One of the most important skills for any student or academic is being able to reference correctly. Here, we explain both Vancouver and Harvard referencing, how to write in-text citations, and how to build a reference list (bibliography).

Referencing is a useful technique to demonstrate that you have fully researched the topic you are writing about, and that your points and opinions are supported by validated evidence from reliable sources (it also allows them to check the validity of these sources themselves). It also means that you cannot simply plagiarise the work of someone else without credit – you are giving them an open acknowledgement of their input on the subject. Referencing will also reflect generally well on yourself: it is both a sign of good academic practices and understanding, but also that you have fully researched and understood your work.

Here is a good example of a scientific article utilising the Harvard referencing style. Note the in-text citations of authors whose work or ideas are referenced.

Example Reference 1


Why reference?

Effectively – you should reference anything that is not an independent thought. If you are utilising another source of information to support your points and ideas: reference. If you are referring to an article or piece of work written by someone else: reference. If you are quoting another individual’s words, either spoken or written: reference. In an informal piece of writing, this may not be much, but in an extended academic piece (e.g. a thesis) you will have an extensive list of references which represent the depth of the study and of the literature review.

There are several referencing styles; however, all consist of two major sections: the in-text citation, and the post-text reference list (bibliography). Citations are designed to give an immediate note of the location of referred sources, whereas the bibliography provides a full breakdown of these sources and details as to where they can be found. There are several different referencing styles which can be used, but the two most popular are: Vancouver and Harvard.


In-text Citations

Citations are the most variable part of a reference. The two most common styles are Harvard and Vancouver. Harvard citations give an individual a breakdown of information about the reference, whereas Vancouver citations cut down space by purely acting as a reference point to the bibliography. These can vary depending on the number of citations, the consecutive nature of the references, whether the author’s name is mentioned, and whether there is more than one author. See the individual style pages for more information.


Harvard citation example:


Harvard Citations


Vancouver citation example:

Vancouver citations


Bibliography/Reference List

Bibliographies are used to list the valuable information about the citation, which is too long to be provided in the text. They should always be listed at the end of any piece involving citations, and will be displayed in list form, with each citation having a separate reference. The references themselves are required to display numerous pieces of information about the piece, to make it easier to identify, including all or some of these (those in bold are always): 


  • The author’s name (usually initials of any forenames, and the surname in full)
  • The year of publication
  • The title of the piece
  • Generally, the source in which it was published (whether that be a video, interview, article, book, etc.)
  • The publisher
  • City of publication
  • Pages which are referred to (in the case of a journal article, these will only make up a section of the journal itself)
  • Book titles
  • Chapter titles
  • The publication edition
  • Sometimes the type of medium (if it is irregular)

Example bibliography:

Bibliography


Harvard referencing

Harvard is perhaps the most common of all referencing styles. It provides a simple way for readers to track the source of ideas and research within text, without having to directly refer to the bibliography for all of the information. This is because Harvard in-text citations consist of the author(s)' name or names, followed by the year of publication; compared with Vancouver which only lists the number of the reference within the bibliography. 


Single author

A Harvard citation is usually listed as such, following the sentence in which their ideas are referenced: (Author, year). For example:


There have been indications that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases (Jones, 1995).


Two authors

If the piece cited has two separate authors, the citation will be listed as (Author 1 and Author 2, Year). For example:


There have been indications that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases (Jones and Smith, 1995).


Three or more authors

If the piece cited has three or more separate authors, only one author will be listed, and the others will fall under the heading of "et al", the Latin for "and others". Therefore, the citation will be listed as (Author 1 et al., Year). For example:


There have been indications that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases (Jones et al., 1995).


Using the author's name in the text

If you use the author or authors', names in text, rather than in the citation, the year of the citation still has to be included in a separate bracket, as in Author (Year) suggests that.. - for example:


Jones et al. (1995) indicated that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases.


Multiple references

If there are multiple citations required for a single sentence or piece of evidence, these citations shall be separated by semi-colons and generally organised in order of year of publication. (Author 1, Year; Author 2, Year). For example: 


There have been indications that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases (Jones et al., 1995; Smith and Davies, 1998).


