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English Literature: researching your dissertation: Citing references

This guide gives an overview of the range of resources available to you when researching your dissertation topic. Topics covered include developing effective search strategies and finding scholarly primary and secondary source material.

Referencing guide for English Literature

The Department of English Literature have provided a referencing style guide, based on the MHRA Style Guide, 3rd ed. You can download a copy here, or from Blackboard.

Whenever you refer to another person's work in your own essay, dissertation or article you must acknowledge them and give full details of your source. You risk being accused of plagiarism if you fail to do so.

MHRA referencing for English Literature

Please note: this guidance is based on the MHRA Style Guide 3rd ed.
A 4th ed. of the style guide was published by the MHRA in February 2024 which has several differences - the Department for English Literature will move to this new version starting in the 2024-25 academic year.


MHRA referencing distinguishes between citations for primary texts (e.g. novels, poems etc) and secondary texts (e.g. critical works, additional information).

Most in-text citations are in footnotes. Full details (including editions and translation details if appropriate) should be included in the footnotes for the first mention of a text for both primary and secondary texts. After this, a shortened version can be used, either in brackets in the body of the text, or in footnotes. Whichever method you choose, be consistent.

Examples for primary and secondary texts:

In-text, first mention, primary text: (in footnote) Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems, ed. by Thomas H. Johnson (London: Faber, 1970), p. 172. Further references to this text are from this edition and are given in the text.

In-text, following mentions, primary text: (in body of text) (Dickinson, p.174) or (p.174)

In-text, first mention, secondary text: (in footnote) Brian Vickers, Francis Bacon and Renaissance Prose (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 49.

In-text, following mentions, secondary text: (in footnote) Vickers, p. 85.

In bibliography, primary and secondary texts: Dickinson, Emily, The Complete Poems, ed. by Thomas H. Johnson (London: Faber, 1970)

For more information on how to cite different types of material eg journal articles, websites etc please see the department of English Literature style guide document above.

Where to find guidance on MHRA Referencing

First, refer to your Department's referencing guide linked above. You will find additional examples and explanations in the MHRA Handbook below, and further examples of specific references e.g. government publications using the 'Cite them Right' guide below. If you can't find the answer in either of the guides below, please speak to your Academic Liaison Librarian.


EndNote logoWhen you do your dissertation you could consider using EndNote to manage your references. This bibliographic management package can be used to store references, and then insert the citation in your Word document, automatically building the bibliography for you in the correct style.

Find out more on our EndNote webpages:

For information on other options for electronic management of your references see our guide to Managing references:

Get help from your academic liaison librarian

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Natalie Guest
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Get my help with finding relevant books and articles for your research, help with accessing library materials and collections, referencing and reference management software.

Email me with your question or book an appointment

0118 3783415

Further help

For help with citing specific types of publication contact your subject librarian.

For advice on using references in your work, and how to use them to support your arguments, consult the guidance on the Study Advice website or make an appointment with them.