RCN house style is to use the Harvard system of referencing.

Putting a reference into written text

For one author:
Humour is a positive element of the nurse patient relationship (Savage, 1995).
or: Savage (1995) shows how nurses value humour… .
or: Research by Savage (1995) suggests …

For two authors:
A study undertaken by Levy and Kline (1994) discovered …
or Levy and Kline (1994) show that …

For three or more authors:
As Gough et al. (1994) demonstrate …
or Their exact nature is difficult to define (Gough et al., 1994).

All the authors should be listed in the reference list at the end of your document.

Organisation/corporate authors:
Use the name of the organisation as the author:
Recent research suggests … (Royal College of Nursing, 1995).

Format for referencing

Referencing a book

A full reference for a book should include the following information and punctuation:

Author(s) Initial(s) (Year) Title (edition), Place of publication: Publisher.

Tschudin V (1995) Counselling skills for nursing (4th edition), London: Baillière Tindall.

Manley K and Bellman L (1998) Surgical nursing, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

Gough P, Maslin S and Masterson A (1994) Nursing and social policy, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Referencing a chapter in an edited book

If referencing the whole book, the item should be listed under the editor or editors:

Perry A (editor) (1997) Nursing: a knowledge base for practice (2nd edition), London: Arnold.

To reference a single chapter, do it under the author(s) of that chapter, and include page numbers. Note the chapter title is not italicised:

Myles A (1997) ‘Principles and practice of curriculum development: towards the year 2000’, in Perry A (editor) Nursing: a knowledge base for practice (2nd edition), London: Arnold, pp.282-300.

Referencing a journal or newspaper article

A full reference for a journal article should include the following information: Author(s) Initial(s) (Year) Title of article, Name of Journal, volume number (part number), weekly date/month of issue/season [optional], page numbers.

Note that the title of the journal, not the article, is italicised.

Brykczynska G (1997) Nursing in the Baltic States, Euroforum, No.1 ,p.3.

Burr S (1993) Adolescents and the ward environment, Paediatric Nursing, 5 (1), pp.10-13.

Crichton NJ, Hinde JP and Marchini J (1997) Models for diagnosing chest pain: is CART helpful? Statistics in Medicine, 16 (7), pp.717-727.

Duff L (1995) Clinical guidelines: development and use, DQI Network News, No. 1, pp.4-5.

Hanson M (1997) A clearer picture, Independent on Sunday, 9 March, p.41.

Manley K (1990) Birth of a nursing development unit, Nursing Standard, 4 (26), pp.36-38.

If an article does not have an author credited to it, use the name of the journal:

Nursing Times (1998) Nurses to vote on pay dispute overtime ban, Nursing Times, 94(28), p.6.

Corporate authorship of a book, report or journal article

When referencing an item which has an organisation or institution as the author, the name of that organisation must always be written out in full, though you can abbreviate it when it appears again later in the reference.

English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting (1996) Shaping the future, London: ENB.

Royal College of Nursing (1995) Advice for occupational health nurses, London: RCN.

Government publications

Note that HMSO became the Stationery Office early in 1997, so ensure you use whichever form appears on the actual document. You do not need to spell out HMSO. You do not need to include ‘the’ with Stationery Office.

Griffiths R (1988) Community care: agenda for action, London: HMSO.

Department of Health (1997) Department of Health and NHS funding for research and development, London: DH.

If you wish to add any further information – for example, it is customary to include the command number for government documents – it should be included in brackets at the end of the reference:

Department of Health (1998) Our healthier nation: a contract for health: a consultation paper, London: Stationery Office (Cmnd 3852).

Scottish Office (1998) Designed to care: renewing the National Health Service in Scotland, Edinburgh: Stationery Office (Cmnd 3811).

Some other common government documents are:

Statutory Instrument:
Statutory Instrument (1983) The nurses, midwives and health visitors rules approval order, London: HMSO (SI no. 873).

Act of Parliament:
Parliament (1989) Children Act, London: HMSO.

Government Circular:
The code number on the document must always be included in brackets at the end of the reference:
NHS Executive (1994) Towards a primary care-led NHS: an accountability framework for GP fundholding, Leeds: Department of Health (EL(94)92).

Official reports
Department of Health and Social Security (1980) Inequalities in health: report of a research working group, London: DHSS (Chairman: D Black).
Ministry of Health and Scottish Home and Health Department (1966) Report of the
committee on senior nursing staff structure, London: HMSO (Chairman: B Salmon).

Quoting from written sources

In the text use double quotation marks, followed not only by the surname and the year of publication, but also by the exact page number(s): “As the most popular genre on British television, soap operas have
an important role to play” (Wilde, 2005, p.69).
As Sparshott (1998) states: “Life cannot be lived without stress, since stress leads to Stimulation”’ (p.21).

