The Open University Harvard Referencing

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The Open University Harvard Referencing

Referencing and plagiarism

The OU Harvard guide to citing references (requires login) provides practical advice and examples to help you create references in the Open University (OU) Harvard style. The PDF version of the OU Harvard guide does not require login.

Referencing styles used at the OU

Always refer to your module materials to check which referencing style to use for your assignment, or ask your tutor for advice if you’re not sure. Listed below are some guides which show you how to use referencing styles common in OU modules.

  • OU Harvard  (Open University – requires login)
  • OU OSCOLA (Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities – requires login)
  • APA: American Psychological Association (OU Guidance – requires login)
  • MLA: Modern Language Association (Online Writing Lab)
  • MHRA: Modern Humanities Research Association

The Bibliographic Management page will tell you about tools you can use to track and organise your references.

Why is referencing important?

As a student, you are required to reference your sources using an appropriate referencing style. When you reference your sources, a reader of your work can find those sources and see what you have based your argument on. Referencing correctly involves using appropriate in-text citations, and including a complete reference list.

Identifying your sources helps you avoid plagiarism by attributing the contribution of others to your work.

“Plagiarism is using the work of other people to gain some form of benefit, without formally acknowledging that the work came from someone else.”  (The Open University , n.d.)

The Being digital website provides a number of resources to help you to avoid plagiarism, and shows you how to include in-text citations and reference lists within your written work.

  • Avoiding plagiarism pathway
  • Referencing your sources pathway, which includes an activity on Referencing websites


All the information, quotes and examples that you use in your assignments must be properly referenced, partly to help your reader find the material if they need to and partly to protect yourself from any accusation of plagiarism. So, whether you quote a person directly or merely mention their work, you must include an in-text reference (giving the name of the author and date of publication) and add full publication details in a reference list at the end of your assignment.

Many disciplines use this system of referencing, which is based on the Harvard system. The OU library gives you more information on the Harvard system of referencing.

Referencing practices do vary between academic disciplines and modules so it is a good idea to check your Assignment Handbook for information on what style of referencing is preferred. One guide is to look at how quotations are handled in your module materials.

Tip for referencing

It’s a good idea to use a number of different sources in your writing.

OU websites

There is an introduction to referencing on the OU Library’s Cite references page and their Bibliographic management page lists three tools that will help you manage the references you use

  • EndNote
  • RefWorks
  • MyReferences