Home > Library > Harvard Referencing Style > How to Cite a Government Website or Report in Harvard Style

How to Cite a Government Website or Report in Harvard Style

Published by at August 27th, 2021 , Revised On August 23, 2023


In Harvard referencing, the basic format for citing government publications is like that of a book.

The basic format for in-text citations is: (Author Surname, Year Published). And that for reference list entries is: Author Surname, Author Initial. (Year Published). Title in italics. City: Publisher, p.#.

For example:

In-text citation: Report bullying; advocate for no cyber bullying (Ministry of Education, 2014)

Reference list entry: Ministry of Education, (2014). Character Citizenship Education – Cyberwellness. Singapore, p.24.

However, government websites or reports themselves can have many other types of material included in them. Furthermore, some details—such as author name—might be missing or is the same as, for instance, the title of the government itself. In such cases, Harvard referencing slightly varies for citing such sources. They are further discussed below.


Types of Government Sources and How They’re Cited in Harvard Style

1.    Government Documents with Departmental Author(s)

Sometimes, a government website may publish content according to department names instead of author names. For instance, an article might be listed under the category or ‘department’ of commerce. Such publications follow this format according to Harvard referencing style:

In-Text Citation: (Name of Government Organization Year) OR (Name of Government Organization Year, page number)

Reference list entry: Name of Government Name, Name of Government Agency Year, Title in italics (Report No. xxx [if available]), Publisher, Place of Publication. Government Name, Name of Government Agency Year, Title (Report No. xxx [if available]), Publisher, Place of Publication, viewed Day Month Year, <URL>.

For example: 

In-text citation: (Department of Industry, Innovation and Science 2016) (Department of Industry, Innovation and Science 2016, p. 149)

Reference list entry: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science 2016, How regional universities drive regional innovation, viewed 22 March 2016, <http://www.industry.gov.au/Office-of-the-ChiefEconomist/Publications/Document/How-regional-universities-drive-regional-innovationreport.pdf>.

Example of a government document with a departmental author in print form:

In-Text Citation: (Department of Education, Science and Training 2006) OR (Department of Education, Science and Training 2006, p. 5)

Reference list entry: Department of Education, Science and Training 2006, The Australian Government’s innovation report 2005-06: real results, real jobs, Dept. of Education, Science and Training, Canberra.

Example of a government document with a departmental author in electronic (online) form:

In-Text Citation: (Foreign Investment Review Board 2012) OR (Foreign Investment Review Board 2012, p. 1)

Reference list entry: Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) 2012, Australia’s foreign investment framework, FIRB, Canberra, viewed 24 September 2013, <http://www.firb.gov.au/content/guidance/downloads/gn1_jan2012.pdf>.


2.    Government Documents with Individual Author(s)

If a government website mentions one or more authors, they’re cited and referenced using the following Harvard format:

In-text citation: (Author Surname Year) OR (Author Surname Year, p.# if available)

Reference list entry: Author Surname, Initial(s) Year, Title in italics (Report No. xxx [if available]), Publisher, Place of Publication.

The important point to note: Harvard referencing uses the same format for both print and electronic government documents having individual author(s).

Some examples are:

Example of a government document with individual author published online:

In-text citation: (Henry et al. 2010) OR (Henry et al. 2010, p. 14)

Reference list entry: Henry, DK, Harmer, J, Piggott, J, Rideout, H & Smith, G 2010, Australia’s future tax system, Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Treasury, Canberra, viewed 24 April 2011, <http://taxreview.treasury.gov.au/content/


Example of a government document with individual author published in print:

In-text citation: (Dawkins 1987) OR (Dawkins 1987, p. 16)

Reference list entry: Dawkins, J 1987, Higher education: a policy discussion paper, Australian Government Publication Service, Canberra.


3.    Government Publications Published Online 

These publications mostly include articles, reports and the like. No matter which types of material it is, Harvard style uses the following format for in-text and reference list entry for online government publications:

In-Text citation: (Government Year) OR (Government Year, page number)

Reference list entry: Name of Government Year, Title of publication(s) in italics, Publisher, Place of Publication if applicable, viewed Date Month Year, <URL>.

Here are some examples of online government publications in the above format:

In-text citation: (South Australia State Government 2001)

Reference list entry: South Australia State Government 2001, Midyear budget review, Department of Treasury and Finance (South Australia), viewed 8 May 2002, <http://www.treasury.sa.gov.au/finance/pdf/ mybr2001-02.pdf>

In-text citation: (Australian Government 2004)

Reference list entry: Australian Government 2004, Australia’s demographic challenges, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, viewed 20 August 2012, <http://demographics.treasury.gov.au/content/_download/australias_demographic_challenges/australias_demographic_challenges.pdf>.


4.    Hansard (Parliament debates in Print Form)

Parliamentary debates are officially referred to as Hansard. This term is specific to the UK only. Hansard report and articles published are cited and referenced in the same way as other printed government documents, for example:

In-text citation: Australia, Senate 2000, Debates, vol. S25, p. 65 OR

Australia, House of Representatives 2000, Debates, vol. HR103, pp. 2-9


In-text citation: Mr. Ruddock outlined the two initiatives … (Australia, House of Representatives 2001, pp. 24483-24488).

