Numeric Referencing

The main alternative to Harvard referencing is the numeric system, which you will almost certainly find used in some specialist books.

The citation in the Harvard system is replaced by a number that refers to the reference, which may be at the bottom of the page, or more usually in a References section at the end of the chapter or section.


Bertrand Russell considers that the influences on Plato "speaking broadly, were: Pythagoras, Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Socrates". (1)

In the References section the reference would be:

1.Russell, B., 1961, History of Western Philosophy, second edition. London: George, Allen and Unwin, p. 122.

You can see that in numeric referencing the page numbers come at the end of the reference, rather than in an in-text citation. Instead of a column of authors on the left, in alphabetical order, as with Harvard, the References section becomes a column of numbers, from 1 upwards, as each in-text reference has its unique number in ascending order.

The Harvard system is probably more reader-friendly than the numeric, and it enables you to quickly check which authors have been referred to in the text.

How to use the British Standard (Numeric) system

In the text, cited publications are numbered in the order that they are first referred to. This number is given either:

At the end of the text, entries are listed in the numerical order to match the sequence of references in the text.

An example of the British Standard (Numeric) system in action

Over the past 150 years the global mean temperature has risen by almost 0.8ºC, and the mean temperature for Europe by about 1ºC (1); therefore there can be no argument that global temperatures are on the rise.

This rise is most likely to be a result of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions caused by mankind, particularly the 7.9Gt (Gigatonnes) of carbon added to the atmosphere each year (2). Even though there are many uncertainties in the science of climate change (3), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.) states "it is likely [66%-90% probability] that anthropogenic [human induced] warming has had a discernible influence on many physical and biological systems" (4).

Impacts of a warmer atmosphere include the record-breaking summer of 2003, with large areas of Europe experiencing air temperatures up to 4.4ºC higher than the average (5). Also, the Larsen-B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula is melting at a rate never seen before (2). Another example is the smogs of London caused by the burning of fossil fuels, which has been linked to increased cases of chronic bronchitis (6).

The list of impacts appears to be infinitely long in the literature surrounding the subject, and due to this undeniably massive impact of global warming, people's awareness of the issue is beginning to increase (7).

To aid this awareness many educational institutions, such as the University of Derby, hold lectures to educate the public on the causes, effects, and ways in which they can help to prevent global warming (8). There are also modules that students can take to gain an advanced understanding of the processes involved, such as the Climate Change and Human Response module offered by the University of Derby (9).

The increase in public awareness has also applied pressure to political institutions, and as such numerous efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been made. This includes the introduction of the Climate change and sustainable energy act 2006, which aims to "enhance the United Kingdom's contribution to combating climate change" (10).


Reference List (Numeric Style)
Number used in text
1. European Environmental Agency (2007) Climate Change Introduction. Available at: (Accessed: 09/07/2007).
2. O'Hare, G., Sweeny, J. & Wilby, R. (2005) Weather, climate, and climate change: Human perspectives. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
3. O'Hare, G. (2000) "Reviewing the uncertainties in climate change", Area, 32 (4), pp. 357-368.
4. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Geneva: I.P.C.C.
5. McCarthy, M. (2003) "The four degrees: How Europe's hottest summer shows how global warming is transforming our world" The Independent, 8 Dec, p.3.
6. Colls, J. (2002) Air pollution. 2nd edition. Netlibrary [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 09/07/2007).
7. Doyle, L. (2007) "Extreme weather wakes US up to climate change", The Independent. 29 June [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 09/07/2007).
8. O'Hare, G. (2007) Seven ways to tackle climate change. [Lecture to the public held at the University of Derby]. 20 February.
9. O'Hare, G. (2007) "Module Handbook". Climate change and human response, [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 09/07/2007)
10. Climate change and sustainable energy act 2006 (SI 2006/19)