The devil is in the details: a few Harvard home truths.


The devil is in the details: a few Harvard home truths.

Mastermind game

If you have ever played Master Mind, you will know that you can get a colour in the right place (black peg) or in the wrong place (white peg) and you have to keep changing colour combinations until you get the correct sequence. Well, referencing can feel a bit like that. There are key ingredients that make up a reference e.g. author and title, but what is just as important is the order AND the punctuation. In this blog post, we are going to look at some of the common mistakes that people make when referencing.

In-text citations

A lot of people are unsure about whether they should include page numbers in an in-text citation. Often this is because they have read journal articles where page numbers are not included and assume that this is the norm. However, do not assume that every journal article you read uses Harvard referencing, as there are other referencing systems that use in-text citations. Here are the guidelines:


Capital letters are only used for the first word (unless proper nouns/names are included e.g. Studying and working in Spain: a student guide)

But journal titles SHOULD be in title case e.g. Journal of High Energy Physics or Asian Journal of Women’s Studies


Author names appear in the reference list with their surname/ family name first e.g. Kowalska, J. Their first name is represented by an initial e.g. Janek becomes J, Amara becomes A. They are followed by a full-stop to show that they are an abbreviation. e.g. J.

The Pesky full stop

Some errors in Harvard are really easy to spot. One is forgetting to use brackets around dates. e.g. Jones, P. (2022) The other is the pesky full-stop. DO NOT INCLUDE A FULL-STOP AFTER THE DATE.

You can read more about Harvard referencing and other referencing systems on the Learning Skills hub’s Introduction to Referencing where there is a downloadable quick guide to Harvard.

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