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Style Guide for PGR Students

Presentation is vitally important. This is not because there is any virtue in following rules for their own sake, but because the rules make sense - an essay or dissertation that is well written and properly laid out will gain your readers' confidence and convey your message to them as efficiently as possible. Getting the presentation right is an essential part of the historian's craft.

The standard authority on all matters of presentation is the MHRA Style Guide (2013) which can also be accessed at: This has a ‘quick guide’ at the start that would be a very good place to begin.

What follows is an attempt to give further guidance.


(For overall formatting regulations see Guide to examinations for higher degrees by research (

  1. The thesis should be typed and printed on A4 paper, on one side only.
  2. Indentation: Except for the very first paragraph under a new heading, the first line of every paragraph should be indented. You do not need to add extra spacing between paragraphs: the indentation alone tells the reader that you have begun a new paragraph.
  3. Pagination: Number each page of your essay.

Style and Usage


Ordinary quotations

Use single (not double) quotation marks for ordinary quotations. Note that the final quotation mark is normally placed inside punctuation (comma, full stop, etc). However, when the quotation forms a complete sentence, the quotation mark comes after the full stop. If the material you cite itself contains a quotation from source, you will indicate this quote-within-a quote by using double quotation marks.


Evans argues convincingly that ‘the industrial revolution was a protracted process, not a single catastrophic event’. According to Evans, ‘Recent research suggests that the industrial revolution was a protracted process, not a single catastrophic event.’ Chatterjee’s claim that ‘a group of propertied observers shouted “Hang all the convicted felons by the toes” as the procession passed by’ suggests the intensity of middle-class support for public executions.

Inset or block quotations

When you quote four or more lines of text (or quote lines of poetry), use an inset quotation - that is, type the quotation as a separate block of double-spaced text consistently indented from the left margin (the right-hand margin of an inset quotation is not indented). Do not use quotation marks in inset quotations except to indicate a quote within the inset material: use single quotation marks to indicate this quote-within-the quote. Avoid over-using inset quotations, especially in short essays. Be judicious about what you cite - short quotes that are pithy and to the point are more convincing than extended blocks of other writers’ text. Your own voice - not those of the authors you cite - should dominate your writing.


Always use ellipses - that is, three dots - to indicate that you have omitted material within your quotation. Do not use these at the beginning or end of quotations – only in the middle.


Evans argues that ‘the industrial revolution was ... not a single catastrophic event’. (Do not put:

Evans argues that ‘... the industrial revolution was ... not a single catastrophic event ...’.)


Numbers up to one hundred, when they occur in normal prose and are not statistical, should be written in words rather than numerals. When there are many figures, however, it is better to use words only for numbers up to nine. Avoid beginning a sentence with a numeral. Spell out ‘per cent’ (always two words) rather than using the % sign in the text.


  • There were eight applicants.
  • By 1900, thirty-nine unions were providing benefits to 15,604 pensioners. The jackpot was £5 million.
  • He spent thirty years in Broadmoor. The seventh sister became a nun. The interest rate was 6 per cent.


These should normally be given as 2 September 1939; commas should not be used. Spell out centuries rather than using numerals: write ‘the eighteenth century’ not ‘the 18th century’. Use hyphenation to indicate adjectival usage of centuries: ‘In the eighteenth century, barbers commonly performed surgery, but unfortunately for patients not all eighteenth-century barbers were adept with knife and needle.’


Simple sums of money should be given in words: ‘A pint of beer cost two shillings.’ Sums of money which are more complex may be written in figures: ‘A shortage of grain raised the price of beer shockingly, to 2s. 6 1/2d.’ British currency was decimalised in February 1971. There is however no need to convert old currency into decimal equivalents.

Footnotes and Endnotes

The secret of good footnoting is good note-taking. Always keep a complete record of the full source (author, title, place and date of publication, specific page numbers) as you take notes. Whenever you copy any passage - even a short phrase - verbatim into your notes, be sure to use inverted commas in your notes to indicate that you have done so. This will help you to avoid accidental plagiarism.

Every footnote must refer to a source which you have actually examined. It is never correct to cite a source that you have not personally examined without indicating this fact in your note. Thus, if you are citing a letter from F.D. Roosevelt quoted by the author William Leuchtenberg, your footnote might read: ‘F.D. Roosevelt to Cordell Hull, 28 August 1940, cited in William Leuchtenburg, Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, p. 305.’

