Harvard Format

Learn to write your research paper using the Harvard format.

The Harvard format is a common writing style used for scientific and technical writing. Like many other writing styles, HRS allows its writer to give credit to the sources in which they obtain their information. The use of Harvard references prevents plagiarism, accusations of plagiarism towards a writer, and brings credibility to the work of the writer.

The parenthetical citations allow writers to reference their source of information within the text of their work. Those citations are then compiled in a list of references located at the end of the document called the reference list.

The Basics of the Harvard Format


Harvard Format Defined

The Harvard format, also known as the Harvard Referencing System (HRS), is a common writing style used in science and technical writing. Papers following the Harvard format must follow both citation and referencing guidelines.

Harvard Format Example

Harvard Format - Harvard Format example, Harvard reference list.

Harvard Format example, Harvard reference list


The format includes parenthetical citations within the content of the work. This allows for writers to give credit to the original source from which the information was obtained. The parenthetical citation is often composed of the author’s name, year of publication, and page numbers of the source. Every document that uses the Harvard format contains these parenthetical citations.

Citation Guidelines

  • Capitalize the names of authors including initials.
  • If the author’s name is in the text, follow with year in parentheses.
  • When referencing multiple sources within one set of parenthesis, separate sources with semicolons.
  • When articles or studies have no author, use the name of the magazine or journal instead.


Every paper that is written in the Harvard format must include a references page that is a collection of all the parenthetical citations in the work. The purpose of the reference list is to provide greater detail for each and every citation in the paper. The detailed information in the reference list allows readers to access the original source of information for themselves. The references list begins on a separate page from the essay and coordinates with every Harvard citation used throughout the text.

The type of source that is used, whether it is a book, journal article, or electronic source, determines how the citations and references are presented. In order to follow the Harvard format correctly, be sure to refer to the official Harvard Reference System guidelines.

References Guidelines

  • The Harvard format requires parenthetical citations and a references list.
  • References list is located at the end of the document and must be labeled “References.”
  • The “References” title should be located at the top, center of the page.
  • “References” should not be bolded, underlined, or italicized.
  • All Harvard citations included in a work must also be included in the reference list.
  • Harvard references must be alphabetized by last name of the author.
  • Periodical and publication volume, issue, page numbers, publisher, and place of publication must be included in Harvard references.
  • Italicize book and journal titles.
  • Do not italicize, underline, or quote journal articles or essays.


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