RGU Harvard Basics

Referencing and RefWorks

RGU Harvard Basics

Referencing is a critical element in any academic assignment. During your studies at RGU, you will always have to reference your sources according to our guidelines.

Harvard referencing dates back to 1881 and is an author-date style. Simply put, you must cite the author and the date of the source. The full reference list entry will contain more information, including the title, edition, type of material, and place of publication.

Why Reference?

By correctly referencing throughout your assignments, you are ensuring that:

  • the marker knows you support your arguments with reputable academic sources
  • you give credit to the authors you have paraphrased/quoted
  • you avoid charges of plagiarism
  • the reader can find the resources you have used
  • you show an understanding of academic writing conventions

When to Reference

You must insert an in-text citation and corresponding reference list entry, every time you:

  • quote directly from a source
  • refer indirectly to someone else's work, including paraphrasing, summarising, or use information obtained from their work
  • wish to provide sources of further information or additional evidence to support your arguments

What is...


Plagiarism is intellectual property theft. Hence, you must avoid it in all your assignments by referencing all the sources you have used.

The University has a very strict policy against plagiarism and dealing with students accused of it. We’re not saying don’t get caught plagiarising. We say don’t do it - it’s not worth the risk! As long as you reference according to our guidelines, you will be fine.

More information on plagiarism is available on the Student Union website


We say you paraphrase when you take someone's ideas, theories, opinions, and write them in your own words. This is great because you can show your understanding of the concept. Still, it is not your original idea. So, you must reference the original author. If you don't, it will constitute plagiarism, which we're sure you want to avoid!

Directly Quoting

This is when you copy the exact words from a book, journal article, or website. It’s OK to include quotations here and there. But, try not to overdo it, as too many quotations might get frowned upon. It is your work as well! A few things to keep in mind:

  • contain short quotations in your paragraph, enclosed within "quotation marks”
  • put longer quotations separate paragraph, without quotation marks
  • don’t forget to reference all your quotations!
  • include the exact page where you took the extract from in the citation. The exception is when there are no pages, like web pages or Kindle books - page numbers may vary depending on the text size.

The Stages of Referencing

The citation will always be inserted in your text, where you have quoted or paraphrased someone else’s work.


  • brackets
  • author(s) or editor(s) surnames and year of publication
  • there is no comma between authors and year of publication
  • page reference also included only when you have quoted directly or referring to an illustration

Inserting Citations

These rules apply for any citation, regardless of the type of material.

When you paraphrase: The full citation appears in brackets. If it is at the end of a sentence, it will always appear before the full stop. There is a tendency to .... (Smith 2015).
When you paraphrase and want to use the author(s) name(s) in the sentence: Only the year of publication will appear in brackets. According to Smith (2015), there is a tendency to....
When you directly quote: You must include the page reference of where you are quoting. This will appear after the year of publication. "Over the past decade there has been a significant growth in......" (Smith 2015 p.37).
When you directly quote and use the author(s) name(s) in the sentence: The author(s) name(s) comes out of the citation, leaving the year of publication and page reference in brackets. Smith (2015 p.37) states that "over the past decade there has been a significant growth in...".

The reference list is entirely linked to the citations in your text, and it gives full details of the sources you have used. Each one of your citations must match a reference list entry.

   Librarian Top Tip!

To ensure you don't miss out any references, make sure you write the reference list entry as soon as you insert a citation!


  • arranged in alphabetical order by author
  • appears at the end of your document
  • you don't need numbers, bullet points, start or any other pretty symbols to decorate your references. Keep it plain and simple! :)

If you have used any other sources which you haven’t referred to in your text, but nevertheless were part of your research (think background reading), they would go in the bibliography.


  • appears at the very end, after the reference list
  • arranged in alphabetical order by author
  • it may or may not be a requirement for your assignment. If in doubt, check with your school

The Basic Rules

These are some of the most referenced types of material. You will find a lot more specific examples on our referencing templates page, but for now let's break down the basics.