There are two kinds of footnotes. Explanatory notes, clarifying points made in the text, should be few and brief. They should not be used as a dumping ground for material you cannot bear to leave out but which is not directly relevant to your argument. Nor should they include anything which is of real importance: if it is important, it belongs in the text, not in the notes. Most of your footnotes will be reference notes, identifying the books and other sources from which you have drawn quotations, evidence and other material used in the text. They should give readers all the information needed to trace your sources, but not more than is necessary; they should be clear, consistent and user-friendly. You do not need to reference general information widely available in the historical literature: for example, you do not need to provide a footnote to substantiate your claim that the French Revolution began in 1789. However, if you note that peasants in the south of France burned 112 chateaux, destroyed over 567 metric tons of seigneurial documentation and drank 892 bottles of their former seigneurs’ wine in 1789, you need to indicate in a note the source of your statistics.

Footnotes should be placed at the bottom of the appropriate page; endnotes at the end of the chapter, or at the end of the essay/dissertation/thesis. If in doubt, use footnotes. A footnote or endnote number in your text should always follow quoted or cited material. Numbers should come at the end of a sentence or at least at the end of a clause. They should never be placed after authors’ names or other references preceding the cited matter.

You will know from your reading that there are many correct ways to format and present the references contained in a footnote/endnote. The most important point is to be consistent. Once you are familiar with the MHRA reference style, stick to it.

Referencing Secondary Literature

As a basic aide mémoire, on first citation you need the following information in the following order: author (A), book (B), city of publication (C), date of publication (D).

  1. Author’s names in notes appear in the normal order, e.g. John Smith (not Smith, John, which is reserved for the Bibliography).
  2. Titles appear in italics: these are used for book titles and names of journals. (Only use the alternative form of underlining if you do not have access to a word processor.) BUT, contributions within edited works or articles in journals require ‘single inverted commas’. Remember, only if the title appears on the cover of the publication, does it go in italics; if it is contained within, contain it inside inverted commas.
  3. Place of publication: always a city and never a country. If two cities are indicated, e.g. New York and Oxford, say so; if three or more, just list the first. For American cities, you have the option of adding an abbreviation of the state too, but if in doubt, omit. You can also add the publisher’s name (MHRA have this as a policy, though it is not essential to follow this, so long as you are consistent throughout) and you can do this after a colon, but always after the place of publication, e.g. London: Jonathan Cape (never Jonathan Cape: London).
  4. Date of publication: use the date of the actual edition you are using (not the first date of publication), since the pagination will vary between different editions. If using a subsequent edition, note this as below.

Abbreviated citations

Upon any subsequent citation, you need only surname, short title, page reference, e.g. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p. 672. The short title can be any memorable phrase from the full title; one or two words will do. Writing out the full version every time is wrong.

If you are using a string of footnotes from the same source, use the handy shorthand form Ibid. (Latin meaning ‘In the same’), followed by page number, e.g.

  1. Richard Overy, Interrogations. The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands (London, 2001), p. 72.
  2. , pp. 77-8.
  3. Hitler, Mein Kampf, p. 80.
  4. Overy, Interrogations, p. 321.

Note that the abbreviation for page is a lower-case ‘p.’ (not pg.) and for pages ‘pp.’. Do not worry about terms such as ‘Op. cit.’ – even publishers do not encourage them anymore. As a tip when writing up, always use the abbreviated citation, and then fill in the full details as the very last thing you do when going through your notes looking for first instances. In general, we are using the Oxford University Press system, so if in doubt, consult an OUP publication as a template.

Models for footnotes and endnotes drawn from various types of sources are given below. Make careful note of the kind and placement of punctuation, the use of italics, etc.:

Articles in scholarly journals

First citation: Use: Author’s full name, ‘Full Title of Article’, Journal Name, volume number (date), page number(s).

Peter Bailey, ‘Parasexuality and Glamour. The Victorian Barmaid as Cultural Prototype’, Gender and History, 2 (1990), pp. 150-53.

Second and subsequent citations: Use: Author’s surname, ‘Short Title’, page number(s).

Bailey, ‘Parasexuality and Glamour’, p. 164.

Books and Chapters in Books

First citation: Use: Author’s full name, Full Title of Book (Place of publication, date of publication), page number(s).

Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes. The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (London, 1994), p. 67.

Second and subsequent citations: Use: Surname, Short Title, page number(s).

Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes, pp. 352-54.

