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Academic Essay Format Harvard

Writing a professional essay requires a set of skills that include technical and qualitative expertise, in-depth knowledge of the given subject, and other aspects as well. One of the essential skills is the ability to present information in the format that will express your ideas and will not undermine the studies and works that you mention in your piece of writing.

Academic writing has several formats and standards that are used in different institutions to guide and educate student and professionals in correct and detailed organization and referencing of sources. One of the oldest and very well known styles is Harvard referencing and formatting.

Look through the peculiarities of the Harvard format:

  • One of the biggest advantages, recognized by many universities and institutions, is the ease and simplicity of referencing that is easy to follow and trace.
  • Harvard referencing guide uses standard set of requirements for citing the source of information used in the document. It comes to the name of the writer, year of publication, title, place of publication and publisher.
  • Besides, it requires from you to provide in-text reference that would include the name, year and page reference of the citation or quotation.
  • In regards to the general arrangement of the document, Harvard style is not that strict and the major requirement is font (Times New Roman) and double spacing. The main objective of these guidelines is to make the document more “user-friendly” for the reader.

As the main focus of Harvard style is on the referencing and citations, it is important to be very consistent and follow specific requirements of the guide that identify certain format for books, web and journal citations. Due to the fact that Harvard referencing is one of the most widely used styles, it is being reviewed and updated on constant basis and the latest version can always be found in online stores.

Remember, it is better to use correct formatting from the stage of writing drafts. It is also recommended to write down all the information considering sources you take as a basis at the stage of literature research so as not to forget some important details.

In order to see an essay with properly formatted references and bibliography, view the corresponding sample.

Harvard referencing style uses an author-date approach and does not focus on one specific type of essay. There are some rules relating to citations depending on the number of contributors to the work, and if you are citing a quotation. Harvard style footnotes are instead cited in short, parenthetical (in brackets) notes within the text.

Table Of Contents

General Reference Guidelines

Harvard writing style has a very distinct set of guidelines that you must follow.

  • Clear font. Recommended: Times New Roman 12pt font
  • Double spaced
  • Title page
  • Paper’s title in a header
  • Page number
  • Citations page titled “References”
  • 1” margins

Title Page

Harvard formatting requires a very specific title page:

  • The title of your essay should be halfway down the page in all capital letters.
  • Three lines down should be your name (the name of the author). This is without capital letters.
  • Four lines down and then put the name of the class
  • The following line should have the professor.
  • Next line is the name of the school, then the city and country/state where it’s located
  • On the line after that should be the date.

The header of your essay should contain a short description of the title and a page number. A partial title and page number in the Harvard writing style could look like:

Red Scare 1

Note several key components, the header should be:

  • Right justified
  • Express the main idea of the essay in a shortened form
  • There should be exactly 5 spaces between the header and the

In-Text Citation

The Citation “Harvard Style” is another name given to the “Author-Date Style” of referencing and citation.

  • In-text citations in this style usually appear in the following format: (Author’s Last Name Year of publication, Page Number(s))

    • Example: (Gomez 2016, p. 89-91)
  • If you use the author’s name in a sentence, you can omit it from the brackets. The citation should be right next to the name.

    • Example: Gomez (2016, p. 89-91) states that quinoa is a great source of protein (2016, p. 89-91)
  • If you reference an entire work, just include the author’s name and the year of publication.

    • Example: Quinoa plantations has brought economic benefits to Bolivia (Gomez 2016).
  • When citing a source that you have not read yourself, you would cite the source you read in the reference list and add “as cited by” in your actual essay.

    • Example: Pitt (as cited by Gomez 2016, p. 82) states that “quinoa is the perfect protein meal on a movie set.”
      If a source has two or three authors, all should be listed in brackets.
    • Example: Quinoa is the future of nutrition (Gomez, Summers, and Brinker, 2016)
  • If a source has more than three authors, you need to cite the last name of the first author, followed by an “et al.” as well as the publishing year.

    • Example: A source of protein to replace meat products was a dream for many people for many years, and finally, that dream can be reached (Gomez et al. 2016)
  • In the case that you have no author, you can place the title with the date in parenthesis.

