Skip to Main Content

Citing electronic documents: Welcome

Guide to citing electronic documents

This guide is created to help students in citing electronic information sources. The examples follow the Harvard referencing style. They have been edited from examples on the following websites:


This general guide follows the Finnish citing standard  SFS 5989. The examples are based on the Harvard citing style.

LUT students are recommended to discuss with their supervisors and/or check instructions in eLUT to find out about detailed citing instructions of their program / School. For theses guidelines, please see eLUT.

For guidelines regarding LAB theses, please see eLAB.

LAB's publications have their own guidelines for citing, for these please see the LAB guide to publishing.

Citations in the reference list

In the citation there should be information about the publication format:



    [online database]

    [electronic journal]


    [Facebook update]



    [digital image]


If necessary, the system requirements (the required type of hardware, operating system and its version, file size of the document, application software requirements, necessary add-on's etc.) should be mentioned as a note. For clarity, the wors 'system requirements' shold preceed that information.

Version is also marked in the reference. Other possible terms are e.g. edition, update, revision. 

For long term storage the data is often converted from one file type to another. In these cases, new versions of the document are formed in addition to the original one. The differences in various versions must be documented in the metadata of the used file. The referencing is done to the original document or the version which was actually used. The version information is retrieved from the metadata.

In case of a changing information source, the  citation date is marked in square brackets. This is also done when there is no reliable publication date in the data. The word "Cited” precedes the date. For example: [cited 2017-11-16].

Availability information consists of the URI or other information like database name. Remember to type "Available” in front of the information. If there is a permanent identifier (DOI, Handle or URN) it should also be shown. The permanent address is preferred to URL. In cases when the web address must be divided on two lines it should be done after a / mark.

If there are both printed and PDF versions of the data source it can be presented e.g. Available also in PDF: http://...

Another form of electronic information source is stored research data. The data consist of the actual research data and the metadata.The reference includes author, title of data, version, the identifier given by the data storage and collection information (time, collector, producer and distributor and possible permanent identifier).

In-text citations

In-text citations tell the reader where the information sources which support your statements are published. The Harvard referencing system is used in most programs in LUT and Saimaa University of Applied Sciences. The in-text citation normally shows the author/s and the publication year of the information source. 

In this guide we concentrate on the Harvard system. For details, please, consult the instructions given by your supervisor and the program rules.

In-text citations are placed within parentheses. The information consists of the author and the publication year of the source (Smith 2005). However, in case the author name is already included in the text only the publication year is marked in the in-text citation. For example: According to Smith (2010)… If two or more sources have the same author and the same publication year they are marked with lower-case letters e.g. (Smith, 2000b)

The same principles apply to electronic documents. The in-text citation consists of the author or, if the name is not available, the publisher followed by the printing year. Sometimes the information is difficult to find. Instead of the author you may have to give the name of the provider of the online service which can be e.g. a company. If the publication year is not shown it is sometimes found in the page information or there may be the date of the latest update. The page information can be displayed by clicking the right button of your mouse and by selecting Properties/Page info. If this information is not available you may use the date you accessed the information in place of the publication date.

Please, note that also blogs have authors and dates!

Example (Harvard British standard):


(Burgess 2014)
Reference list

BURGESS, S., 2014. Where does your business sit on the sustainability maturity curve? [Website]. [Cited 2018-02-12]. Available:

LUT Academic Library