Edited books

First citation: Use: Author’s full name (ed.), Full Title of Book (number of volumes if work has more than one volume, Place of publication, date of publication), volume cited, page(s) cited.

W.H.B. Court (ed.), Studies in the Coal Industry (2 vols, Birmingham, 1947), I, pp. 144-46.

Second and subsequent citations: Use: Surname, Short Title, volume number, page number(s).

Court (ed.), Studies, II, p. 76.

Chapters in edited books

First citation: Use: Author’s Full Name, ‘Full Title of Chapter’, in Full Names of Editors, Full Title of Book (Place of publication, date of publication), page number(s).

Sarah Gaunt, ‘Visual Propaganda in the Later Middle Ages’, in Bertrand Taithe and Tim Thornton (eds), Propaganda. Political Rhetoric and Identity, 1300-2000 (Stroud, 1999), pp. 27-40.

Second and subsequent citations: Use surname, ‘Short title’, page number(s).

Gaunt, ‘Visual Propaganda’, p. 39.

Note two points from the above examples:

  • (because the full word does not end with d), but eds (because the full word does end in s).
  • The first number of a treble figure need not be repeated, but double figures should be repeated (239-61, 11- 19, 33-39).

Reference to a book available in several editions

The same details are included in the first reference to such a book as in the example above but with two very important differences. You need to specify (i) the particular edition which you consulted and (ii) the date of that edition.

For instance:

G.T. Stoker, Ireland and the Anglo-Norman Church (3rd edn, London, 1892), p. 5.

Note: The inclusion of the details regarding the edition immediately precedes the place of publication within the parenthesis. Note the punctuation of the reference to the edition. If your computer package automatically converts to 3rd, change the rd (superscript) to regular font size (rd). It is essential to cite the edition and the date of the work which you consulted since page numbers and content often change from edition to edition.

Reference to reprints and newly edited secondary work

As in the case of details regarding various editions of books consulted, all details regarding reprints, introduction, prefaces, and so on should be included if relevant.


J.T. Gilbert, A History of the City of Dublin (reprint, with intro. by F.E. Dixon, Shannon, 1972, of orig. edn, 3 vols, Dublin, 1854-9), i, p. 17.

Note: All details regarding reprint, introduction and so on predate the place and date of publication

within parenthesis. Details of the original edition and its date are provided.

Electronic books

E-books available online

If the book is an electronic version of a book also available in hard copy, and if the online version is in the same layout as the original—as is the case for example with Google Books—then you should cite it in precisely the same fashion as you would cite the original hard copy. There is no need to indicate that you consulted the book via the internet.

If the book is a digitised version of a book originally published in hard copy then you should aim for a citation along these lines:

First citation: Use: Author, Title of book (Place of publication, Year), page number(s), Name of Website, URL

Garcia Icazbalceta, Joaquin, ed., ‘Prologue’, Colección de documentos para la historia de Mexico (Mexico City, 1980), vol. I, p. 6, Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes,

Second and subsequent citations: Use: Surname, Short Title, page number(s). Garcia Icazbalceta, ‘Prologue’, vol. I, p. 7.

E-books on readers

First citation: Use: Author, Title of book. [Format] (Place of publication, Year of original publication,

[Year of e-book publication, if different]), page number(s).

Simon Jenkins, A Short History of England [E-book] (London, 2011), pp. 18-21.

Second and subsequent citations: Use: Surname, Short Title, page number(s).

Jenkins, A Short History of England, pp. 35-54.

Note: E-book readers have different standards for presenting page locations. If your reader provides page locations or page numbers, you should use them when you need to refer to quotes etc. If your reader does not provide any page markers, then you should use the chapters instead for indicating the location of the quoted section.

Manuscript Sources

References to manuscript material should be in plain font only (no italics). A full reference to a document should include the following information:

  • The repository in which it is stored (A)
  • The collection to which it belongs (B)
  • Its title or description (C)
  • Its date (D)
  • The volume of the collection and the page or folio in the volume where it may be located and/or any other relevant details of its location (E).


First citation:

Birmingham University Library, Court Papers, ‘Court Manuscript on Coal’, W.H.B. Court to Sir Keith

(A) (B) (C)

Hancock, 24 July 1916.


Second and subsequent citations:

Court Papers, Memoranda on Wage, Differentials, 1943-45. Memorandum No. 2, 1944, p. 432.

