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Referencing - BU Harvard: Introduction

The Harvard system (author date method)

Referencing is a two part process:

  • Sources cited in the main text of your work
  • References at the end of your work

Anything you use from a source that is written or produced by another author should be cited in the main text of your work and referenced in a list at the end of your work.

You can cite in three main ways:

  1. Quote – Use the exact words of another author
  2. Paraphrase – Rewrite an argument in your own words
  3. Summarise – Pick out the main points of an argument and write in your own words
  • Find more guidance on academic writing in our online study skills guide Reading & Writing.
  • In the Harvard System all cited publications are referred to in the main body of text by giving the author’s surname/family name and the year of publication.
  • Each cited publication must have a corresponding full reference in the list of references at the end of your work.
  • The references are listed in alphabetical order by author surname / name of organisation.

Click on the headings below for information

  • Use the name(s) of the person or organisation shown most prominently in the source as being responsible for the content.
  • If no author is given and there is clearly no identifiable person or organisation, use ‘Anon.’, except for webpages, newspapers, film, dictionaries or encyclopaedias (see No author or clearly identifiable person/organisation responsible for further guidance).
  • For all examples use the same author notation in both the main text of your work and in the list of references at the end - they must match.
  • If an exact year or date is not known, an approximate date preceded by ‘ca.’ (short for circa) may be supplied e.g. (ca.1750).  If no such approximation is possible, use (no date).
  • For webpages, it may be preferable to cite the year in which the page was accessed, e.g. (ca. 2020), rather than use (no date).
  • Where a book, chapter or article has been re-published as part of a different work e.g. an anthology, cite and reference the original date of publication, if given.
  • A reference list should include only items actually cited in your work. This is what you are usually required to produce at the end of each assignment and dissertation, unless academic staff specify otherwise.
  • A bibliography lists all the works you have studied and read in preparing your assignment. This would include all the sources you have directly cited and referred to in your text, plus any background reading.
  • Check your course unit handbook, or, ask your course lecturers for instruction on which type of list you need to include in your assignment. Typically, you will be instructed to provide a reference list.
  • You can paraphrase or summarise someone else's work, idea or theory providing that you acknowledge the source and reference it.
  • You are paraphrasing when you put another's work, idea or theory into your own words. It is an important skill as it can demonstrate that you have properly understood the original writer's meaning.
  • It does not mean copying a piece of text and just changing a few of the words. When you paraphrase correctly the writing will be in your own style and express the original author's work, idea or theory.
  • Paraphrased information must be referenced.
  • To better understand how to paraphrase, we recommend you complete the Skills4StudyCampus 'Understanding Plagiarism' module (link provided on this page, below).
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BU Harvard Referencing (not relevant for BU Law, History or Psychology courses)

Why you need to reference

  • When writing / creating a piece of university work, you need to indicate where you have referred to sources written or produced by others.
  • Consistency and accuracy of referencing is important to verify quotations, and, enable readers to follow up and read cited author’s arguments.
  • Referencing is necessary to avoid plagiarism which is a serious academic offence (BU's webpage: How to avoid academic offences)
  • You should follow the examples in this guide every time you cite and reference.

Referencing at BU: Video

Usage and Attribution of this Guide

Creative Commons License:

Attribution - Noncommercial - Sharealike

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If you wish to cite content from this guide, please use the following notation:

If you wish to cite this document please use the following notation:

Bournemouth University, 2021. Referencing - BU Harvard [online]. Poole: Bournemouth University. Available from: [Accessed Date].

Understanding plagiarism

Understanding plagiarism (Click on Institutional Login)

If you are experiencing difficulties and need to develop your academic writing skills (e.g. you have not written an essay before, or you need to better understand paraphrasing and quoting) we strongly recommend you work through this skills for study module because it covers the following:

  • Understanding plagiarism
  • Quoting without plagiarising
  • Choosing how much to quote
  • Using or plagiarising? (includes paraphrasing)
  • Ways of using other writers' text (includes paraphrasing)
  • FAQs e.g. "I don't want to copy work, but other people express things so well. What can I do?" and "How can I copy words without it being plagiarised?"