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When it comes to being a good high school or university student, knowing how to do Harvard referencing is fundamental. You can avoid losing marks, make sure your work is understood and, most importantly, avoid being accused of the dreaded ‘p’ word: plagiarism.
Universities have a strict approach to plagiarism, yet on the internet, ‘copy and paste’ culture is rife. Many news websites and blogs lift information from each other to create almost identical articles without crediting the original creator. People state facts without referencing their sources. Melania Trump practically copied Michelle Obama’s speech and pretty much got away with it.
So why is plagiarism so bad? How can using proper Harvard referencing help you avoid the plagiarism trap? And what is Harvard referencing anyway?
Whether you’re in high school or university, studying chemistry, English, graphic design or law, education is all about preparing you for the skills you’ll need in your future profession.
‘At university, we are educating students to be skilled professionals who are able to investigate issues, analyse data, and research what is already known, in order to come up with well-argued discussions, conclusions and recommendations,’ explains Bernie Marshall, Dean of Students at Deakin University.
Referencing your sources in your assignment shows you’ve researched quality information and that ‘what you are writing is not just a personal opinion, or something that you heard on TV or saw on the web,’ he says. So if you simply copy from someone else, it’s ‘not showing the teacher what YOU know about the topic, just what you can copy’. Plus, Prof. Marshall adds, ‘you are pretending that what you have copied and pasted is your own writing – you are not being honest.’
Getting into a habit of dishonesty can be really bad for your life prospects. Take, for example, the disgraced author, Jonah Lehrer, who wrote a book full of fabricated quotes he attributed to singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. When he was outed as a fraud (because someone always finds out), his book was pulled from shelves and he had to resign from a prestigious job at The New Yorker.
Stealing other people’s work and passing it off as your own (read: breach of copyright) can be another expensive exercise in dishonesty. After a court ruled Australian rockers Men at Work stole the much-loved riff of their hit song, ‘Down Under’ from the children’s song ‘Kookaburra’, front-man Colin Hay was reported saying the debacle caused a loss of $4.5 million and a death in the family.
The lesson? Do your own work. Cheating isn’t worth the hassle. And cite the sources of information that you have used to develop your essay or assignment.
Once you’ve decided knuckling down to learn proper Harvard referencing style format is worth the effort, you’ll want some context on what it involves.
‘Harvard referencing is an author-date style of referencing (similar to APA), as opposed to a footnote style of referencing (like Oxford or Chicago),’ explain Drew Roberts and Marie Gaspar, Language and Learning Advisers at Deakin Study Support.
This means you’ll be citing short references within your essay – e.g. (Smith 1999) – as well as including these in a full reference list at the end.
‘The reference list includes only sources that have been cited in your essay. This is in contrast to a bibliography, which is used in other referencing styles and includes all sources that you have used in writing your essay, not just those you cited,’ Roberts explains.
The author-date style was first used in 1881 by a zoology professor from Harvard University – hence the name. Harvard is now used globally and is the most-used referencing style at Deakin. It’s used widely across disciplines including business and commerce, social sciences and some sciences. However, this connection with Harvard University is unofficial, which means various different versions of the rulebook exist.
‘When you come to write your assignments, your best approach is to read a good range of materials on the topic, think about what different authors have to say about it, form a position that you think is justified, drawing on what you have read, and present it in your own words,’ Prof. Marshall advises.
Gaspar says: ‘The good news is that, despite all the different referencing styles and their formatting requirements, the core principles of referencing are the same for all styles. You will be required to have some form of citation in the body of your paper and a list of references with more detailed information at the end of the paper.’
As you do your research, collect the relevant details from each reference you use so you can include it in your work. The key information required in the reference list is the author name(s), the year of publication, the title, and some other further publication details, depending on the source type.
At this stage, it can be helpful to start arranging your reference list alphabetically too, in line with Harvard requirements.
Roberts and Gaspar recommend visiting the Deakin guide for all the details on how to do Harvard referencing. ‘First read the “general principles”. Next refer to the source type, e.g. online article.’
Your in-text citations need to include the author’s family name and year in brackets, e.g. (Smith 1999) or the year only in brackets, e.g. According to Smith (1999)…
When it comes to formatting your reference list, the details required will depend on the publication type. If it were from a book, it would include: the author’s family name and initials, the year of publication, the title of the book, the edition number, publisher, and city of publication:
Smith, C 1999 Cultural studies in practice, 3rd edn, Conifer, London.
If it were an online journal article it might include the author’s family name and initials, the year of publication, the title of the article and journal, the volume and issue number of the journal, the page numbers of article and the DOI (a digital identifier for journal articles):
Smith D 1999, ‘A question of morality?’, Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 800–9, doi:10.1113/j.4365-2702.99.02052.x
The most important thing when you’re putting together your reference list is to be consistent. If you’re a Deakin student, Roberts and Gaspar advise checking out our full guide to referencing, ‘as there are so many Harvard styles’. It’s also worth checking out Deakin’s note taking guide to keep track of your references and digital tools guide for information on some free digital note-taking apps.
Looking for a tool that can help you format your references correctly? You’re in luck! We’ve built one so you’ll never make another referencing mistake again.
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