How the MHRA style works

  • 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 superscript1 in 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.

    • 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.
    • 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:

    3 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].)

    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 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.