Reference with MHRA

If you are a student in English Literature, Drama or Creative Writing, you will need to use the MHRA referencing style in your assignments, projects and dissertation. Use this online guide to find out how the style works and what your footnotes and bibliography should look like.

A shorter print guide Citing your References in the MHRA Style (revised August 2017) is also available to download as a word file or PDF.

Further guidance on MHRA:

Coloured pencils in a glass

MHRA basics: 1. creating footnotes and bibliographies

When writing essays or dissertations you may need to refer to a variety of sources in the body of your work, including literary texts, books and journal articles. You need to acknowledge the original source through referencing when you are providing a direct quotation AND where you’re paraphrasing or summarising from the original text in your own words.

There are two parts to MHRA references:

Footnotes
When you want to cite a specific source, create a footnote (a note placed at the foot of the page) in Word. Alternatively you can use endnotes (notes placed at the end of your essay).

Bibliography
A list of all the sources you have used, whether you've cited them in the text or not, placed at the end of your essay.

How to create footnotes

To insert a footnote:

  • In Word, click on ‘References’ and ‘Insert Footnote’. Word will automatically assign it a number in superscript and create the corresponding footnote at the bottom of the page.
  • In Word for Mac, go to the ‘View’ menu and click ‘Print Layout’. In your document, click where you want to insert the note reference mark. Go to the ‘Insert’ menu and click ‘Footnote’.

Key things to remember:

  • In the footnote put the full reference to the source, following the format set out in this guide. Footnotes should run in one sequence throughout your document.
  • Ensure that the footnote number in the text is placed at the end of a sentence, after the full stop.
  • If you have mentioned several sources in the same paragraph, you can use a single footnote/endnote to cover all of them.

You can view more examples in this sample text with MHRA referencing in Cite Them Right Online.

Examples of footnotes

Schug analyses the narrative structure of Frankenstein.1



The action in Mary Shelley’s novel takes place in a variety of locations, moving from Geneva to Evian and to Ireland. The geographical aspect has been explored by several critics, including Bohls and Randel.2

_______________________________

1 Charles Schug, ‘The Romantic Form of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein’, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, 17.4 (1977), 607-19.

2 Elizabeth A. Bohls, ‘Standards of Taste, Discourses of “Race”, and the Aesthetic Education of a Monster: Critique of Empire in Frankenstein’, Eighteenth-Century Life, 18.3 (1994), 23-36.

Fred V. Randel, ‘The Political Geography of Horror in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein’, ELH, 70.2 (2003), 465-491.

How to create a bibliography

A bibliography is a complete list of all the sources you’ve used – those you’ve cited in the text and additional ones you’ve read but not cited.

  • In a bibliography reference, reverse the order of the first author's name, for example:
    Austen, Jane
  • Note that if there are several authors, only the first author's name is reversed, for example:
    Wallis, Mick and Simon Shepherd,
  • The bibliography should be arranged in one alphabetical sequence - by the first author's surname - and should appear at the end of your document.
  • If there is no author or editor, list the source by title, ignoring initial definite or indefinite articles.
  • References in your bibliography should not end with a full stop.
  • If the list includes more than one work by the same author, list them in alphabetical order of title, ignoring initial definite or indefinite articles. For each source after the first, substitute the author’s name with a long dash (use Shift + hyphen), for example:
    Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice, ed. by James Kinsley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)
    _____, Sense and Sensibility, ed. by James Kinsley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

You can view more examples in this sample text with MHRA referencing in Cite Them Right Online.

How to deal with repeated references: citing the same source multiple times

You will often need to refer to the same source several times throughout an essay, especially when analysing literary texts. To avoid repeating the same footnote multiple times, there are two options. Choose the one that best suits the specific context.

How to deal with secondary referencing

In some cases you will want to reference a work mentioned or quoted in another author's work. If you can, you should try to locate and verify the details of the source referred to and then reference it as normal. However sometimes you won't be able to track down the original source. This is known as 'secondary referencing'.

For example, you have read a journal article by Eva Badowska which contains a quote from Susan Stewart's book Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation. You would like to use this quote in your essay but you have been unable to access Stewart’s original book.

In the footnote, you need to mention both sources:

  • the original source - the Stewart book
  • the source that you have read - Badowska's article.
Use the phrase 'quoted in' or 'cited in', depending on whether the author of the work you are reading is directly quoting or summarizing from the original.

In the bibliography you just list the source you have read, in this case the Badowska article.

Example of secondary referencing

Susan Stewart describes Walpole's Gothic Revival villa Strawberry Hill as 'a form of trompe-l'oeil, a triumph of surface over materiality and time'.3

____________________________________

3Susan Stewart, quoted in Eva Badowska, ‘On the Track of Things: Sensation and Modernity in Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 37.1 (2009), 157-175 (p.163) <http://www.jstor.org.oxfordbrookes.idm.oclc.org/stable/40347219> [accessed 13 January 2015].