AUTHORS' NAMES, Year of Publication. Book Title. Edition (if not first). Place of Publication: Publisher.


PAYNE, J.R. and PHILLIPS, C.R., 1985. Petroleum spills in the marine environment: the chemistry and formation of water-in-oil emulsions and tar balls. 2nd ed. Chelsea, MI: Lewis Publishers.

Journal Articles


AUTHORS' NAMES, Year of Publication. Article Title. Journal Title, Volume(issue), Article Page Range.


WAGNER, M.R. et al., 2006. Horizontal drilling and openhole gravel packing with oil-based fluids: an industry milestone. SPE Drilling and Completion, 21(1), pp. 32-43.

Online Sources


AUTHORS' NAMES, Year of Publication. Webpage Title. [online]. Place of Publication: Publisher. Available from: URL [Accessed Date].


MASTERS, T., 2017. Harry Potter: how the boy wizard enchanted the world. [online]. London: BBC. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40340400 [Accessed 26 June 2017].

Inserting the author(s) / editor(s)

  • The author(s) names are always in capitals
  • If more than 1 author, write their names in the order in which they appear on the source material
  • The surname comes first, followed by a comma and the initial(s) of the first name(s)
  • If there are more than 3 authors, you don't have to list them. Just mention the first author followed by et al. (it means 'and others')
  • If the material has editors, just mention ed. or eds. after the editor(s)
1 BROWN, C.M., BROWN, C.M., ed.,
2 BROWN, C.M. and JONES, A.B., BROWN, C.M. and JONES, A.B., eds.,
3 BROWN, C.M., JONES, A.B. and SMITH, C.D., BROWN, C.M., JONES, A.B. and SMITH, C.D., eds.,
more than 3 BROWN, C.M. et al., BROWN, C.M. et al., eds.,

Corporate authors: acronyms and initials

If the authoring organisation is also known by an abbreviation:

  • When you first mention the organisation's name in a citation or a sentence, write the full name followed by the abbreviation in brackets e.g. (Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) 2005)
  • For all other mentions and citations, include the abbreviation only e.g. (SIGN 2005).
  • In your reference list, give the full name of the author followed by the abbreviation in brackets. If the author is also the publisher, you can include the abbreviation only.
  • Some organisations are better known to the general public as initials (BBC, NHS). You do not need to give full names for these.

Places of publication

You will notice some variation in how we insert places of publication. We have a couple of simple conventions you should remember:

United Kingdom Just the city Oxford:
United States City, State Abbreviation Hoboken, NJ:
Canada City, Territory Abbreviation Calgary, AB:
Australia City, Territory Abbreviation Perth, WA:
Rest of the world City, Country Geneva, Switzerland:

Sample Assignment

Here's an extract from an assignment, with correct in-text citations and a reference list. Please note you do not have to bold the citations in your assignments.

In-text Citations

In addition to professional genres, academic writing research has also examined the genres/tasks students are expected to perform in university content classrooms (Braine 2010). In one of the first studies on student writing tasks, Horowitz (2011) analysed 54 writing assignments from one graduate and 28 undergraduate courses taught in 17 departments of an American university. Horowitz identified seven categories of writing tasks expected of students: summary of/reaction to a reading; annotated bibliography; report on a specified participatory experience; connection of theory and data; case study; synthesis of multiple sources; and research project. While Horowitz's study did not have a particular disciplinary focus, other studies examined written genres required of students in specific disciplines (Swales et al. 2012). One finding is that much of what students need to write, particularly in upper division undergraduate and graduate level courses, is specifically tied to their disciplines. Faigley and Hansen's study (2013) of writing in a psychology course and a sociology course showed different reactions to student writing from readers with different degrees of disciplinary expertise and different aims for writing. While an English professor was largely concerned with the surface features of papers, the sociology professor paid more attention to "what knowledge the student had acquired than in how well the report was written" (Berkenkotter and Huckin 2014 p. 147).

