MHRA: 13 Best Tips on How to Get Notes Just Right - Custom Scholars
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MHRA: 13 Best Tips on How to Get Notes Just Right

Developed by the Modern Humanities Research Association, the MHRA style is more commonly used by academics in the humanities since the 1970s. MHRA is used by so many humanities from English to History an even the Arts. It is a notes-bibliography type of style. This is yet another style that is similar to the Chicago style.


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The Details in MHRA

Sectioning Text in MHRA

Do not capitalize headings and subheadings in MHRA. Do not underline or italicize either. Headings and subheadings should not normally end with a full stop or colon. Major subdivisions within the text, if required, should be marked by increased spacing.

The first line of a new subdivision should not be indented. A convenient system for designating numbered subdivisions is to number all sections and subsections with Arabic numerals and express them in series, divided by full stops. Avoid excessive levels of subdivision.


The MHRA guide provides directions on some spellings for example for verbs ending in ‘-ize’ and ‘-ise’. MHRA guide directs that any paper using the style should adopt ‘-ize’ and ‘-ization’. Usually this is left up to the choice of either American or British English.

Forms that are attributive and have a single main stress are hyphenated, while predicative and other forms having two main stresses are not hyphenated. Just as well, a contracted form of a word that ends with the same letter as the full form, including plural -s, is not followed by a full stop like Dr or Mr.


These are not desirable as they may confuse the reader. However, they are often necessary. Even then, you should try to use them sparingly. When writing for a particular publication, use only those abbreviations which are likely to be familiar to its readers. Never begin a sentence with an abbreviation, and avoid abbreviations as far as possible in passages of continuous prose.

Although, some abbreviations are specified by the MHRA guide. For example, when listing the sources in the bibliography, you might want to avoid using the full word ‘page’ and instead use the single letter ‘p’.


Short quotations (up to forty words or no more than two lines of verse) should be enclosed in single quotation marks and run on with the main text. If a verse quotation includes a line division, this should be marked with a spaced upright stroke ( | ).

For a quotation within a quotation, double quotation marks should be used. Unless the quotation forms a complete sentence and is separated from the preceding passage by a punctuation mark, the final full stop should be outside the closing punctuation mark.

Long quotations (over forty words or more than two lines of verse) should be broken off by an increased space from the preceding and following lines of typescript. They should not be enclosed within quotation marks.


Punctuation can be tricky especially when referencing as different styles apply different punctuation

Punctuation in MHRA. Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

marks in different ways. The use of different punctuations in the bibliography will be shown later in the text. MHRA uses different punctuation marks from periods to commas and even ellipses and box brackets.

In an enumeration of three or more items, the practice in MHRA journals is to insert commas after all but the last item, to give equal weight to each enumerated element. The conjunctions ‘and’ and ‘or’ without a preceding comma are understood as linking the parts of a single enumerated element.

Punctuation does not apply to headings. There are many specifications regarding punctuation in the MHRA guide. It will take a while to master them all. You might require some professional help like the kind you would get from Custom Scholars.

Referencing Sources in MHRA

In MHRA, there are primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are original materials. These can incorporate paper articles, letters, journals, collections of memoirs, discourses, journals, pictures, government records, and so on.

On the other hand, secondary sources are meant to offer support to the primary sources. They are referenced separately in the bibliography. MHRA can use either author-date design or the note-bibliography design.


  1. All footnotes should end with a full stop except if the sentence closes in a square bracket.
  2. A note reference number should be put toward the finish of the sentence following most punctuation, except for a dash in which it should proceed.
  3. Italics should be utilized for the titles of independently published works, assortments, and sites; as should the names of parties in lawful cases.
  4. Titles of book parts, presentations, site pages, a work inside an assortment, and so forth should be written in plain type with quotes.
  5. Titles of original copy assortments should be written in plain kind without quotes.
  6. Writer names are not inverted and are written in full.
  7. Publication details should be encased in brackets.
  8. Utilize the abbreviation p. prior to listing a single page number.
  9. Utilize the shortened form pp. prior to posting a scope of pages.
  10. Sequential superscript numbers should be utilized in the content of the paper to show a footnote. A corresponding superscript number should be utilized toward the start of the footnote. When citing a source for the first time always reference it in full.
  11. Subsequent footnotes of a similar source ought to incorporate the author’s last name (where conceivable), volume number (if pertinent), and page number/s. additionally, subsequent footnotes with no author ought to incorporate an abbreviated form of the source title, volume number (if applicable), and page number/s.
  12. While referring to more than one source by a similar author or various authors with a similar last name, ensuing references ought to incorporate the author’s last name, an abbreviated adaptation of the source title, volume number (if important), and page number/s.
  13. Possibly utilize the short title of a source while referring to more than one work by a similar author or referring to numerous authors with a similar last name.

Footnote sample: First Name Last Name, Title (City: Publisher, Year), p. xx.

After the first citation, the same source will usually be contracted. Like:

Last Name, p. xx.

In some cases, like when using books for example, you may use a different section of the source. Like a different page, for example. In this case, the subsequent footnotes utilize ‘Ibid’ which stands for Ibidem. That is Latin for the same place.


In addition to the footnotes, you would also need to add a bibliography. The bibliography is basically a list of the sources used in the text. It can be argued that the footnotes are sufficient. In fact, some other note-bibliography styles do not explicitly require a bibliography. However, MHRA requires a bibliography

Bibliography in MHRA

lists all your sources in alphabetical order by authors’ last names. Just like source lists in other styles, the bibliography is set in a hanging indent.

  • The information here is presented similarly to that in the footnotes, with the following differences:
  • For alphabetization purposes, author names are inverted so that the last name comes first
  • 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.

Referencing different sources by same author in MHRA

After typing out the full name the first time, the next entry should have a double em dash like –. This will prevent from having to type out the name once again. For example, consider an author like Mitch Albom, famous of Tuesdays with Morrie but also has other books.

Albom, Mitch, Tuesdays with Morrie (New York: Random House, 1997)

The Stranger in the Lifeboat (New York: Harper, 2021)

When you do not have the full information

The MHRA guide offers some help in cases where you are unable to find information or it just does not exist. In some cases, especially with online sources you might not have an author name or even the date. It is still important to reference a source even when information is missing.

For example, if you cannot find the author name, the MHRA guide requires that you start with the title. Therefore the footnote and bibliography entries would look like this:

Title (Year), Source Name, <Link> [Accessed dd mm yyyy]

You might also find that you do not have a publication date especially if you are using a really old source/book. Some websites, and especially corporate websites tend to exclude the date. In this case, the entries would look like:

Title ([n.d.]), Source Name <Link> [Accessed dd mm yyyy]

Online sources like websites and newspapers will not usually have a page number which is usually important to help the reader pinpoint the exact location of the information used. In this case, you would pinpoint the paragraph instead. The following would come after the box brackets with the access date inside them; para. Xx.

To Conclude…

MHRA is fairly simple and similar to other note-bibliography systems. Applying this style will not take too much. The only tricky part will be paying attention to punctuation rules among other text formatting guidelines. Custom Scholars can help you avoid the tedium of learning all the different styles and all the rules of MHRA.

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