Harvard Formatting: 1 Great Style, Loved by Many - Custom Scholars

Harvard Formatting: 1 Great Style, Loved by Many

Harvard style

Named after reputable Harvard Uni. Photo by Manu Ros on Unsplash

Introduction to the Harvard Style

Harvard style is older than Chicago. It traces its origin back to the 1800s when a professor at Harvard University first used parenthesis as a means of referencing. There are contentions concerning this as some believe that perhaps this was not the origin of the style. Most reference styles are based on manuals published by scholarly associations or by publishing companies. It seems that the Harvard style of formatting academic papers was an accident, going by the story of the professor. This is not the case with Harvard, and, consequently, there are not one but several versions of Harvard style.

The differences between the different versions are small and mainly concern the use of punctuation. When guidelines within the same reference style differ, as is the case with Harvard, it is important to pay attention to consistency. This means that although the use of punctuation may differ between style manuals, writers must always be consistent within their texts.

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Numerous institutions have developed their own version of the Harvard style from the Imperial College in London to Monash University in Melbourne. Generally, the Harvard style is an Author-Date style commonl6 applied in the humanities, social sciences and philosophy.

Paper Formatting

As it is with most academic writing styles, the Harvard style requires that the paper have 1-inch margins

and a uniform font size 12 throughout the paper. It also requires that the text be double spaced

and aligned to the left or justified in addition to a first line indent of 0.5 inch in every paragraph. Furthermore, the paper needs to have headers and pagination.


Top of the Page

The title of the paper should be at the center of the top. Capitalize all the fundamental words, for instance: Writing in Harvard Academic Writing Style. Articles, short conjunctions, and prepositions words are not capitalized. Try not to make your title indented, italicized, underscored, or bold. Subheadings partition your paper into parts. For instance, level 1 headings partition the entire paper into segments. Level 2 headings partition those areas into subsections.

    • Unless you change the settings, Level 1 headings look much the same as the title of the paper. As such, they are Centre, capitalized, not bold, not underscored, not italicized, and not indented. After the heading, begin composing your content on another line not surprisingly (indent the principal line of your content by 0.5″).


    • Every other heading under level 1 is different and distinctive. Level 2 headings are additionally capitalized. Nonetheless, they are flush left (adjusted to the left margin of the paper). They are likewise italicized. After this subheading, additionally, begin composing your subsection on another line.


The header of every page should include your last name and the page. They should both be on the same side, flush right. There should be no punctuation between the name and page number, just space.

Referencing in Harvard Style

Citation is a critical part of academic writing. Not only is it necessary to gain credibility but also without citation then the paper is deemed plagiarized. Harvard is a parenthetical style which uses the author and date. Whether to include the page number or paragraph number.

For example, (Doe and Doe 2021).


Sample of Harvard style reference list from https://academic-englishuk.com/harvard-reference-list/

You may also choose to do it as: (Doe and Doe 2021, p.58)

The reference list in Harvard looks a little bit like the list of references in APA except for a few differences in punctuation. There is also the fact that Harvard has a ‘Reference List’ page while APA has ‘References’ page.



Direct Quotes While it is a preference to include additional information other than the author and date in parenthesis, if you include a direct quote it becomes mandatory. For example, if you have included a direct quote from a book or a source with pages then you cite as (Doe and Doe 2021, p.58).


On the other hand, if the source is not paginated then you may use the paragraph number like: (Doe and Doe 2021, para. 6)


Citation in prose Harvard is permissive of citation in prose. Therefore, you may mention only the author’s name but then have the rest of the citation information in brackets right after the name of the author.


For example, in her book, Jane Doe (2021, p. 76) insisted that…

Secondary citation If you are referring to an author who is examined in a secondary source, you should specify the name of the first author, however, express that this author is “cited in” the source you are utilizing. Note for this situation, you should give a bibliographic passage to Anonymous and not for Doe in the References List. For instance, if Anonymous talks about Doe, you can say:


Doe accepted that the presence of the spirit is autonomous of the body it possesses (cited in Anonymous 2017).

Double citation There will be cases where you pull information from two sources. This is especially common when quoting numbers that need double checking. If you wish to refer to a few sources in a single set of parenthesis, you should show them in a similar order as they appear in your Reference List, and utilize a semicolon to isolate them, similar to this:


(Doe 2015; Anonymous 2014).

Multiple Sources, one author, one date Some authors publish multiple papers in the same discipline on the same topic. If you cite different sources by a similar author that were published in the exact year, it’s critical to recognize them in your references. To do this, embed ‘a’ after the year in the first reference, a ‘b’ in the second, etc.:


The after-effects of the main investigation (Doe, 2021a) were uncertain; however, a subsequent report (Doe, 2021b) accomplished a more clear result.


Sources with no author


When a source lacks an author, there’s always a proper corporate source – the company liable for the source – whom you can credit as the author. For example, (Corporate 2020)

When that is not the situation, you can simply replace it with the title of the source in both the in-text reference like (‘Title’ 2020)

Referencing: In-text citation



1 author



2 authors



3 authors



4+ creators



Sources with no page numbers


Edited Source


(Doe, 2021)



(Doe and Anonymous, 2021)



(Doe, Anonymous and Other, 2020)



(Doe et al., 2021)



(Site, para. 6)



(eds Doe et al. 2017)

Referencing: Reference List
Book Doe, J. 2005. Title. edn. City, Country: Publisher.
Corporate author Corporate. 2001. Title. City (Country): Publisher.
Chapter Authors. 2004. Topic. In: Someone, O. ed. Title. City, Country: Publisher. Page.
Journal Authors. 2002. Title. Journal Name. Volume (Issue): Page.
Newspaper Doe, J. Title. Newspaper. Year Month Date; Sect. A: 2 (col. 4).


The Harvard style of academic writing is pretty simple. It seems simpler than the other styles. Almost like it just wants you to focus on your paper. Even then, struggling to keep up with so many styles and so many systems of Harvard formatting can have you thrown in a loop. Therefore, you may use one of the many resources online. Or you could do something easier.

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