With optional elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials,Year of Publication. ‘Title of Article’. Name of Journal vol. number (Month or Season): start page.

With required if applicable elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials, and Firstname/initials Lastname. Year of Publication. ‘Title of Article’. Name of Journal vol. number (issue number) (Month or Season): start page–end page. doi: XX [or stable URL].

Magazine article

Required elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials, Year of Publication. ‘Title of Article’. Name of Magazine, Month of Pub.

With required if applicable elements

Lastname, Firstname/initials, and Firstname/initials Lastname. Year of Publication. ‘Title of Article’. Name of Magazine, Day and Month of Pub. doi: XX [or stable URL].

If a magazine article has no stated author:

Required elements

‘Title of Article’. Year of Publication. Name of Magazine, Month of Pub.

With required if applicable elements

‘Title of Article’. Year of Publication. Name of Magazine, Day and Month of Pub. doi: XX [or stable URL].

Website or other source

Include in your bibliographic entry as much as possible of the following: author; title or description of the content; owner/publisher; month and/or day of publication, most recent revision, or, failing that, date accessed; and URL. The year of publication should be the second element in the entry.

Some flexibility is necessary to accommodate the wide variety of content available, particularly online.

The names of websites are usually set in roman type. However, the names of online magazines and books are italicized like their print counterparts.

We give examples using US spelling and punctuation here.


Difference between a reference list and a bibliography

Note that a reference list in the author-date system can contain only items actually cited in the work, and must contain all those items. This differs from the bibliography in the numbered-note system, which can contain both cited items and items of interest that have not been specifically cited. If there are uncited works that you would like to draw to the reader’s attention, these can be placed after the references in a separate listed titled ‘Further reading’.

We give an example of author-date citation with a reference list and further reading with UK spelling and punctuation here and with US spelling and punctuation here.

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