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Harvard - references in text

The Harvard style is a system of referencing in which a text's citations are placed in parentheses. Here you will find explanations and examples of how to structure references according to Harvard.

The examples on this page are based on Umeå University Library's version of the Harvard style.

References in parentheses

When you refer to other people's theories in your academic text, you must clearly state the sources you have used. A citation is a reference to an article, book, report or other sources in the body of the text.

According to the Harvard style, in-text references to sources are placed in parentheses. There are different ways to do this. In our variant, the reference consists of the author's surname followed by the year of publication and page number.

At the end of your document, you collect all the sources you have used in an alphabetical reference list.

References in two different ways

In Harvard, there are two ways to cite a source, depending on whether you mention the author's name in the text.

Author (year of publication, page number)

When summarising a text or theory, you can mention the author of the source in your text. In this case, include the year of publication and page number in the parentheses directly after the author's name.

According to Alvehus (2019, 66), departments often have their own writing instructions for how to write references.

(Author year of publication, page number)

When summarising a text or theory without mentioning the author, include the author's surname, year of publication and page number in the parentheses. Place the parentheses directly after the sentences where you use the source, but before the full stop.

There are several reasons why citing sources is so important in academia. One of them is to show where the facts come from so that the reader can check the information and thus also assess its credibility (Alvehus 2019, 64-65).

Examples for different types of sources

Source with one author

The structure of the European Union is often described in the shape of three pillars. The first pillar is the largest (Tallberg 2004, 65).

You can also reference your source directly:

Tallberg (2004, 65) describes the structure of the European Union in the shape of three pillars, of which the first pillar is the largest.

Source with two or three authors

(Fossum, Skantz and Katzeff 1997, 25-31).


Fossum, Skantz and Katzeff (1997, 25-31) mean...

Source with four or more authors

If there are more than three authors, only the first author should be used, followed by "et al."

(Johnson et al. 2001, 226).


Johnson et al. (2001, 226) found that...

Book chapters

For the in-text reference include only the last name(s) of the author(s) of the book chapter, year of publication and pages number(s).

The reference list should provide information that the source is a chapter in a book.

Web pages

State author, year of publication and, if applicable, page number(s) (page numbers are missing in most cases for web pages). If there is no personal author, use the corporate author (company, organization, authority etc.).

(Volvo 2019).


According to Volvo (2019) production will…

Material with no personal author

Sources may not have a personal author, but organizations, companies, authorities will function as “authors” in those cases. If a journal article does not have a personal author, use the title of the journal as an in-text reference.

(Frankfurter Allgemeine 2015, 21).

No year of publication available

If no information about year of publication is available state n.d. (no date).

(Johnson n.d., 15).

Sources with no page numbers

If books, journal articles or a reports do not have page numbers, state chapter/headline and paragraph instead. For information on how to cite web pages with no page numbers see web pages.

In the in-text reference example below is paragraph 3 in the “Introduction” chapter in the book by Smith published 2018 cited:

(Smith 2018, Introduction, para. 3)

Use of acronyms/abbreviations

The first time you cite provide the full name of organisation followed by the standard acronym/abbreviation in square brackets. 

(Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] 2010, 89).

When you cite from the same source again you only write the abbreviation.

(OECD 2010, 95).

Provide the full name in the reference list followed by the acronym/abbreviation of the organization within parenthesis, for example: United Nations (UN).

Several works by one author in the same year

If you are quoting several works published by the same author in the same year, they should be separated by adding a lower case letter directly after the year for each item. Please note that the works should be separated the same way in the reference list (by adding a lower case letter after the year).

Previous results confirmed the thesis (Duncan 2000a, 167-169), but later research disproved it (Duncan 2000b, 40-44).

Citing multiple sources supporting the same idea

When citing multiple sources parenthetically, place the in-text references in alphabetical order, separating them with semicolons.


Studies (Jones and Wilson 2019, 14; Smith 2016, 38; Yourstone 2012, 145) show…

Illustrations (photographs, figures, diagrams, tables etc.)

You can cite illustrations in your text without including the actual illustration in your text. If you include an illustration made by someone else in your paper you must check if it is protected by copyright. For illustrations protected by copyright you must ask for permission from the copyright owner before you include them in your text. If you use an illustration in your paper include a caption with the following information image number (e.g. Figure 1), title, creator of illustration and year. Cite the person (artist, photographer etc.) who have made the illustration in the running text.

Image 5 (Hazel 2015, 32) is a typical example of...

The painting "The fighting temeraire" (Turner 1839) shows..

Secondary sources

To cite a source from a secondary source is generally to be avoided, since you are expected to have read the works you cite. If a primary source (original source) is not available you may use secondary sources. In those cases mention the original author and date would be used in the text and the text citation would include the words “cited in.”, see Writing references Harvard. In the example below you have read Bob Smith's book "Democracy" published 1972 where he on page 67 cites Tom Small's book "Civil rights" published 1832:

Small (1832, cited in Smith 1972, 67) claims....


(Small 1832, cited in Smith 1972, 67).

Audiovisual media

The equivalent for an audiovisual source to a page reference becomes a time stamp for a video lecture or an audiobook. You specify how many minutes and seconds into the file the current section starts.

(Author/equivalent Year, chapter (if applicable), minutes:seconds)

For longer files the time stamp can be expanded to include hours: hour:minute:second.

(Smith 2010, ch. 3, 4:35)

Learn more

Introduction to the Harvard system

A video about the Harvard reference style.

Basics of paraphrasing

Questions about writing references?

Do you have questions about how to write a reference list or cite sources? Visit our drop-in sessions or schedule a tutoring appointment if you need help from a librarian. You can also submit short questions via chat and the contact form or ask the staff at the information desk.

Latest update: 2022-12-05