Formatting Guides

Harvard Style & Format: A 5-Minute Guide + Samples

Harvard referencing style
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The Harvard referencing style is a widely used system for citing and referencing sources in academic writing. It provides a consistent and standardized format for acknowledging the works of others that you have used in your research.

Struggling to remember tricky peculiarities of Harvard style referencing and formatting? Don’t worry, you have come across a helpful material. In this article, you will find the basics of Harvard style formatting which would be useful for your academic progress. This easy but detailed Harvard style guide contains all format requirements for a paper and some structural tips. Besides, it covers general rules on how to cite your sources properly in your text.

Feel free to use these guidelines for your academic endeavors. Let us go through details of Harvard style referencing and formatting together!  

Reference Harvard Style: Basics

Harvard style is an author-date system of referencing. It’s similar to an APA paper format in terms of general formatting of pages and text. But this style follows its own rules for bibliography and in-text citations formatting.

Harvard style is typically used for essays in such academic disciplines:  

  • Humanities
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Philosophy.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t use this paper format in other areas of study.

The general rule is to put references to your sources in round brackets. Specify author’s name and publication year. These references should come after your quotes (direct or indirect) in the end of a respective sentence or paragraph. Full details about all sources you have used should be provided at the end of your work. This section should be named ‘Reference List’. Buy coursework or any other type of research paper that will be referenced for you by our experts. 

Harvard Format: General Requirements

Let us explore some general rules for Harvard formatting:

  • Font: Times New Roman or Arial
  • Size: 12 pt
  • Text: double-spaced and left-aligned
  • Indent: first line of a paragraph has indent of 0.5 inch
  • Margins: 1 inch from each side

A Harvard style citation must have a Title page, header (or running head), headings and Reference list. We will take a closer look at formatting each section down below.  

Harvard Style Title Page

What are the requirements for a Harvard style cover page? Title page is otherwise known as front page. This is the first page of your paper to be observed by your reader, i.e. your teacher first of all. Therefore, it is highly important to format it properly.

Formatting rules for Harvard Title page:  

  • Paper title is fully capitalised and centered. Should be placed at approximately 33% of your page counting from its top.
  • Your name as an author, centered and placed at the middle of your page.
  • Course name at approximately 66% of the page.
  • Instructor’s name on a new line.
  • University’s name.
  • Submission date.

See the sample of a Harvard title page down below.

Formatting a Header in Harvard

An important detail: you are required to use a header in Harvard referencing format. This section is repeatedly shown on all pages of your paper except the title page. You have to configure it once. Then, headers will get automatically added on each new page.

Headers in Harvard referencing format contains such information:  

  1. Page number, right aligned
  2. Shortened title of your paper, not capitalized, right-aligned, to the left of page number.

It is important to use shortened title because there is not too much space in any header. Also, another requirement is putting exactly 5 spaces between your title and a page number in headers.

Harvard Style Heading

Now let us explore some rules of using subheadings in Harvard style, in detail. Typically there are 2 levels of section headings recommended for use in such papers. They have different formatting. This helps to tell one from another, without using different font sizes for them.

  1. Level-1 subheadings for a bigger section. They must be centered, capitalized, but at the same time not indented, not bold, not underscored, not italicized.
  2. Level-2 subheading for any subsection, typically 1-2 paragraphs. They must be capitalized, left-aligned, not indented. Besides, they should be italicized.

The plain text of any paragraph should go on a new line after subheadings in Harvard style, be it Level-1 or Level-2 subheading.

Harvard Reference List

Listing all sources you have used for your research in a proper order is a core element of Harvard style. Reference list should be the last part of your paper but absolutely not the least. Now let us explore some critical rules for a reference list formatting.

The Harvard-style reference list section has its own subtitle, namely ‘Reference List’. Similarly to a Level-1 subheading, it should be capitalized and centered. The rest of your content in this section goes from a new line after your title. No extra empty lines are to be added.

Your references in this list are numbered and sorted alphabetically. No lines are indented. Each item in this list starts from a new line. Below we will describe a format for referencing in detail.  

Harvard Style Bibliography

Sometimes your professor or instructor might ask you to create a Bibliography section instead of a common Reference list. So what is the Harvard Bibliography format?

Harvard style bibliography includes not only those sources you have cited in your text but also. It also includes materials which you have read to get ideas for your research and to better understand the context of a selected problem. So, such section would contain more items than a Reference list.

Apart of that, the general Harvard Bibliography format is the same:  

  • Heading, ‘Bibliography’ is formatted the same way as a Level-1 subheading
  • Sources are put into alphabetical order
  • List is double-spaced
  • Lines do not have any indent
  • Each item of this list starts from a new line.

Harvard Style Citations: General Rules

Another crucial element of Harvard style is referring to your sources inside your essay. That’s why you should know how to cite in Harvard style. Keep in mind that the main purpose of a proper format is to ensure your paper is plagiarizm-free. Sometimes, you should cite ideas from books, magazines or newspapers. But you can only refer to such ideas, otherwise it will be considered a form of plagiarism.

Below we will show you how to cite in Harvard style, providing general information about published sources. So let us proceed and learn more about shortened quotes and full references.  

