A quick guide to MHRA referencing

MHRA style is a set of guidelines for referencing, commonly used in humanities subjects.

In MHRA, sources are cited in footnotes, marked by superscript numbers in the text. Subsequent citations of the same source are shortened, usually to just the author’s last name and the page number.

The protagonist of Silas Marner, and others of his profession, are described as resembling ‘the remnants of a disinherited race’.1 Though Marner’s appearance is not outwardly strange, we are told that for his neighbours, ‘it had mysterious peculiarities which corresponded with the exceptional nature of his occupation’.2

1. George Eliot, Silas Marner, ed. by Juliette Atkinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 3.
2. Eliot, p. 5.

The bibliography at the end of your text contains all your sources, alphabetically ordered by authors’ last names:

Eliot, George, Silas Marner, ed. by Juliette Atkinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)

MHRA footnote references

Footnote numbers appear in your text wherever you quote or paraphrase from a source. These numbers are usually placed at the end of a sentence, after any punctuation, and always after the quote or paraphrase they relate to:

Austen writes of Catherine that ‘her heart was affectionate, her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affection of any kind’.2

The footnote itself then provides full information on the source, including the page number on which the relevant material appears:

2. Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, ed. by Marilyn Butler (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 19.

A footnote always ends with a full stop.

Different types of source require different information in a footnote reference. Formats and examples for the most commonly cited types are given below.

Formatx. Author name, Book Title, ed./trans. by Editor/Translator name, edition (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), page number(s).
Example1. George Eliot, Silas Marner, ed. by Juliette Atkinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 3.
Notes
  • If a book has an editor or translator named on the title page, they should be included here.
  • The edition should be included (in abbreviated form, e.g. ‘2nd edn’) if it is not the first edition.
  • Individual page numbers are preceded by ‘p.’, page ranges by ‘pp.’.
Formatx. Author name, ‘Chapter Title’, in Book Title, ed. by Editor name, edition (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), page range (page number(s)).
Example2. Joseph W. Childers, ‘Social Class and the Victorian Novel’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, ed. by Deirdre David, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 148–169 (p. 156).
Notes
  • This is used when you cite an individual chapter from a book whose chapters are written by different authors.
  • The page range specifies the chapter’s location in the book; the page number in brackets specifies the passage you are citing.
  • The chapter title is in quotation marks, while the book title is in italics.
Formatx. Author name, ‘Article Title’, Journal Name, volume number (Year), page range (page number).
Example3. George Levine, ‘The Dickensian George Eliot’, Dickens Studies Annual, 50 (2019), 48–65 (63).
Notes
  • ‘Pp.’ and ‘p.’ are not used with journal page numbers.
  • The article title is in quotation marks, while the journal name is in italics.
Formatx. Author name, Page Title (Year), Website Name <URL> [access date].
Example4. Shona McCombes, How to Write a Methodology (2019), Scribbr <https://www.scribbr.co.uk/thesis-dissertation/methodology/> [accessed 6 February 2020].
Notes
  • If the page doesn’t list an author, start the footnote with the title instead.
  • If there is no publication date, replace the year with ([n.d.]).

Shortened notes

If you cite the same source multiple times, in every subsequent footnote after the first citation, the information is shortened to save space:

11. Charles Dickens, Bleak House, ed. by Nicola Bradbury (London: Penguin, 2003), p. 46.
12. Dickens, p. 312.

MHRA recommends using the shortest intelligible form of the citation – usually just the author’s last name and a page number if relevant. Sometimes, you might still need more information to avoid confusion.

For example, a book in multiple volumes would still include a volume number along with a page number. If you’ve cited multiple books by the same author, include the title (shortened if it’s longer than four words) along with the author’s name:

17. Tolstoy, War and Peace, p. 453.
18. Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, p. 32.

Creating an MHRA bibliography

At the end of your text, you include a bibliography with information on every source you cited. The bibliography lists all your sources in alphabetical order by authors’ last names.

The information here is presented similarly to that in the footnotes, with the following differences:

  • For alphabetisation purposes, author names are inverted so that the last name comes first (e.g. ‘Dickens, Charles’).
  • Specific page numbers are not required, because you’re now referencing the whole source rather than citing a specific passage.
  • There is no full stop at the end of a bibliography entry.

For example:

MHRA footnote1. George Eliot, Silas Marner, ed. by Juliette Atkinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 3.
MHRA bibliography entryEliot, George, Silas Marner, ed. by Juliette Atkinson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)

Presentation of the bibliography

Bibliographies should have a hanging indent – this means that the second and subsequent lines of each entry are indented to make it clear at a glance where it ends and the next entry begins. In Word, you can find this option in the ‘paragraph’ settings.

MHRA bibliography example
MHRA bibliography example

Note that when a source lacks an author and is therefore listed by title, it is alphabetised according to the first word of the title, as with Napoleonic Wars.

Multiple works by the same author

When more than one of an author’s works are listed, the author’s name can be replaced with a double em dash (——) for the second and subsequent works:

Dickens, Charles, Bleak House, ed. by Nicola Bradbury (London: Penguin, 2003)
——, Great Expectations, ed. by Charlotte Mitchell (London: Penguin, 2004)

Citing multiple chapters of a book

If you cite multiple chapters from the same edited book, or multiple articles from the same issue of a journal, they should always be listed separately in your bibliography, not combined into one entry:

Childers, Joseph W., ‘Social Class in the Victorian Novel’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, ed. by Deirdre David, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 148–169
Levine, Caroline, ‘Victorian Realism’, in The Cambridge Companion to the Victorian Novel, ed. by Deirdre David, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2012), pp. 84–106

Missing information in MHRA references

You may encounter sources which do not contain all the information you need for a reference. This section covers how to deal with various missing elements of your source information.

No author

When a source, such as a website or an older anonymous text, doesn’t list an author, MHRA recommends starting your footnotes and bibliography entry with the title. In these cases, the source is also alphabetised by title in your bibliography:

Literary Analysts Admit They Still Have No Idea What Animal Farm About (2018), The Onion, <https://www.theonion.com/literary-theorists-admit-they-still-have-no-idea-what-a-1828807602> [accessed 6 February 2020]

No date

When a source does not list a publication date, the term ‘[n.d.]’ (no date) is used in place of the year. With web sources, an access date is still included at the end:

How to write a research paper ([n.d.]), Scribbr <https://www.scribbr.com/category/research-paper/> [accessed 6 February 2020]

No page numbers

Websites, and some other source types such as ebooks, usually don’t have reliable page numbers.

With short texts, page numbers can usually just be omitted from a citation, but if you feel it’s necessary to refer to a particular passage, an alternative location marker like a paragraph number or heading can be used:

1. William Wordsworth ([n.d.]), Poetry Foundation <https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/william-wordsworth> [accessed 4 February 2020], para. 5.
2. Napoleonic Wars (2017), Encyclopædia Britannica <https://www.britannica.com/event/Napoleonic-Wars> [accessed 13 February 2020], under ‘The Danube campaign and Hohenlinden’.
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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

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