Open University Harvard Style - citing same author multiple times


I am new to using Zotero, but understand from other forum posts that it should be possible for Zotero to automatically add letters a, b, c etc for citing the same author multiple times.

I can add the relevant letter using the "suffix" box, but that means I have to manually edit all the relevant references if I remove / add a citation. It is also leaving a space between the year and the letter I add in the "suffix" box.

The citation would need to look like this:

Vittersø et al., 2019a, but is inserted into Word like this Vittersø et al., 2019 a

If I use the editor to remove the unwanted space then the citation no longer automatically updates nor can I add an additional author once inserted in my document.

When I add the bibliography authors are only added once whereas they would need to be included multiple times with the relevant alphabetical suffix as part of the bibliography.

Update: one of my citations is automatically adding the alphabetic reference, however it is starting with "a" for the first citation when this should only start from the second reference. I can't see anything different with this particular reference and have deleted the reference completely and then added it again to Zotero as a new reference with the same results.

Appreciate any assistance you can provide.

  • Generally speaking, the style should just do this and does for me. First thing I'd try is to switch to a different style and back. If that doesn't work, could you please provide a couple of examples of what you're seeing in text and what in the bibliography?

    Definitely don't use the suffix field for this.
  • Hi Adam,

    I've tried switching to multiple different styles, but have the same issue.

    Here are a few examples:

    ...led to the development of coalitions between consumers and local farmers (Charatsari et al., 2018) .....promoting the direct selling of food products (Charatsari et al., 2018). Short supply chains are based on an alternative form of social organisation (Charatsari et al., 2018).

    ...such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, resource over-use and food waste (Jarzębowski et al., 2020) producers and consumers (Jarzębowski et al., 2020a, p. 1).

    ... production processes, food miles and waste disposal (Stein and Santini, 2022; Jarzębowski et al., 2020; Benis and Ferrão, 2017)

    Benis, K. and Ferrão, P. (2017) ‘Potential mitigation of the environmental impacts of food systems through urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) – a life cycle assessment approach’, Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 140, pp. 784–795 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 3 April 2022).

    Charatsari, C., Kitsios, F., Stafyla, A., Aidonis, D. and Lioutas, E. (2018) ‘Antecedents of farmers’ willingness to participate in short food supply chains’, British Food Journal, Bradford, United Kingdom, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, vol. 120, no. 10, pp. 2317–2333 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 28 March 2022).

    Jarzębowski, S., Bourlakis, M. and Bezat-Jarzębowska, A. (2020) ‘Short Food Supply Chains (SFSC) as Local and Sustainable Systems’, Sustainability, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, vol. 12, no. 11, p. 4715 [Online]. Available at (Accessed 28 March 2022).

    Stein, A. J. and Santini, F. (2022) ‘The sustainability of “local” food: a review for policy-makers’, Review of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Studies, vol. 103, no. 1, pp. 77–89 [Online]. DOI: 10.1007/s41130-021-00148-w (Accessed 7 May 2022).

    You will notice that the 2nd in-text citation for Jarzębowski et al includes the letter 'a' after the date, however this is not replicated with a 'b' in the 3rd in-text citation, nor in the bibliography. I have no idea why it is putting in the alphabetical denominator for this reference only. I have deleted the reference and re-added it to Zotero and the same thing happens. I cannot see any differences between the 2nd in-text citation or the 1st and 3rd.
  • Really hard to say what's happening here -- I assume things work normally in a fresh test document?

    I'm a bit worried by thing like this:
    I have deleted the reference and re-added it to Zotero and the same thing happens.
    You absolutely never want to do this, it causes no end of problems (because now you have a citation that just relies on the stored data in the document, not the metadata in Zotero).

    What happens when you switch to a numeric style like Vancouver? Do all the in-text citations change to numbers? If they don't, then citation updating seems more generally broken in the document.
  • Hi Adam,

    I have the same issue in the test document. I have created a 2nd test document and still the same - using Vancouver for example this is what happens:

    ...led to the development of coalitions between consumers and local farmers (1) .....promoting the direct selling of food (1). Short supply chains are based on an alternative form of social organisation (1).

    1. Charatsari C, Kitsios F, Stafyla A, Aidonis D, Lioutas E. Antecedents of farmers’ willingness to participate in short food supply chains. Br Food J [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2022 Mar 28];120(10):2317–33. Available from:

    The in-text citations do change to numbers, but the same number for the same author. I am not familiar with this form of referencing though so that may the norm.
  • I'm confused -- if you're citing the same item, that's supposed to be the same number. You're also not supposed to see 2018a/2018b in the citation in a Harvard style, though. That would only come up if you cite two different items by the same authors in the same year.
  • edited August 17, 2022
    Thanks Adam, I wasn't sure with the numerical style if there was supposed to be any differentiation - as I said, I'm not familiar with that referencing style.

    I have had conflicting information from different people regarding adding a letter to a reference and may well have confused myself. I will go back to my supervisor for further clarification.

    Appreciate your assistance
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