Direct quotes, tables and figures

If a direct quotation is drawn from a source, it should be included in quotation marks followed by a citation and the page number upon which it can be found (in the case of books, and multi-page articles, etc.). Any reproduced figures, diagrams, charts, tables or other illustrations must be treated as direct quotes from the source that they were taken and must, therefore, be referenced with a page number as well as a citation. If you paraphrase, it is not required that you use quotation marks or refer to a page number.


Layout: "Statement" (Author, Year, Page). For example:


Jones et al. (1995) stated that “long term smoking can undoubtedly be linked to respiratory diseases” (p.51).

or

"Long term smoking can undoubtedly be linked to respiratory diseases" (Jones et al., 1995: 51)



Notable points:

  1. Any ideas which are not original, and any research which is not yours must always be cited. 
  2. Sometimes, multiple citations from the same edited book can be referenced, in the case that there are multiple chapter authors. In this case, these count as different citations as it is the chapter author which is being referenced, not the book editor.

Vancouver referencing

Fundamentally, Vancouver-style referencing is very similar to that of Harvard - all of the same general rules apply. However, the way that in-text citations are displayed is the key difference between the two. Vancouver referencing will only list the number of the reference in the text, which removes the clutter of numerous citations throughout the article, and does not involve variation based on the number of authors, but requires readers to refer to the bibliography to get an idea of the publication date and author. 

Although Vancouver citations are visible only as a number in the text, the actual presentation can vary. They can be displayed simply in brackets: for example, (1); or can be visualised in superscript as [1].


Order of citations

The numbers are ordered by when the reference first appears in the text, i.e. the first reference to be cited is number 1, and the second number 2. This does not change with repeated references. If, for example, the first reference is once again cited later in the text, it would remain as number 1. 

Here is an example of a single citation


There have been indications that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases (1). 


Two citations

If two citations are used to support the same point, they are simply separated by a comma. Remember, these do not necessarily have to be consecutive numbers, as citations may be re-used later in the text. For example:


There have been indications that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases (1,4). 


Three or more citations

If there are more than two sources referred to at once, it becomes slightly more complex. Hyphens should be used to link citation numbers which are consecutive (citing the lowest and highest), whereas commas are used for non-consecutive numbers. For example, if a statement referred to sources 3, 4, 5, 11 and 14, the citation would appear as:


There have been indications that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases (3-5,11,14).


Using the author's name in the text

If you use the author or authors', names in text, rather than in the citation, the year of the citation still has to be included in a separate bracket, as in Author (Year) suggests that.. - for example:


Jones et al. (1) indicated that long-term smoking is linked to respiratory diseases.


Direct quotations, diagrams and figures

If a direct quotation is drawn from a source, it should be included in quotation marks followed by a citation number and the page number upon which it can be found (in the case of books, and multi-page articles, etc.). For example:


Jones et al. (1) stated that “long term smoking can undoubtedly be linked to respiratory diseases” (p.51).

or

"Long term smoking can undoubtedly be linked to respiratory diseases" (1, p.51)


Referencing software

Instead of spending hours writing out your reference list, there are a number of different pieces of software and websites which you can utilise to do the referencing for you (some of which also automatically fill in citations too). Some of the most popular are listed here:

  • Mendeley: Free downloadable software from publishing giants Elsevier which allows you to assemble a library of papers and add simple references to each in your work. 
  • Zotero: Another free piece of software which allows you to assemble a library and cite them simply in your work. 
  • EndNote: A slightly more expensive piece of software, but useful for organising libraries of papers. Sometimes free to students. 
  • Microsoft Word: Word comes with a free reference manager, but this is slightly less efficient and simple than other software.
  • CiteThisForMe: A free website which allows you to create a library of references and citations. It can pull in books, articles, websites, etc. so is useful. 

Summary

So now you should have a fairly good grasp of all things referencing. Here are a few final summary points to consider:


  1. Decide which style suits you and what you are writing. Once you get used to it, it becomes a lot simpler.
  2. Make sure to cite any thoughts, ideas or research which is not your own. 
  3. Ensure your referencing style is consistent throughout.
  4. Check that each of your citations is correct, and match up to a reference in your bibliography.