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Naming sources

To refer is to state where you have retrieved your information from.

A reference consists of two elements:

  • in-text reference
  • entry in a reference list

In this module you will learn how to refer to literature in your text, in-text references, along with how to set up a reference list.

How to name sources

Several systems for naming sources exist. Two of the most common systems are Harvard and Vancouver.

There are different traditions for the use of systems and styles in different study programs. You should check your department's recommendations before writing your paper.

Remember, once you have chosen a system and a style, you must use it consistently throughout the entire paper.

Choosing reference system

In VIKO we explain the use of three styles:

The Harvard system is an author-year system. You name the author and the year of publication within the text itself. In the reference list you give the full reference in alphabetical order. The Harvard system is the foundation for multiple other styles. A style is a set of rules indicating how a reference should be given, as well as how the various elements in a reference should be given in relation to each other.

Styles based on the Harvard system is:

  • The Harvard style, which is used in social science, technology and the natural science.
  • APA (American Psychological Association) is based on the Harvard system. “APA style of reference” is a style frequently employed in social sciences and the humanities. Read more on the APA style at

The Vancouver system is a numeral system. You write a number in the text itself, given in an ascending order. In the reference list you give the full reference in the chronological order you have used the various sources.

Styles based on the Vancouver system:

  • Vancouver (official: Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals), which is frequently used in medicine, the natural sciences and to some extent, technological study programs. Read more on the Vancouver style at