Answered By: Sarah Purcell
Last Updated: Aug 07, 2017     Views: 468

When you read about someone's idea in a book or article, and you also want to cite that idea in your work, you should make the effort to try to locate the original source yourself, using the book or article's reference list and Library Search. If something is so relevant that it is worth citing in your own writing, we recommend reading the original first-hand, rather than second-hand. 

Sometimes, citing something second-hand - called secondary referencing - is unavoidable. This may be because the original source is not available, out of print, even in a different language. In these cases you would need to:

  • cite in your writing both the original source, and the source you've read which cites that idea or quote; and
  • fully reference in your reference list only the source you've actually read, not the original source.

The way in which you present a secondary reference in your work depends on the referencing style you need to use. For example, Cite Them Right shows that secondary references in Harvard style might look like this:

Are you quoting or summarising? In-text citation

Direct quote or paraphrasing (the Lewis source appears in your reference list)

Harvey (2015, quoted in Lewis, 2016, p.86) provides an excellent survey…

Summarising (the Murray source appears in your reference list)

White’s views on genetic abnormalities in crops (2014, cited in Murray, 2015) support the idea that…


For further help with referencing in Harvard format, visit our Referencing webpage or Cite Them Right.