Referencing in MHRA

  • MHRA is a referencing style produced by the Modern Humanities Research Association. As part of your English Literature, Drama or Creative Writing you will need to use the MHRA referencing style to cite sources you have used in your assignments.

    Why does referencing matter?

    Referencing is an essential part of academic work. By referencing your sources correctly you are demonstrating that:

    • You’ve properly acknowledged others’ work. Failure to do this could be regarded as plagiarism
    • You're providing evidence to show that the facts and arguments you present are supported by your reading.
    • You've provided your tutors will all the information they need to trace the source you have used.
    • You have read widely and used a variety of sources.

    Help with referencing in MHRA

    • This online guide shows you how the MHRA referencing style works and how to reference specific types of sources. It's also available in a PDF version Citing your References in the MHRA Style: a Guide for English and Drama Students (revised August 2017)
    • If you have a query that isn't covered in these guides, check the full MHRA Style Guide (3rd edn, 2013). Printed versions of the MHRA Style Guide are available in Headington Library at 808.02/MOD.
    • Cite Them Right Online also includes advice and examples of referencing in the MHRA style, although it's not as detailed as the guides mentioned above. 

    For further help with referencing, contact the Academic Liaison Librarian for English and Drama

  • What source do you want to reference?

    How to reference books and literary texts

    How to reference articles, web sites and media sources

    For guidance on referencing other sources such as theses, manuscripts, The Bible, dissertations or social media, check the full  MHRA Style Guide , section 11.

  • When writing essays or dissertations you may need to refer to a variety of sources – literary texts, books, journal articles etc. – in the body of your work. Always cite the original source if you are providing a direct quotation or where you’re drawing on someone else’s ideas e.g. ‘Eagleton’s theory is that…’

    When you want to cite a specific source, create a footnote (a note placed at the foot of the page) in Word, following the instructions below. Alternatively you can use endnotes (notes placed at the end of your essay). All the sources you have used, whether you've cited them in the text or not, should also be listed in a bibliography at the end of your essay. 


    Footnotes should run in one sequence throughout your document. When you insert a footnote in Word it adds a number in superscriptin the text and creates a corresponding footnote at the bottom of the page. Ensure that the number in the text is placed at the end of a sentence, after the full stop. For example:

    Schug analyzes the narrative structure of the novel.1

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

    • 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’.

    In the footnote put the full reference to the source, following the format set out in this guide. 

    If you have mentioned several sources in the same paragraph, you can use a single footnote/endnote to cover all of them. For example:

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

    Corresponding footnote:

    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 
    <> [accessed 14 January 2015].


    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.

    • The bibliography should be arranged in one alphabetical sequence - by the first author's surname - and should appear at the end of your document. NB in bibliography references the surname goes first, as in the examples listed in this guide.
    • If there is no author or editor, list the source by title, ignoring initial definite or indefinite articles. 
    • 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)

    If you need to refer to the same source several times, for example when you are discussing one or more literary works throughout your essay, there is no need to create a new footnote each time. For subsequent mentions you can use an abbreviated reference or ‘short citation’ in the text. 

    The first time you refer to the work, create a footnote which includes the full reference as normal. You can also set out in this footnote details of the short citation you will use to refer to the work in future, for example:  “Further references (to this work), are given after quotations/mentions in the text”. 

    Subsequent mentions in the text - short citations
    The short citation should usually be the author's name or a short form of the title, plus the cited page number(s). For example: 

    McArthur, p. 62.

    Macbeth, iii. 4. 99-107

    If you are citing more than one work by the same author, for example if you are discussing two novels by the same author throughout your essay, use the author's surname and a short form of the title, plus the cited page number(s). For example:

    Austen, Pride and Prejudice, p.23

    Austen, Sense and Sensibility, p. 171

    Harry Potter series

    These books weren’t published as a series, so there is no overarching series title. To refer to the books collectively, provide a footnote the first time you mention one of the books in your text. In this footnote put the full reference details for each book individually (separate them with a semicolon), and at the end of the list write the following:

    Further references to the Harry Potter books as a collection will be referred to as 'Harry Potter series (1997-2007)'.

    You can then use this short form in further references to refer to the series as a whole.

    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. In some cases it won’t be possible for you to consult the original source and in this case you would cite the source you have read – this is called ‘secondary referencing’. In the footnote 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.

    For example, you have read an article by Eva Badowska in the journal Victorian Literature and Culture which contains a quote from a book called Crimes of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation by Susan Stewart. You would like to use this quote in your essay but you have been unable to access Stewart’s original book. In this case, you would cite the source you have read, i.e. Badowska's article, as follows:

    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

    Corresponding footnote:

    Susan 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)> [accessed 13 January 2015].)

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

    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. For example:

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

    Corresponding footnote:
    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).

    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.

    Prose quotations including the first line, can be indented, for example:

    Bewell sums up 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

    Corresponding footnote:
    5  Alan Bewell, ‘John Clare and the Ghosts of Natures Past’, Nineteenth-Century Literature, 65.4 (2011), 548-78 (p. 570) <> [accessed 13 July 2014].

    Verse quotations should follow the lineation and indentation of the original. Never centre lines of poetry. For example:

    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

    Corresponding footnote:

    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.

    Play quotations are treated as long quotations when over forty words or two lines of verse. Spelling and punctuation within the text should be preserved. Aim to present the long play quotation as it appears in the text. In verse quotations, the speakers’ names are positioned to the left of the text.

    For example:

    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

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

    Further help: See the MHRA Style Guide section 9.

    When writing an essay or a dissertation for English or 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.

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

    • To check your word count in Word 2010, 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 2011, 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.

    EndNote Web and EndNote desktop are services which allow you to collect, store and manage your own collection of references and create bibliographies in your written work. Find out more from our EndNote help pages