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How to Cite a PDF in Harvard Style?

Published by at August 30th, 2021 , Revised On August 23, 2023


A PDF or a portable document format file is an online (electronic) file. It can be a report, a dissertation/thesis, a book, a chapter from a book, an article or even a single paragraph on something specific.

The type of content that a PDF file contains decided how it will be referenced in the Harvard style. For instance, if the PDF file is a book, it will be referenced exactly how an online book (an ebook) is referenced in Harvard. Similarly, if it is a journal article, it is referenced as such.

However, keeping the type of content aside first, the basic format for referencing and citing any kind of PDF in Harvard style is:

In-text citation: (Author Surname Year, p. #/pp.#/para. #/chapter # whichever is available).

Reference list entry: Author Surname, Author Initial(s). Year Published. Title of PDF file in italics [online]. City: Publisher. Available from: http://Website URL [Accessed Accessed Month Date, Year].

For example:

In-text citation: … made them more likely to hire a candidate (Broughton et al., 2013)

Reference list entry: Broughton, A. et al. 2013. The use of social media in the recruitment process [online] 1st ed. Acas. Available from: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/0/b/The-use-of-social-media-in-the-recruitment-process.pdf [Accessed August 8, 2014].

Similarly, if the PDF is a journal article, it would be cited and referenced as a journal article itself, for example:

In-text citation: … greatly exacerbated since September 11. (Poynting, 2006)

Reference list entry: Poynting, S. (2006). What caused the Cronulla riot?. Race \& Class, 48(1), pp.85–92.

Therefore, to cite and reference a PDF in Harvard style, the type of content should be identified first. Based on whether it’s a book, article or any other material, it should be referenced and cited according to that material’s referencing format itself.


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Frequently Asked Questions

To cite a PDF in Harvard style:

  1. Author(s) last name, initial(s).
  2. Year of publication.
  3. Title of PDF.
  4. [PDF] in square brackets.
  5. Available at: URL.
  6. Accessed: Date. Example: Smith, J. (2023). “Digital Marketing Trends.” [PDF] Available at: https://example.com/pdf. Accessed: July 15, 2023.

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.