    • Example: Regardless of the environmental damage, people continue to eat meat; up to 50% of the world’s water is consumed by livestock (Quinoa: The Future, 2016).
  • When a date is not included in the source, just omit the information when citing your it in your essay.

    • Example: 90% of nutritional value that is found in meat is also found in quinoa seeds. The remaining 10% can be replaced by eggs: another great source of protein (Gomez).


An essay outline is a great tool to use if you want to keep track of your sources. You can do so by listing a point and adding information (Author name, Date) in the subheading.
Harvard format template:

  • Your information goes here (Author, Date)

  • While you write an outline in a citation Harvard style, make sure your information has a structure, and your points are of equal importance.

Outline Template

  • Introduction
  • Main point/Thesis
    • Main point of paragraph 1
    • Main point of paragraph 2
    • Main point of paragraph 3
  • Body
  • Main point #1
    • Information (author, date)
    • Information (author, date)
    • Information (author, date)
    • Transition to Main Point #2
  • Main point #2
    • Information (author, date)
    • Information (author, date)
    • Information (author, date)
    • Transition to Main Point #3
  • Main point #3
    • Information (author, date)
    • Information (author, date)
    • Information (author, date)
  • Conclusion
    • Summary of your paper
    • Restate your thesis.
  • Bibliography: Here you can input your bibliographical citations or paste your URL’s so you can access pages easier. This is best done in a bullet-point list.


Your reference list appears at the very end of your essay on a separate page. Harvard style references should be prefaced by “References” on the very top and center of the page without quotation marks. While citing, if the name is not available, then the title, in quotation marks, would replace it.

Unlike other citation styles, when an author is cited, only the first initial of the first name is listed. The Harvard bibliography style limits you use only references that you cited in your work (unlike other citation styles, where you cite further reading material). Additionally, your sources should be listed in alphabetical order with a hanging indent.

Here are examples from our professional writer on how to do a Harvard referencing for the most common types of text:

  • Books: Last name, First initial. (Year published). Title. Edition. (Only include the edition if it is not the first edition) The city published: Publisher, Page(s).

    • Example: Johnson, M. (1839). Birds in Flight. New York: Penguin Publish. 90-104
  • Books with two to three authors: Last name, First initial. and Last name, First initial. (Year published). Title. Edition. (Only include the edition if it is not the first edition) The city published: Publisher, Page(s).

    • Example: Johnson, M. Peters, K. (1983) Birds in Flight. New York: Penguin Publish. 90-104
  • Book chapters: Last name, First initial. (Year published). Chapter title. In: First initial. Last name, ed., Book Title, 1st ed.* City: Publisher, Page(s).

    • Example: Johnson, M. (1839). Penguins In: Birds in Flight. New York: Penguin Publish. 90-104
  • Journal Articles: Last name, First initial. (Year published). Article title. Journal, Volume (Issue), Page(s).

    • Example: Johnson, M. (1839). A Bird In Flight: Aerodynamics. New York Times, 65(2) 90-104.
  • Newspaper Articles: Last name, First initial. (Year published). Article title. Newspaper, Page(s).

    • Example: Johnson, M. (1839). A Bird In Flight: Aerodynamics. New York Times, 90-104.
  • Websites: Last name, First initial (Year published). Page title. [online] Website name. Available at: URL [Accessed Day Mo. Year].

    • Example: Johnson, M. (1839). A Bird In Flight: Aerodynamics. Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2017]

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When it comes to citing things Harvard style or author-date style, it is crucial to check with your instructor on specifics of this style. Unfortunately, there is no official way. There are a couple of different schools that cite it such as the University of Western Australia and Cardiff University. In case your instructor is unavailable and can not provide you with the needed information, my advice would be to check out their websites and make sure you’re doing it right. No matter how you decide to do your citations, make sure to stay consistent in your formatting. In the Harvard citation style, you have more freedom to format your work the way you like. Choose the way you want to do it but stick to it! Also, make safe choices when it comes to formatting your paper. For example, as the article states, using the Times New Roman font is recommended, but I would personally strongly encourage it. Best of luck with your essay!

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