What university students should know about academic referencing

harvard referencing
The Harvard referencing style is used by many universities worldwide. Source: Frederic J. Brown/AFP

Before submitting an assignment in university, there is an important step you cannot afford to miss — academic referencing. While there are many types of referencing styles that you can use, they vary from university to university. One common style is the Harvard referencing style.

The Harvard referencing style is possibly one of the easiest to use. It is often known as the “Author-Date” system. There are many benefits of using this system.

For starters, the Harvard referencing style doesn’t require you to insert or search for complex footnotes or endnotes as required by other referencing styles. You can also include additional information in the footnotes — if necessary — since there are no citation footnotes needed for this particular style.

The parenthetical citations also make it easier for anyone reading your work to check for source accuracy and timeliness. 

Harvard referencing

The Harvard referencing style uses parentheses. Source: Philippe Lopez/AFP

Harvard referencing style 101

If you’re making a reference list at the end of your essay, you’ll need to include the full citations for all referenced work in alphabetical order. You’ll need the following information:

  • The author’s surname and initial(s)
  • The year of publication
  • The title of the publication (in italics, minimal capitalisation)
  • Edition (if applicable — abbreviated as ‘edn’)
  • Publisher
  • Place of publication (note: add a full stop after this)

For example: Bracket, H 2021, How-to Guide to Harvard Referencing, X University, Kuala Lumpur.

If you’re accessing an e-book, you’ll need to include three additional information to the above:

  • Format (e-book)
  • Accessed day month year (the date of viewing),
  • URL 

The University of New South Wales uses the following as an example:

Lloyd, CB (ed.) 2005, Growing up global: The changing transitions for adulthood in developing countries, e-book, accessed 5 May 2007, <>.

And there you have it! If you’re ever in doubt about using the Harvard referencing style, there are plenty of online websites with many useful examples to use as references.