(B) (C) (D) (E)

Note: All of these details are necessary for a very practical reason. A manuscript, by definition, is a unique document. Only one of its kind exists in the world. It is therefore essential that your reference ought to be sufficiently clear as to enable a scholar from any part of the world to locate the particular manuscript. Within a chapter, you can start to use a short reference system to one collection of papers, as in the second example above.

Birmingham Central Library, Charles Parker Archive, MSS 24/7b, Charles Parker to Arnold Wesker, 2 March 1964.

Public Record Office, HO 317/52. Letter from G. Weller to J. Armitage, 24 September 1916. Nottinghamshire Record Office, GC98/1-3, Notebooks of Sir Gervase Clifton JP, 1795-1803. Warwickshire County Record Office, D/234, Parish of Astley, Overseers’ Accounts, 1732-1741.

All of these references to material in national and local record offices will come under the heading of ‘Manuscript Sources’ in your Bibliography.

If you are citing a primary source which you have only seen reproduced in a secondary work (for example quotations from a newspaper in a local history book), you should construct your footnote as follows:

Kildare Observer, 18 June 1877, quoted in Con Costello, Kildare: Saints, Soldiers and Horses (Naas, 1991), p. 42.

(Note here that PhD theses are not published, so their titles are not italicised or underlined.) By constructing your footnote in this way you avoid the pretence that you yourself consulted the primary source. This reference also shows that you are reliant upon Costello’s accurate transcription and reproduction of the quotation.

Printed Primary Material

In the case of primary sources which have been edited and printed the following is the format for constructing a footnote/endnote reference.


Extent of Irish Monastic Possessions, 1540-1541, from Manuscripts in the Public Record Office, London, ed. N.B. White (Dublin, 1943), p. 45.

Note: The title (the primary source) is listed first, rather than the name of the editor. This is the case since the volume has not been written by the editor and it is the printed version of the source which is of paramount importance rather than the identity of the editor.

Other References

  • H.B. Court, ‘Coal and Communism’, The Times, 24 June 1979, p. 5.

This is the form to use for reference to a newspaper or a weekly magazine. No volume number is needed. It is a peculiarity of The Times newspaper that it registered its name with the definite article. It is always written The Times. Other newspapers and weeklies are referred to without the article: Guardian¸1 May, 2001; Poor Man’s Guardian, 24 July 1803; Lancet, 27 January 1863.

  • Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, 3rd series, vol. 184, cols 1797-1813.
  • British Parliamentary Papers, 1866 L1, Part 2, Further Papers Relating to the Distubances in Jamaica.
  • British Parliamentary Papers, 1866 [3683] and [3683-I] XXXI, Report of the Jamaica Royal Commission
  • (1866), Part I, Report, and Part II, Minutes of Evidence and Appendix.
  • ‘Petition for Extension of the Electoral Franchise to All Householders, Without Distinction of Sex ... (7 June 1866, No. 8501)’, Reports of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Public Petitions, Session 1866,

This complex form of numbering will be crystal clear once you hold a volume of Parliamentary Papers in your hand; these numbers and references are clearly marked on each volume, and absolutely necessary information for anyone attempting to use your reference to locate the source, which after all, is what a reference is for.

  • Duncan Hall, ‘“A Pleasant Change from Politics”. Music in the Labour Movement between the Wars’ (PhD thesis, University of Warwick, 2001), pp. 85-89.
  • J. Fusillo, ‘The Staging of Battle Scenes on the Shakespearian Stage’, (PhD thesis, University of Birmingham, 1966), p. 74.


There are special conventions for citing materials from electronic media, such as online journals, databases, electronic bibliographies, Web sites, internet discussion groups, and e-mail communications. The essential principles are the same as with printed works or manuscripts: sources should be acknowledged, and readers should be given the information that would allow them to check them for themselves if they wish. Formats for citation vary according to the type of medium and source material being used. The following guides may be useful:

Maurice Crouse, Citing Electronic Information in History Papers, available online at (26 March 1998);

Andrew Harnack and Eugene Kleppinger, Online! A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources (New York: Bedford Books/St. Martin’s, 1998), extracts available online at

Melvin E. Page, A Brief Citation Guide for Internet Resources in History and the Humanities (1996), available at

In general follow the use format:

First citation: Use: Author’s full name, ‘Title of Page’, Title of complete work if page is part of a group of documents, date page was created. URL (date you saw page).

Debbie Abilock, ‘Research on a Complex Topic’, Nueva Library Help, 8 August 1996. <> (1 October 2001).