How to Quote in Harvard Style

Here are the rules of Harvard format in-text citation:

  • Add them in parentheses, usually at the end of quotes.
  • Put an author’s last name and a publication year into round brackets, add page number if needed.


  • When quoting a web page, give a paragraph number instead of a page since many websites don’t divide text into pages.
  • Direct citation requires quotation marks and a page number is mandatory in parenthesis
  • If you have mentioned an author’s name in your quote, do not include it into brackets, just leave a year and a page numbers there.


  • Sometimes you might need to quote two different sources at once. In such case include both into the same parenthesis and divide them by a semicolon.


Creating References in Harvard Style

And this is how you should be referencing in Harvard style, providing full descriptions of the sources you have used. Let us start with the general book format:

  1. Last name of the author followed by comma and initials
  2. If there are multiple authors, their names are separated with comma, except the last one which must be separated by ‘&’
  3. Year of publication follows, without a comma
  4. A full title of the book is given, italicized
  5. Publisher name
  6. City and country where this book was published are the last to be provided.


Here are several Harvarvard referencing rules for other source types:

  • Refer to an edited book by putting ‘(ed.)’ or ‘(eds)’ after the editor name(s)
  • If a book was translated, add ‘trans. I Lastname’
  • Refer to an article in any book or journal by adding an article name in quotation marks but not italicized
  • Refer to a website by adding ‘viewed’ and the date when you’ve opened it, followed by the URL in angle brackets.

Bottom Line

In this article we have explored the Harvard referencing guide, one of the most popular ones for students in the UK. Feel free to use these tips and proceed to writing a winning essay with flawless formatting! Just keep in mind the following key concepts of the Harvard style:

  • Title or cover page
  • Headers and their contents
  • Subheadings of two levels with different formatting
  • Reference list with full-detailed description of sources
  • In-text citations with lots of different forms for various quote types.

In conclusion, consider our custom term paper writing solution if you lack the time or got into writer's block.


If you have questions, please visit our FAQ section or contact our expert writers. They will gladly help you create references in line with all requirements. On top of that, our writers are highly experienced in academic writing and can assist you with any type of formatting.  

FAQ About Harvard Format

1. Is Harvard reference style used in colleges?

The Harvard style can be used in colleges as well as in other educational institutions and even by professional researchers. While it is relatively popular in many countries for research paper referencing, Harvard style is most widespread in universities of the UK nowadays. Other styles (APA, MLA and Chicago) dominate the US educational institutions.

2. What is the difference between Harvard and Oxford referencing styles?

The Harvard style format is a typical example of an author-date system as it requires using author’s names and publication dates for in-text referencing. You should create a complete reference list as a separate section in the end of your research paper.
The Oxford style on the contrary uses numbered footnotes for citing sources used on your page. In-text citations on this page consist just from numbers of respective notes.  

Article posted on:May 6, 2022
Article updated on:Jul 22, 2024


Leave your comment here:
6/25/2022 9:48 AM
Hi there! I always struggle when it comes to different referencing styles, but this article was very helpful. It took me like 10 minutes to fully understand what I should do with my paper and how to cite in Harvard style. Thank you for informative and easy-to-read content!
6/25/2022 11:47 AM
Hi Viki,

Glad you're finding our article helpful. Best wishes in your further academic pursuits!
7/7/2022 8:27 AM
Thanks for such a good article! Anyway, while I was reading it, I couldn't help thinking about one thing. Sorry for an unrelated question, but why is Harvard style called Harvard?
7/7/2022 9:00 AM
Hi Michael,

Thank you for the interesting question, though! The origin of the Harvard style is attributed to an article by Edward Laurens Mark, who was a professor of anatomy and director of the zoological laboratory at Harvard University. Later, The Festschrift (a book honoring a respected person, especially an academic) wrote that it "introduced into zoology a proper fullness and accuracy of citation and a convenient and uniform method of referring from text to bibliography." It is said that the term was introduced by an English visitor to Harvard University library, who was impressed by the citation system and dubbed it "Harvard system" upon his return to England.
5/15/2023 10:34 AM
Thank you so much but can you also provide an example of how to reference from an internet source.
5/15/2023 10:43 AM
Hi Samuel,

To reference an internet resource such as a website, follow this format: Author's Surname, Intial(s). (Publication Year) Italicized Page Title. Available at: URL (Accessed: Day Month Year). If there is no publication year available, just use 'n.d.' in the parentheses. Should you need more imformation, feel free to leave a comment or read our guide
Nancy Watson
5/15/2023 10:34 AM
Looking for the correct set up for Harvard style table of contents. Thank you.
5/15/2023 10:55 AM
Hi Nancy,

To properly format a Harvard style table of contents, you need to begin it on a new page, typically after the abstract or acknowledgments section. Place the title "Table of Contents" centered at the top of the page using a title case. List all main headings and subheadings with their respective page numbers, aligned to the left. Make sure you put an extra indent for level-2 headings to clearly show the hierarchy and structure of your paper. It is also a good idea to include a list of tables and figures if your paper contains these.

Hopefully, this information will help you!
5/15/2023 10:34 AM
Thank you for the valuable information. I've got I was looking for! Cheers!
5/15/2023 10:57 AM
Dear Pavan,

You're welcome! I'm glad the information was helpful to you and that you found what you were looking for. If you have any more questions or need further assistance, feel free to ask.