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What is Harvard referencing?

There are many Harvard styles. If your professor says "use Harvard style," a good follow-up question would be "which one?" A Harvard style is a citation style that uses brackets (i.e. parentheses for any American readers) to present in-text citations.*


Styles like APA, ASA, and Chicago: Author Date are all Harvard styles and offer comprehensive guidebooks. Universities also invent their own Harvard styles. Each university’s Harvard style is a little different, and frankly, some university's guides are much better than others.


 Here are three Harvard-style citations of the same source using different systems:


So what should students do?

If you haven’t started your paper, Red Pen Bristol (RPB) strongly recommends choosing a style with a comprehensive guidebook. Use your subject area or discuss options with a faculty representative to identify an appropriate style. APA (American Psychological Association) and ASA (American Sociological Association) are both popular in many fields.

Anglia Ruskin's online Harvard style guide is also an option: Its rules are comprehensive and consistent; in fact, Anglia Ruskin’s guide is so good that several other universities have used it when trying to invent their own styles.

DON’T try to use different universities’ online examples. DON’T just Google “Harvard style”. You’ll end up with highly inconsistent citations.

Uh oh…  That’s exactly what I did.

Alright. So you’ve already written the paper. And you definitely used several different Harvard styles from different universities. There are consistency problems with your citations.

How does RPB fix those problems?

We do have a few house rules for Harvard-style citations. Our house rules are based on what is widely true for most Harvard styles. However, we do not have a unique in-house Harvard style, as that would force editors to make far too many unnecessary changes.

Instead, we prioritize consistency.

That means to fix inconsistent citations, we briefly evaluate your existing citations to see what they have in common. Then we rely on our experience to create the most efficient plan for bringing all the citations into the same format.

The result is a paper with clear, consistent citations that respect the basics of the Harvard system.

*See Chernin's article on the origins of the Harvard system.