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Transkills: supporting transition to University


Using a referencing system

It is important that you reference the work of others very carefully in your dissertation. The meticulous use of an established referencing system is vital:

  • it allows your reader to find the works you mention easily.
  • it shows the reader/examiner clearly which ideas in the dissertation are your own interpretations and should be credited as such.
  • it protects you from any suspicion of plagiarism.
  • it demonstrates that you have mastered the technical skills of scholarly research and writing.
  • it demonstrates the care, consistency and attention to detail which always accompany high-quality research.

You are free to choose either of the two main referencing systems set out in the Style Guide of the MHRA (Modern Humanities Research Association): the traditional footnote system, or the author-date system. The one used here is a slightly simplified version of the standard MHRA footnote system, as it is more commonly used than the author-date; although it may initially seem more complicated, it deals more effectively with a wider range of bibliographic items and also has the advantage of being more elegant. Whichever system you choose, it is important to use it consistently throughout your dissertation. Examiners will award or deduct marks for the scholarly presentation of your work.

The full MHRA Style Guide may be downloaded from

Referring to titles of works

  • use italics for the titles of complete books, plays, edited volumes, anthologies or journals
  • use single inverted commas (quotation marks) for sections of books, e.g. the titles of individual poems, short stories, articles within a journal, essays within an edited volume
  • make sure you apply the capitalization rules of different languages for titles: they are often different from English. A concise set of rules for each language is set out in the MHRA Style Guide, downloadable from
  • avoid inelegant contractions or the use of initials for titles, e.g. TJE for La tía Julia y el escribidor; instead choose a shortened version of the title, e.g. La tía Julia.

Referring to authors or other people

At the first mention of an author or any other person in your dissertation, give the first name and the surname. Thereafter, refer to them only with the surname. Where a surname unambiguously refers to a famous person (e.g. Plato, Shakespeare), you do not need to use their first name.