Reference list entry: Australia, House of Representatives 2001, Parliament debates, vol. HR238, pp 24483-24488.


5.    Hansard Online Publications

When citing and referencing online material published by Hansard, in case the volume number is not available, the day on which the debate occurred is used instead, while the remaining format is the same as for sources mentioned above. For example, the reference list entry for the source given above under Hansard print will be:

Reference list entry: Australia, House of Representatives 2016, Debates, no.6, Wednesday, 23 November, viewed 20 January 2017, <http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/>.

In-text citation: Mr. Singh (Australia, Senate 2015, p. 3235) addressed the issue of …

Reference list entry: Australia, Senate 2015, Parliamentary Debates, no. 5, 14 May, viewed 30 May 2016, http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Hansard/ Hanssen261110#2015


6.    Books Published by Governmental Organizations

In-text citation: … in the case of an institution (Australian Government Publishing Service 1987, p. 3).

Reference list entry: Australian Government Publishing Service 1987, Commonwealth Printing and Publishing Manual, 2nd edn, A.G.P.S., Canberra, ACT.

Note: In Harvard referencing style, ‘edn.’ is used instead of ‘ed.’ to denote ‘edition.’


7.    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Publications 

The Harvard format for citing documents from Australian Bureau of Statistics contains the following important elements:

  • ‘Australian Bureau of Statistics’ as the Author name.
  • The ABS catalogue number after the title is written if the item has one.
  • ‘cat. no.’ is used for the catalogue number.

The basic format for such a source in Harvard style is therefore: 

In-Text Citation: (Australian Bureau of Statistics Year)

Reference list entry: Australian Bureau of Statistics Year, Title in italics, catalogue number, ABS, Canberra. Australian Bureau of Statistics Year, Title, catalogue number, ABS, viewed Day Month Year, <URL>.

Example of an ABS print publication is:

In-text citation: (Australian Bureau of Statistics 1995)

Reference list entry: Australian Bureau of Statistics 1995, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survey 1994: detailed findings, cat. no. 4190.0, ABS, Canberra.

Example of an ABS online publication is:

In-text citation: (ABS 2014) OR (ABS 2014, p.5)

Reference list entry: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Overseas arrivals and departures, Australia, cat. no. 3401.0, viewed 3 October 2014, <http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/Lookup/3401.0Main+Features1Aug%202014?OpenDocument>.


Using Government Abbreviations and Acronyms while Citing in Harvard Style

Some governmental organizations might have very long names. Often, word count is limited while writing academic texts. It becomes quite tedious and repetitive to write the same, lengthy name of a governmental group again and again. If it has an abbreviation, it’s used instead within the in-text citation.

For instance, in the example for ABS given above, since ABS is an abbreviation for a group name that’s otherwise a bit lengthy, the initials are used instead.

Important point to remember: When an abbreviated title or a group or agency or an acronym is written for the first time in the manuscript, its complete name must be written. In subsequent mentions from there on out, though, the abbreviation or the acronym can be used.

In Harvard referencing, if the in-text citation is not in the form of narration (in the ongoing text) but the parenthetical form (after the text), an abbreviation or acronym must be included within the parenthesis. It, therefore, becomes a double parenthesis, for example:

… discovered by their findings (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 1995)


Tips for Citing and Referencing Government Websites or Reports in Harvard Style

While citing and referencing government publications in Harvard (AGPS) style, the format should not be confused with books, for often, the two looks like. However, in the case of government publications, it can sometimes be difficult to identify the publications’ authors or author agencies (the ‘departmental author’ mentioned above).

Some things to keep in mind while citing government websites or reports are:

  1. Treat the government document as a report, book, or brochure is treated while citing and referencing.
  2. In case a person’s name is indeed listed on the government website, use that as the author’s name. But,
  3. If the government publication does not mention any author name anywhere on the website, the sponsoring or supporting agency name is used in place of the author’s name.
  4. In case the publisher and the author organization/department are the same, the author’s/author agency’s abbreviated title is written in place of the publisher’s name. However, while citing the author’s name, the complete name is written. It’s only abbreviated in the publisher details’ section of the reference list entry.
  5. If a document has been prepared and/or published by another division or branch of a government body itself, the agency’s name is cited as the author’s name. Furthermore, the title of the division or branch of the government is also mentioned after the document title. In the text citation for such a source, however, only the government agency is mentioned.


Hire an Expert Writer

Orders completed by our expert writers are

  • Formally drafted in an academic style
  • Free Amendments and 100% Plagiarism Free – or your money back!
  • 100% Confidential and Timely Delivery!
  • Free anti-plagiarism report
  • Appreciated by thousands of clients. Check client reviews
Hire an Expert Writer

Frequently Asked Questions

To cite a government website, follow this general format: Author/Agency. (Year). Title of the webpage. Name of the Website. URL For in-text citation: (Author/Agency, Year) or (Title, Year). Always consult a specific style guide (e.g., APA, MLA) for precise formatting.

About Alaxendra Bets

Avatar for Alaxendra BetsBets earned her degree in English Literature in 2014. Since then, she's been a dedicated editor and writer at ResearchProspect, passionate about assisting students in their learning journey.