You should also include it in the reference section – following the conventions in this section.

Theses and dissertations

McIntyre R (1996) Nursing support for relatives of dying cancer patients in hospital: improving standards by research, PhD thesis, Department of Nursing and Community Health, Glasgow Caledonian University.

Videos, television and radio

Royal College of Midwives (1990) Helping a mother to breast feed: no finer investment, London: Healthcare Productions (video).
CFL Vision (no date) Protection of eyes regulations UK3314,Wetherby: CFL Vision (video).

Television or radio programmes should be referenced as follows:
British Broadcasting Corporation (1995) Panorama: baby blues (Transmitted on BBC1 television, 17 July).
British Broadcasting Corporation (2005) Case notes (Transmitted on
BBC Radio 4, 15 June).


Walker GJA and Johnstone PW (1998) Treating scabies, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Library, Issue 2 (CD-ROM).

ChildData (1998) Working mothers 9 March 1996, Children in the News, ChildData, April issue (CD-ROM).

The internet


Author(s) Initial(s) (Year) Title of item, Place of publication: Publisher. Available from: Website address (Date on which you accessed the item) (Web)

Note that you do not need to include http:// in website addresses. Sometimes, place of publication or publisher may not be given on a website. If you have to reference them, be aware that websites go out of date very quickly. Examples:

Hateweight.com (2004) What is obesity? Available at:
www.hateweight.com/what_is_obesity.html (accessed 09/06/05) (Web).

Shipman Inquiry (2005) Sixth report: Shipman: the final report, Norwich: Stationery Office (Chairman: J. Smith). Available at: www.the-shipmaninquiry.org.uk/finalreport.asp (accessed 09/06/05) (Web).

Department of Health (1998) Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing (ACGT), London: DH. Available from: http://www.open.gov.uk/doh/genetics/acgt.htm (Accessed 27 July 1998) (Web).

Journals and books on the internet (e-journals and e-books)

When accessing e-journals and e-books, you may find that the format, including the page numbers, differs in the web version from the printed copy. You can still reference the journal or book exactly as you would if you were referencing the printed version. However, references to specific pages, when quoting directly, will need to be to the electronic page (e-page) number. For example:

In her explanation, Crowe (2005) insists that ‘the focus of discourse analysis is on how social relations, identities, knowledge and power are constructed’ (e-p.2).

In the references this will appear as:
Crowe M (2005) Discourse analysis: towards an understanding of its place in nursing, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 51 (1), pp.55–63 (e-pp.1−10).

If there are no page differences between the electronic and printed versions, then simply reference it as if you were using the printed copy.

Unpublished work and personal communication

Pendleton S (1990) What is curriculum development? Paper presented at a study day held at the Library Association, 6 December (unpublished work).

For any personal communication, the information should appear in the text and may or may not be included in the list of references. In this case, the author’s initials are usually included:

... (Lord J (1998, personal communication).
According to Lord J (1998, personal communication) …

Citing secondary sources

You may not be able to consult an original work, but read about it in another source. All secondary sources like this must be acknowledged as such.

The criteria for professional status are male-created (Oakley, 1986, cited in Street, 1992).
According to Strickland (1978), these people will have better health status (cited in Norman and Bennett, 1996).

In the reference list, these two sources would be presented as:

Oakley A (1986) Telling the truth about Jerusalem, London: Routledge, cited in Street

AF (1992) Inside nursing: a critical ethnography of clinical nursing practice, Albany: State University Press.

Strickland BR (1978) Internal-external expectancies, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46 (6), pp.1192-1211, cited in Norman P and Bennett P (1996) ‘Health locus of control’, in Conner M and Norman P (editors) Predicting health behaviour, Buckingham: Open University Press, pp.62-94.

Arrangement of references

Items are arranged in alphabetical order of author. However many times any single source is used as a reference, it only appears once in the reference list.
If there is more than one reference by the same author, these will be arranged chronologically, with the earlier publication date first:

Hibbert A (1996) Height and weight: health indicators, Primary Health Care, 6 (2), pp.20- 21.

Hibbert A (1997) In-flight nursing, Nursing Standard, 11 (44), pp.22-24.

If the same author has written several items in the same year, differentiate these further to by adding a, b, c, etc. to the date, both in the text and the references.

In the text, this would appear as:

Stillwell (1992a) stresses the need to ensure newly qualified nurses are properly supervised. She goes on to argue the importance of such assessments for the wellbeing of patients (Stillwell, 1992b).

In the reference list:

Stillwell B (1992a) Skills update: catheter care, Community Outlook, 2 (6), pp.26-27.
Stillwell B (1992b) Skills update: assessing the adult with constipation, Community Outlook, 2 (9), pp.26-27.