Second and subsequent citations: Use: Author’s surname, ‘Short title’.

Abilock, ‘Research on a Complex Topic’.

Note: These precise formats may not suit all circumstances. Works published as printed books or articles, but which you have consulted on a Website, should be cited in the usual way for printed material, but with a note -[consulted at http://www... (date)] - added in brackets. This rule also applies to manuscript or printed documents that have been made available on the Web.

Photographs, illustrations, etc.

If you copy a photo, illustration, chart, etc. from another source into your essay, use a credit line to indicate your source. The credit line should be placed immediately below the illustration and should include a descriptive title for the illustration plus full bibliographical information on the source from which it derives. The bibliographical information will adhere to the same style as a footnote - except that it will not begin with a footnote number.


Illustration 1: Photograph of a man-eating tiger in Bihar, 1872. From Harold Jameson, The Tiger in Modern History (London, 1989), 322.

Illustration 2: Oil painting of a man eating a tiger in Bengal, 1754. From Jane Lewis, ‘Eating Tigers in Historical Perspective’, History Today, 11, 3 (June 1999), 67.

Presentation of Statistical Data: A Brief Note

Regarding statistical presentations, the following guidelines should be observed:


  • Tables should be made directly relevant to the contents of the text. If necessary, they may be incorporated as part of the main body of the text. Alternatively, they may be incorporated as appendices to the rear of your work.
  • All tables should have a table number and a title, including dates where applicable.
  • The source of the data used should be cited beneath the table, i.e. not in a footnote.
  • Column headings should be clearly legible.
  • Ideally, columns and rows should be of equal size.
  • Total numbers (for example the total population of an area) should be cited at the end of the rows or columns as appropriate.
  • In the event of your using a table taken from another scholar’s publication or thesis, you should acknowledge that scholar’s work as the source cited beneath the table.


  • Diagrams should be shown to be relevant to the content of the text and may be included within the main body of the text if necessary. Otherwise, they may be presented as appendices at the end of your text.
  • All diagrams must have a Fig. Number and a full title, including dates where applicable.
  • The source(s) for the data used should be cited beneath the diagram.
  • Each axis in a diagram must be clearly labelled.
  • A key to all colour coding or shading used should be provided.
  • Colour coding or shading should be clearly distinguishable.
  • Again, in the event of your incorporating a diagram taken from another scholar’s publication or thesis, you should acknowledge that scholar’s work as the source cited beneath the diagram.


A Bibliography collects together in one place and lists all material to which reference has been made in the body of the work. If you have not quoted from, cited, or referred to a work or a body of material in your dissertation (if, for example, you have just read a book and found it helpful but not mentioned it), then it should not be in your Bibliography.

You will probably not need to use all of the following subheadings in your Bibliography. This, however, this is one sequence for presenting alphabetised references:


(List national before local archives)







Using one of the formatting models shown above, a fragment of a Bibliography would look like this:


Gaunt, Sally, ‘Visual Propaganda in the Later Middle Ages’, in Taithe and Thornton, Propaganda, pp. 27-40. Porter, Roy, Patients and Practitioners (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

Swartz, Sally, ‘Colonising the Insane. Causes of Insanity in the Cape, 1891-1920’, History of Human Sciences, 8:4 (1995), 39-57.

Taithe, Bertrand, and Tim Thornton (eds), Propaganda. Political Rhetoric and Identity, 1300-2000 (Stroud: Sutton, 1999).

Thompson, E.P., Whigs and Hunters. The Origin of the Black Act (London: Allen Lane, 1975).

Increasingly, however, publishers are encouraging authors to divide their bibliography into fewer divisions, and you may wish to use such a format yourself. You might for example consider dividing your material only into the following categories:


This is something you should discuss with your supervisor.

Note that material in your Bibliography is organised alphabetically by the author’s surname. When referencing articles or chapters in edited volumes in your Bibliography, cite the page numbers of the article or chapter as a whole - not just the particular pages you have cited in your footnotes.

British versus American Usage

The style illustrated above is standard British usage. A number of the books and articles you read will be published in the US and thus will employ standard American style, which departs in various respects from British usage. (For example, American usage calls for use of double, rather than single, quotation marks in ordinary quotes and around journal titles, and places punctuation marks outside, rather than inside, terminal punctuation). For your written work at Warwick, always consistently employ standard British usage as detailed above - even when referring to material published in the US which uses American conventions.