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Referencing - MHRA and Harvard

This section of the guide teaches you how to reference for your history essays and thesis. It introduces the referencing style that the history department uses called MHRA. And the guide provides you will useful resources to make referencing second nature in no time at all. But let's first have a brief introduction.

When you create academic content at university—an essay, a thesis, a conference paper, a journal article, etc.—you will invariably include the work that other scholars have published.

When you include the work of others in your work, though, you must tell the reader of your work that you have obtained your ideas/words from someone else.

The reasons for this are threefold:

  • It adds credibility and authority to your work
  • It demonstrates to the reader that you understand your topic and its research contexts 
  • It helps you to avoid unintentional plagiarism (a serious academic offence)

The process of acknowledging the work of others in your own work is called referencing.

The skills team have produced a separate Referencing and Plagiarism Guide and they regularly run workshops on referencing - you can find out more information about them on our calendar of events.

The citation style of the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) is the style of choice for English students at Derby—and in many other institutions. The MHRA style is special because it uses a number to represent the citation. This number then points to a full reference as a footnote. You then create a bibliography of all the references that have appeared as footnotes in your work. Here is a visual representation: 



Here is an example of what to do

First add a footnote at the appropriate point in the body of your work. Microsoft Word can do this for you: simply select References >> Insert. This video from Microsoft will also explain how to do it. You may need to change how Microsoft Word displays your footnotes—ideally you should use numbers, rather than letters. You can learn how to change the style of footnote numbering in this video from Microsoft

The image below provides a simple example how a book citation will look in the MHRA style. Note the citation number points to a reference in the footnote section of your document.

Finally, a bibliography is often used to provide a full list of references that you have used in your footnotes. Note how the reference in the footnote differs slightly from the reference in the bibliography:

Don't worry if this seems a little confusing; Cite Them Right provides all the answers you need. It shows you how to use the MHRA style for lots of different reference types: including books, book chapters, journal articles, and more!

The Harvard citation style first emerged in the 1880s at, no surprises, Harvard University. It is widely used in many different disciplines. It is called an author-date system because the citation includes the author of the work and the date in which the author wrote it. A reference list then appears at the end of your work to list all the citations that you have used.

A slight complexity to the style is that you can create citations in two ways. The difference depends on the context of your citation: whether you want to foreground another's words in your work, or whether you want to use their words as part of your own reasoning.

The location of the brackets makes all the difference.


1. Using the citation to introduce directly what another person thinks (this method is a strong 'look, this person says this')




2. Using the citation to discuss what others have said (this method merges the words of others more naturally into your work)



No matter the method you use, you will then need to create an alphabetically reference list of all the citations used:

Reference List


Don't worry if this seems a little confusing; Cite Them Right provides all the answers you need. It shows you how to use the Harvard style for lots of different reference types: including books, book chapters, journal articles, and more!

Cite Them Right is our main referencing support resource and it is invaluable if you are just starting out with referencing and trying to get to grips with the various aspects. It is a comprehensive and essential resource covering all referencing styles and provides clear guidance on how to:

  • Construct your references
  • Set out citations
  • Avoid plagiarism
  • Paraphrase and summarise

The Library has both an online (recommended) and a print version of Cite Them Right.


                                            Access Cite Them Right Online                                                                          Print Format


Watch the video to find out more.

Referencing management tools can help you keep track of, store, organise and manage your references. You can use them to create bibliographies in a variety of referencing styles. They are particularly useful when completing large assignments such as dissertations when you are likely to be using more literature. The university has a subscription to EndNote, and you can access this via the software section on course resources. 




There is also a separate Referencing Software Guide which contains information and links to resources about using EndNote as well as other referencing software and apps such as Mendeley and Zotero.