Harvard Referencing – UnCOVered

Harvard Referencing is something you may have briefly come across at school and college, and might now be facing in university. It’s likely that all of you will come across it at some point, especially if you have to do any essay writing.

So what is Harvard Referencing, and why is it so important?

Identify those sources…

Harvard Referencing is a system of identifying and referencing sources in your work. Obvious, right?

But seriously, what on earth does that mean? Well, in your academic essays, you’ll be expected to look into other people’s (ideally scholars, but this does depend on your course – they do, however, always need to be reliable sources. Hint: Wikipedia and Sparknotes, although useful, aren’t usually accepted as reliable sources by the Uni) ideas and research, and use it to back up your own argument. It is then very important to reference this work, and to do it right.

So how do you do it?

You have to reference your work in a very specific way, and that’s where the Coventry University Harvard Referencing Guide comes in. So in the simplest way possible, here is a bit about how to use it: (for the purpose of this, I will only demonstrate with two common sources people use, the rest can be found in the longer version!)

First things first. Harvard Referencing is split into two parts: in-text citations (where you reference the source in the body of the essay) and list of references. (This comes at the end and lists all the details of the sources you’ve used.) Both need to be shown in your work.

In-text citations (example):

Harvard Referencing “isn’t necessarily the easiest of things to do in an essay, but it is very useful and is important to make sure you are referencing sources correctly.” (Website name, 2017) Sources are needed in academic essays to “back up your argument and show evidence that what you are stating is true.” (Author surname 2017: 17)


Red = The Website name if the source is a website and the author’s last name if the source is a book

Blue = Year of webpage/article or website copyright address (normally found at the bottom of a page) for a website and the year of publishing for a book.

Green = Page number for a book (not needed for a website – happy days!)

Hint: If you’re directly quoting somebody, put the quote in italics. If you’re just stating a theory, leave it normal.

List of References (Example):

Author, A. (2017) Name of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher

Website Name (2017) Name of Webpage. [online] available from: <Long Website Address (URL)> [23 January 2017]


Red: The name of the Website or for a book, the author’s last name, followed by a comma, then the initial of their first name, and then a full stop

Blue: Year of webpage/article or website copyright address (normally found at the bottom of a page) for a website and the year of publishing for a book

Orange: Name of the book or webpage for a website source, you may have to make a suitable webpage name up if there is nothing obvious, followed by a full stop

Green: The place of publication and the publisher, this is normally found together at the front of the book with all the other information about the book such as publication dates

Purple: The website address/URL – This is the long bit in the browser bar at the top that starts with https:// or www. (website only)

Navy: The date on which you researched the source (for websites only)

Everything in black (i.e. “[online] available from”) also needs to be put in. These don’t change for different sources, but everything in different colours is changeable information.

This is a very, very basic guide, and only covers references for entire books and general websites. It’s likely you’ll be finding information from many different sources when it comes to writing your own essays and completing your own assignments, so having a hard copy of the guide is also essential. Hopefully from this post alone, you get the general idea of referencing (even down to where the full stops go), but for the full list, you can refer to the full Coventry University Harvard Reference Style Guide or book a session with the University’s Centre For Academic Writing (CAW).

Of course, we’re here too if you have any smaller queries. Drop a comment into the box below to let us know what we can do to help you with, and we’ll try our best!