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Guide to Harvard referencing for student nurses

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Ask any group of student nurses about the causes of stress when they first start university and you can guarantee at least one will groan “references”. Help is on hand in the form of Victoria Stevans.

The start of nursing school brings a lot of wonderful, scary, exciting unknowns into your life. Some of these unknowns are so large – budgeting your money, starting placements, attending classes – you have to think about them every week, everyday, or (as it sometimes feels) every second.

Other unknowns can be small, and at first they seem like they aren’t a problem at all. But, in certain cases, these tiny unknowns can be just as – if not even more – intimidating than the big ones. A perfect example of one of these small unknowns is referencing sources in your essays.

At first glance, sure, it seems manageable. You’ve done it before, right? What’s so hard about Harvard references?

But when you give it more thought problems start to arise: what do I do if there are two authors in the work I’m citing? How do I reference a website? What even is Harvard referencing? Have I ever done Harvard referencing before?

But, not to worry. At least when it comes to Harvard referencing, that little unknown can be tackled right here. When these sorts of questions begin to crop up, cloud your mind, and distract you from the big unknowns you’re trying to figure out, just take a deep breath and look at this step-by-step guide.


Okay, to start, all references basically come in two parts: in-text references and the reference list. In-text references are used when your directly quote, or paraphrase (putting quote or segment of the text into your own words) a work in your essay. Your reference list is a complete collection of all the sources that you’ve quoted or paraphrased in your essay that comes at the end of your paper (Cite This For Me, n.d.).

The formats of in-text references can vary based on the way you arrange your sentences. For instance, you can reference a text either directly or indirectly, and both require a different form of in-text citations. Here are some examples:

Direct in-text references:

Sometimes in your writing you’ll mention the author and their work directly. This can happen when you mention their work as a whole or when you quote a specific piece of their work (Anglia Ruskin University, n.d.).

 When looking at nursing shortages, it is vital to look at those shortages in terms of district nurses. This view has been supported by Middleton (2016).


 Middleton (2016, pp.1) suggests the reason behind the lack of coverage on district nurse shortages “Maybe that’s because this often overlooked field of nursing is an invisible glue that holds the health service together.”

Indirect in-text references:

Other times when you’re writing you’ll mention the author and their work indirectly.

 Some individuals are beginning to realise the huge stress that is placed on the shoulders of district nurses (Middleton, 2016).

Your reference list has a bit of a simpler format for most books and other works. The general reference you’ll put in your list will look like this:

 Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Initial., Publishing Year. Title. City: Publisher, Page number(s). (citetisforme – CITE)

A really important note about reference lists is that they should always be organised alphabetically via the author’s last names.

Seems easy enough, right? But of course, there are a few exceptions to these rules (because nothing about writing an essay can be that easy).

Some exceptions to the in-text and reference list structures above can be…

Web Sources:

Web sources have basically the same structure for in-text citations, but they appear quite differently in your reference list.

The in-text references for electronic sources/websites basically remains the same, except sometimes you won’t have an author for your webpage. In that case you’ll use the website name in place of the author name, it’ll look a bit like this: (Website name, year). But, the reference list citation will be quite different, it will look a little something like this:

 Author (Last Name, First Initial) or Source, Year. Title of the Webpage or Document. [Type of Medium] (Date of update – if available) Available at: Web address or URL [Date Accessed].

 (ARU, n.d.)

Journal or Magazine Sources (Print):

Journal and magazine sources take on the basic format for in-text references – (Author last name, Year) – but for reference lists, you’ll need a citation with a few additional pieces of information. It’ll appear in your reference list like this:

 Author Last Name, First Initial., Year. Title of article. Full Title of Journal/Magazine, Volume number (Issue/Part number), Page number(s).

 (ARU, n.d.)

Journal or Magazine Sources (Electronic):

Again, these sources are just the same for the in-text citations – they will include the author’s last name and the year. But, much like articles in print, the web articles take on a different form in reference lists. Here’s an example:

 Author Last Name, First Initial., Year. Title of article. Full Title of Magazine/Journal. [online] Available at: Web address or URL [Date Accessed].

 (ARU, n.d.)

Texts with Multiple Authors:

When you have texts with multiple authors you’ll cite them differently. For the in-text reference you’ll cite them as (Last Name of Author 1 and Last Name of Author 2, Year). The author names go in the order in which they appear in the text (you can find this information on the front cover or title page).

And, again, depending on how you structure your sentences – whether you mention them directly or indirectly – the in-text references will look something like this:

If quoting directly: Bogart and Bacall (2004).

If quoting indirectly: (Bogart and Bacall, 2004).

Your reference lists for multiple authors will just include both of the author’s names (Last, First Initial) but they will also be in the order in which they are found in your book or publication. They will look something like this:

 Bogart, H, Bacall, L. (2004). Title of book. City: Publisher. Page number(s).

 (ARU, n.d.)

Even after all of these exceptions, there are still some problems that you can run into. So, if you see any of these unique cases, don’t panic!

If there is no author: Your best option here is to just address the author as “Anonymous” or “Anon.” That would make your in-text reference look like this: (Anon., Year). And you reference list citation look like this:

 Anonymous. (Year). Title. City: Publisher, Page number(s).

If there is no date: What you’ll want to do in this situation is just replace the year with (n.d.) – which stands for “no date.” That will make your in-text reference look like this: (Author Last Name, n.d.). And your reference list look like this:

 Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Initial. (n.d.). Title. City: Publisher, Page number(s).

 (ARU, n.d.)

When to use page numbers:

Page numbers are really integral when you’re referencing a specific quote from the work or text that you’re quoting in your essay.

An example of that would be:

 Middleton (2016, pp.1) suggests the reason behind the lack of coverage: “Maybe [the lack of coverage is] because this often overlooked field of nursing is an invisible glue that holds the health service together.”

 (ARU, n.d.)

So, now you know how to Harvard reference. And, this fall, when you sit down to write your first essay of the school year, rest easy. You just conquered a little unknown. Make way for the large, messy, and beautiful unknowns in your life. Plus, if you tackled citing sources, what can’t you tackle?

For more in-depth information on Harvard references, Anglia Ruskin University’s website has a really useful guide:



Anglia Ruskin University, n.d. “Harvard System.” Anglia Ruskin University Library. [online] Available at: [21 September 2016].

Cite This For Me, n.d. “The Ultimate Guide to Harvard Referencing” Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: [21 September 2016].

Middleton, J., 2016. “‘The Pressure On District Nursing Services Is Leaving Staff Broken’.” Nursing Times, [online] Available at: [Web. 22 Sept].

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