In the bibliography:

Badowska, Eva, ‘On the Track of Things: Sensation and Modernity in Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 37.1 (2009), 157-175 <http://www.jstor.org.oxfordbrookes.idm.oclc.org/stable/40347219> [accessed 13 January 2015]

How to calculate your word count

When writing an essay or a dissertation for English Literature, Creative Writing and Drama, you will usually need to provide a word count. Note that the allowed word length does not include abstract, footnotes/endnotes, bibliography and any appendices but it does include quotations used in the body of the text.

NB Different rules apply for PhD theses - check the guidance provided by the Graduate Office.

To calculate the word count without including the bibliography, highlight the relevant text to be counted. To exclude footnotes:

  • In Word, click on ‘Review’ and ‘Word count’. A dialog box will open allowing you to choose whether to include footnotes and endnotes.
  • In Word for Mac, click on ‘Tools’ and select ‘Word Count’. The default is to include text in footnotes and endnotes, so un-tick the option ‘Include footnotes and endnotes’ to change this.

MHRA basics: 2. How to set out quotations

Direct quotation from any source must be indicated as such and the exact reference given within a footnote.

For further help and examples, see the MHRA Style Guide Online: 9. Quotations and Quotation Marks

Dealing with prose quotations

Short quotations may be run into the text, using single quotation marks. The number for the note should appear at the end of the quotation, after the full stop, even if the quotation appears in the middle of the sentence. See the example of Lynch (right).

Longer quotations should be separated from the rest of the text and should not be placed in quotation marks. Place the number for the note at the end of the quotation. If you have omitted part of the text indicate this with three dots in square brackets, like this [...]. For examples see the MHRA Style Guide 5.7

Longer prose quotations, including the first line, can be indented. See the example of Bewell (right).

Examples of prose quotations

Short quotation:

Lynch emphasizes that ‘In the culture about which Shakespeare wrote, hands were felt to have unique holy and sacramental powers’.4

Longer quotation:

This is how Bewell interprets John Clare’s view of language:

Ecolect is thus inseparably fused with idiolect in his poetry, and, in resisting John Taylor’s efforts to rid his poetry of dialect and provincialisms, Clare was struggling for the continuance not just of a nature but also of the unique language in which that nature had long been experienced and understood.5
_______________________________

4 Kathryn L. Lynch, ‘“What Hands Are Here?” The Hand as Generative Symbol in Macbeth’, The Review of English Studies, 39.153 (1988), 29-38 (p.32) <https://www-jstor-org.oxfordbrookes.idm.oclc.org/stable/515476> [accessed 13 July 2014].

5 Alan Bewell, ‘John Clare and the Ghosts of Natures Past’, Nineteenth-Century Literature, 65.4 (2011), 548-78 (p. 570) <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/ncl.2011.65.4.548> [accessed 13 July 2014].

Dealing with quotations from poems

Verse quotations should be separated from the rest of your essay text and should not be placed in quotation marks. 

You should follow the lineation and indentation of the original text as it appears on the page; see the example of Keats (right).

Never centre lines of poetry. 

Omitted lines of verse should be marked by three dots in square brackets, like this [...] on a separate line.

See the guidance below on how to reference a poem in your footnotes and bibliography.

Example of a poetry quotation

Keats describes a desire to escape the pain of reality in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’:

O for a beaker full of the warm South,
 Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
  With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
   And purple-stained mouth;
 That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
  And with thee fade away into the forest dim -6

_______________________________

6 John Keats, ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, in The Complete Poems, ed. by John Barnard, 3rd edn (London: Penguin, 1988), pp. 346-48 (p. 346), ll. 15-20.

Dealing with quotations from plays

Short quotations are those of fewer than forty words or two lines of verse. These may be run into the text of your essay, using single quotation marks. 

The number for the note should appear at the end of the quotation, after the full stop, even if the quotation appears in the middle of the sentence.

Long quotations are those over forty words or two lines of verse. These quotations should be separated from the rest of your text and should not be placed in quotation marks. 

You should keep the original spelling and punctuation of the play you are quoting, and aim to reproduce the formatting of the text as it appears on the page. The speakers’ names should be positioned to the left of the text. See the example from Macbeth (right).

Place the number for the note at the end of the quotation. 

Omitted lines should be marked by three dots in square brackets, like this [...] on a separate line.

See the guidance below on how to reference a play in your footnotes and bibliography.

Example of a play quotation

MACBETH          Prithee peace:
I dare do all that may become a man,
Who dares more is none.

LADY MACBETH       What beast was’t then
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.

(Macbeth, I.7.46–51) 7

_______________________________

7 William Shakespeare, Macbeth, ed. by Nicholas Brooke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), I.7.46-51.

How to reference a book

How to reference a book chapter

How to reference a journal or newspaper article

How to reference a poem

See also the guidance on dealing with quotations from poems in your text.

How to reference a play

How to reference a novel or short story

How to reference a web page

How to reference media & other sources

For further guidance, check the MHRA Style Guide on referencing Recordings, Films, Digital Media, and Software; Broadcasts; Works of Art