An Overview of MHRA Referencing
  • 3-minute read
  • 12th April 2019

An Overview of MHRA Referencing

If you’re studying in the humanities, you may be asked to use MHRA referencing at some point. But what exactly is the MHRA system? And how does it work? Let us explain.

What Is MHRA Referencing?

The Modern Humanities Research Association is a UK-based organization that promotes study of the humanities, particularly literature and languages. It is best known for producing the MHRA Style Guide: A Handbook for Authors, Editors, and Writers of Theses.

MHRA referencing, meanwhile, is the citation system set out within this guide. You can download [PDF] the third edition of the MHRA Style Guide for free if you want a full explanation. But since it is quite a big book, we’ll summarize the important points here.

Citing Sources

When people refer to MHRA referencing, they usually mean the footnote and bibliography version. This is where sources are cited in footnotes, indicated with superscript numbers in the text:

These numbers usually appear at the end of a sentence, like this.1

The first time you cite a source, include full publication information. For a book, for instance, this means giving the following details:

n. Author Name(s), Title (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year), page number(s).

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Repeat citations of the same source can then be shortened to save space. The MHRA style guide recommends using the “shortest intelligible form” for this, usually just the author’s surname and a pinpoint citation. Make sure to check whether your university has other rules, though. There is also an author–date version of MHRA referencing, but this is much less common.

The Bibliography

In MHRA referencing, you should list all cited sources in a bibliography at the end of your document. However, for a bibliography entry you should:

  • Invert the first listed author’s surname and forename.
  • Leave out pinpoint citations and final punctuation.

You would format a book like this, for example:

Surname, First Name, Title (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year)

More generally, you should set out the bibliography as follows:

  • List sources alphabetically by author surname.
  • List anonymous works by title (ignoring articles for alphabetical order).
  • If citing more than one work by the same author, sort them by title. You would then use two em dashes in place of the author’s name(s) for each entry after the first.
  • Use italics for titles of longer works (e.g., books).
  • Use inverted commas for shorter works (e.g., journal articles).
  • You can abbreviate the titles of frequently cited journals. However, you must also give the full titles in a list of abbreviations earlier in your work.

If you follow these rules, making sure everything is consistent, you should end up with a perfectly formatted MHRA bibliography. But if you want to be extra sure everything is in order, don’t forget to have your work checked by one of Proofed’s expert proofreaders.

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