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When you cite the work of someone else in your writing, you need to include a reference to the original source to act with academic integrity and so that your reader can connect with the original source. A referencing style gives you guidelines on how to format a reference to an original source in your writing.

At Trinity we use the the first edition of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) Handbook for our referencing style. This guide is an introduction to SBL. If you would like more detail, there is a copy of the Handbook in the Library reference collection or there is an electronic copy available on Moodle on the Assessment Resources page under ‘Assessment Schedule, Guides, and Policies’.

An overview of SBL

SBL is a numbered referencing style, which means a number is placed at the end of a reference and the citation is included in a footnote. For those who have studied in higher education before, this may be different to what you are used to. An example of what this can look like is below.

Roberts suggests that the key to understanding any passage of scripture is to understand that the Bible is “one book with one ultimate author, God, and one ultimate subject, God’s plan of salvation through his Son Jesus.”1

1 Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-Line of the Bible (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity, 2009), 21.

The footnote marker is placed at the point of reference, generally at the end of the relevant clause or sentence; it should be placed directly after any punctuations marks.

The citation details are then included at the bottom of the page in the footnotes and repeated in the bibliography at the end of the assignment.

General guidelines for referencing with SBL

Below are some guidelines for referencing with SBL. For examples of specific types of resources see the SBL Examples page.

The footnote marker is placed at the point of reference, generally at the end of the relevant clause or sentence; it should usually be placed directly after any punctuations marks.

When making a footnote to a work already referenced in a prior footnote, use a shortened reference to the work in the form of:

Surname, Short Title, pages cited.

For example, a first and second reference to Roberts’ work would look like this:

1 Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2009), 49.

5 Roberts, God’s Big Picture, 55.

If you use the same secondary source for two footnotes in a row, you may use Ibid. in the place of any repeated information. This includes the page number if it is from the same page. For example:

1 Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2009), 49.

2 Ibid.    Same source and page, do not include page number

3 Ibid., 55.    ← Same source and different page, include page number

If you reference more than one source for a point, include all the relevant references in a singe footnote, each separated by a semi-colon.

See an example of this in the third footnote on the Synthesising page.

Title of the Published Book or Journal: format in italics.

“Titles of Articles, Chapters, and Unpublished Works”: Quotation marks should be used.

All Titles Should be Capitalised: Title case should be used for all titles. Generally this means that all words should be capitalised except articles (a, an, the), prepositions (to, from, on, of, at, with), conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for), and possessive determiners (my, your, etc.). For example:

  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Bible, Beaches, and Barbeques
  • How to Get a Theological Degree without Studying

If you are unsure of exactly how your heading should be capitalised, you can run it through

Abbreviations for journal and series titles: You may choose whether to abbreviate the titles of journals and series in footnotes, as long as you are consistent; these titles should be written out in full in the bibliography, however.

There is a list of abbreviations for journals, periodicals, major reference works and series in section 8.4 of the SBL Handbook.

Example: This is an example of a bibliography entry for a journal article; see how the article title is in quotation marks, the journal title in italics and title case has been used for both.

Brittain, Christopher Craig. “Can a Theology Student Be an Evil Genius? On the Concept of Habitus in Theological Education.” Scottish Journal of Theology 60 (2007): 426–40. doi: 10.1017/S0036930607003730.

As a general rule the sequence of publishing information (that given inside parentheses in a note) is as follows: editor; translator; number of volumes; edition; series; city; publisher; date.

Information such as “press” or “publisher” should be removed from the publisher, unless the publisher is a university press or its removal would cause confusion (e.g. Oxford University Press).

Occasionally you may use a work which does not give a place or date of publication, in which case you can identify it with the abbreviation (n.p.) or (n.d.), i.e. “no place” or “no date.”

Always include the particular page(s) to which you are citing. The only exception to this rule is if you are summarising the whole book or essay.

If you are citing from an e-book, give the page information provided; do not give the web address of the book.

Reference Management Software

There are programs to help you format your referencing correctly! The two programs we recommend at Trinity are Zotero and Endnote. SBL style files for both are available on Moodle on the Assessment resources page under ‘Software’. You will need to load these into the program you use for it to generate SBL formatting.


Zotero is open-source, which means you will be able to keep using it after college. The major downside of Zotero is it is not compatible with Pages for Mac users or Office 365. You will need to download Word to use Zotero. For more information about Zotero see the Zotero guide.


Endnote is available to students through the ACT, but you will need to pay for your own license when you graduate from Trinity. For more information about accessing EndNote visit the ACT website. If you want tips on using EndNote have a look at the Curtin University EndNote guide.

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