See further explanations regarding the in-text citations

[...] content classrooms (Braine 2010).

You can insert the citation after the paraphrase, or direct quotation. This doesn't necessarily have to be the end of the sentence. If it is, the citation always comes before the full stop. Only capitalise the first letter of the author's surname. Also, notice - no comma between the author and the year of publication.

[...] tasks, Horowitz (2011) analysed [...]

If you want to use the author's name in the sentence, you only have to put the year of publication between brackets. It will still constitute a citation, and it will have to match HOROWITZ 2011 in your reference list.

Horowitz identified [...]

Because we are still speaking about the same author and source as in the previous sentence, we don't have to cite Horowitz again. Just make sure you make it clear in the way you write it.

[...] disciplines (Swales et al. 2012).

et al. is short for the latin 'et alia'. This simply means 'and others'. You will put et al. in citations and reference lists if there are more than 3 authors/editors.

Faigley and Hansen's study (2013) of writing [...]

You will cite the author names if there are 1, 2 or 3. Anything more, put the et al. in. Notice that you can still use the authors names in the sentence even if there are several authors.

[...] was written" (Berkenkotter and Huckin 2014 p. 147).

Because this is a direct quotation, we have to mention which page we took it from. Notice there are no commas separating the year and the page number. If the quotation spans 2 pages in your source, you would mention both of them, e.g. (Braine 2010 pp. 35-36).

Reference List

BERKENKOTTER, C. and HUCKIN, T., 2014. Genre knowledge in disciplinary communication. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

BRAINE, G., 2010. Writing in science and technology: an analysis of assignments from ten undergraduate courses. English for Specific Purposes, 8(6), pp. 3-16.

FAIGLEY, L. and HANSEN, K., 2013. Learning to write in the social sciences. College Composition and Communication, 36(2), pp. 140-149.

HOROWITZ, D., 2011. What professors actually require: academic tasks for the ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 20(3), pp. 445-462.

SWALES, J. et al., 2012. Genre analysis: English in academic and research settings. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Further support for Harvard referencing

If you need further support with Harvard referencing please visit our Workshops and Appointments page where you will find:

  • A calendar of workshops that can be booked online. There are regular sessions on Harvard referencing during Semester 1 & 2
  • Drop-in sessions are also listed on the Workshops calendar. These are held in the Library and you can simply turn up and ask your question
  • Recordings of previous workshops
  • Information on how to book 1-1 or small group support appointments with one of our team

How we can help

If you're not sure which template is right for your source, or if you're struggling to identify the information you need, then you can email the team for support. We can also take a look at a selection of a reference list and provide some guidance but please only use this service if you are struggling with referencing. This is a very high demand service and we can't provide a general overview of your lists prior to assigment submission.

To submit a list, email it to us at least one week prior to your submission date but please ensure you've helped yourself as much as possible prior to sending us your list.

This includes looking at the templates and ensuring that you have adhered to these as much as possible. We don't offer a proof-reading or correction service. As referencing is a marked part of most assignments, your lecturers are expecting to see your own work. We may be able to highlight areas that you need to look at and point you in the direction of the correct templates to use. Please only use this service if you are struggling with an aspect of referencing.

Appointments, workshops and email support are available during the Academic Support Team working hours of Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

Appointment and email response times will depend on team availability and demands on the service. These are very high demand services so please ensure you contact us well ahead of any deadlines.

We can support your academic skills development in a variety of areas, including literature searching, databases, search techniques, referencing and more. We will:

  • Scan a selection from your reference list, provide useful comments where we notice issues, and point out areas requiring improvement. However, we don't carry out a full proofreading or correction service and we can't write references for you.
  • Advise on your search strategy, providing guidance to help you search more effectively and offer suggestions on where to search, but we don't carry out searches on your behalf.