Academic references

The logic

The systems

Academic references follow two main systems: footnotes or the Harvard system.

The Harvard system

This was designed for references to published sources. The author's surname, the date of the publication quoted and the page numbers are given in brackets in the text. Full bibliographic information is given in a bibliography.


A series of numbers in the text, placed either superscript or in brackets, leads the reader to corresponding numbers at the foot of the page or the end of the text, with the reference(s). These references can be given in abbreviated form if they follow full information in an earlier note OR full information is supplied in a bibliography. Where a number of unpublished sources cited are in the same archive, it is simplest to abbreviate its name to initials. Abbreviations should be explained in some convenient place (either at the start of the report or the head of the notes.)

Examples of footnotes

DRO = Devon Record Office
RIBA = Royal Institute of British Architects

  1. Christopher Hussey, English Country Houses: Early Georgian (London 1955), p.197.
  2. DRO L1258/Maps: Road 3.
  3. Lord Hervey's Memoirs, ed Romney Sedgwick (London 1952), pp.46-7.
  4. Hussey, Country Houses: Early Georgian, pp.244-52.
  5. National Archives MPHH 223/2.
  6. G.R.Gibbard, The Country House Poem of the Seventeenth Century, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 109 (1956), pp.159-74.
  7. British Library King's MS 43 f.127.
  8. Plymouth City Council Planning Office, planning application for change of use of 34 Southside St 12.3.95.
  9. The Exeter Flying Post 12.3.1795, p.2.
  10. RIBA Drawings collection K4/30/8.
  11. British Sporting Painting, 1650-1850 (Arts Council Catalogue, London 1975), p.63.
  12. Plymouth Building Accounts of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Devon and Cornwall Record Society New Series vol. 12, p.34.


A bibliography is essential with the Harvard system and may be helpful if footnotes run into large numbers. Readers can then easily locate the full reference from a shortened form given in a footnote. A bibliography is a list of published works only. It should be organised alphabetically by author (or title for published records.) It should not be regarded as a substitute for footnotes.