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referencing online

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Referencing is a necessary component of most academic essays. If you don’t have an academic background and haven’t referenced before, or if you’ve simply used a different style of referencing, getting used to new styles can be a steep learning curve. The easy thing to remember when asking if you need to reference is: is this idea my own, is it someone else’s, or has my idea been influenced by research? If the idea is someone else’s or is influenced by someone else’s research, then reference it. Simple, right?

Despite its seemingly daunting ins and outs, Harvard referencing (one of the more popular referencing styles in the UK) is easy to master, as long as it’s not left as an afterthought. There are several guides online and no doubt most universities (like Coventry University) have their own guide on their student portal.

Firstly, the two elements of the Coventry University Harvard Reference Style are:

1) In-text citations: The surname of the author, date of publication and the page number if you quote or paraphrase, are included in the main body of the document.

2) List of references: At the end of your work, full publication or internet information arranged alphabetically by surname of the author.

To highlight the main issues, here are a few tips to help you avoid plagiarism and navigate Harvard referencing.

Make sure you know exactly what your source is

This can be easy to locate in some channels and hard to find in others. For example, if I read a passage in the science and gender book below and either consolidated the information or directly quoted it somewhere in my work, I would place a reference in my reference list at the end of my work, as below (this is based on a text with only one author):

Biggs, G. (2000) Gender and Scientific Discovery. 2nd edn. London: Routledge

Finding your source could become tricky when using the internet. The internet is a hotbed of shared ideas and finding the original creator of these ideas can be challenging. Likely, though, if there is a more accurate, original source for the useful information you’ve found, it would need to be referenced somewhere on the webpage (often embedded as a hyperlink somewhere near the information you need).

In-text citations and reference lists

In-text citations will likely be the most frequent form of referencing you’ll use. This is where you’ll pinpoint in a sentence or paragraph where other’s ideas have been used or where in a text a quotation has come from. An example from the Coventry University referencing guide is stated below:

Concern about climate change is becoming a ‘force for good’ in international politics (Kennedy 2004: 88).

The brackets above relate to- (the last name of the author, the year the book was published: the page number).

Alternately, reference lists generally take place at the end of your essay or document and consist of an alphabetised list of all the references used in your document. The format of these references are explained in the point below.

Get the order and format right

Referencing is all about making sure the way you have referenced each source is consistent, model and standardised. The order of your reference should be as follows and in the format below (this example concerns books):

Biggs, G. (2000) Gender and Scientific Discovery. 2nd edn. London: Routledge

Name of author—(Year published)—Title*—Edition- Location published—Publisher.

*Title must be in italics.

Normally, the information in the reference example above will be contained in the first few pages of your book/ebook. REMEMBER different types of source will have different styles of reference, which brings us on to…

Make sure your referencing format matches where you found the information

The types of sources Harvard referencing covers are listed here:

  • Books/ebooks (single and multiple authors)
  • Journals
  • Websites (online)
  • Films
  • Articles
  • Newspaper (online and offline)

In order to indicate where you lifted your desired information from, Harvard referencing subtly changes styles depending on source location. For instance, an online source is recorded like so:


Centre for Academic Writing (2005) The List of References Illustrated [online] available from <http://home.ched.coventry.ac.uk/caw/harvard/index.htm> [20 July 2005]

In-text citation:

(Centre for Academic Writing 2005)

A full guide with examples can be found here.

Constantly refer to your guide!

Referencing guides aren’t the most exciting thing in the world, but stick with them long enough and you’ll be sure to master the referencing system. It’s easy to match up your attempt to the example given, meaning you can be sure what you’re submitting is correct.

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