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What Are They

Footnotes are short numbered notes that are placed at the bottom of the page in an essay or article. They are used for a variety of reasons including, citing materials, providing notes on a source or topic, and to acknowledge copyright status. 

Although you will find footnotes in many journal articles, they are not typically required in APA or MLA formatted essays. They are most heavily used when applying the CMOS style. 

For information on footnotes in the  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association  see section 2.13 "Footnotes.". For information on using footnotes with MLA see the " Using Notes in MLA Style " article from the MLA Style Center .  For information on footnotes in  The Chicago Manual of Style  see Chapter 14 "Notes and Bibliography."

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  • Cómo incorporar notas al calce en Google Docs Vea éste video en español.

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  • Cómo incorporar notas al calce en Microsoft Word Vea éste video en español.
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To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA : Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page . Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA : Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.

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How to Write Footnotes

Information on how to write footnotes and endnotes. Footnotes, a type of citation format, are most often used for history and philosophy papers. As such, scientists rarely encounter it, but it is still useful to know how to follow the practice.

This article is a part of the guide:

  • Outline Examples
  • Example of a Paper
  • Write a Hypothesis
  • Introduction

Browse Full Outline

  • 1 Write a Research Paper
  • 2 Writing a Paper
  • 3.1 Write an Outline
  • 3.2 Outline Examples
  • 4.1 Thesis Statement
  • 4.2 Write a Hypothesis
  • 5.2 Abstract
  • 5.3 Introduction
  • 5.4 Methods
  • 5.5 Results
  • 5.6 Discussion
  • 5.7 Conclusion
  • 5.8 Bibliography
  • 6.1 Table of Contents
  • 6.2 Acknowledgements
  • 6.3 Appendix
  • 7.1 In Text Citations
  • 7.2 Footnotes
  • 7.3.1 Floating Blocks
  • 7.4 Example of a Paper
  • 7.5 Example of a Paper 2
  • 7.6.1 Citations
  • 7.7.1 Writing Style
  • 7.7.2 Citations
  • 8.1.1 Sham Peer Review
  • 8.1.2 Advantages
  • 8.1.3 Disadvantages
  • 8.2 Publication Bias
  • 8.3.1 Journal Rejection
  • 9.1 Article Writing
  • 9.2 Ideas for Topics

Many biology journals, for example, prefer footnotes because they allow annotation of the in-text citation on the same page.

Whilst footnotes are a little more cumbersome than the 'author/date' system, they are useful where sources require elaboration and short explanatory notes.

sample of footnotes in research paper

What is a Footnote

The footnote takes the form of a superscripted number, just after a paraphrased piece of information. Subsequently, a cross-reference to this number is inserted at the bottom of the same page.

In fact, for dissertations and theses, many writers use footnotes to keep track of their citations , adding a short note of what exactly each one adds to the paper.

Once the paper is complete, the writer converts them to endnotes at the end or every chapter, or even removes them all together, and uses a standard APA or MLA bibliography instead.

sample of footnotes in research paper

Automatically Inserting Footnotes

The reason that footnotes are still popular in some fields is that most word processing programs now include a function that makes it very easy to include footnotes in any paper.

In Microsoft Word, clicking Insert > Reference > Footnote allows you to insert footnotes automatically, and automatically numbers them. This function is so useful, that even if you cut and paste, and swap information around, it automatically adjusts the footnotes.

This is why it is an excellent resource for keeping track of your sources during the course of a research paper .

How to Write Footnotes - Protocols

If you are using footnotes, the common convention is to insert a full citation, including author, year and the title of the book, followed by the page number. Afterwards, the surname of the author and the page number is sufficient.

Older journals often use the word ibid, to show that a footnote uses the same source as the previous one, but this has become much rarer.

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Sample Footnotes in MLA Style

How to do footnotes.

Sample Footnotes in MLA Style

Method A: Footnote Citations

  • Create the works cited or bibliography prior to entering footnotes. Footnotes are typically a condensed version of a citation at the conclusion of a text. Any content included in a footnote will typically be done last. Finish the paper in its entirety, including all references used, and then add footnotes.
  • The footnote symbol should be stamped after any punctuation used. The corresponding number appears outside of the sentence.
  • Include the citation for a reference or quote. Should you be using a footnote in the place of an in-text citation, it is necessary to include the surname of the writer or editor, along with the title of the work, edition, series, location of publication, date of publication and the name of the publisher.
  • Citation of an online resource. In order to cite a website, or another online source, in a footnote you will need the name of the writer, or the editor of the website, along with the title of the website, the URL and the date it was accessed.
  • Using footnotes as a means to provide clarification of information to the reader. Rather than adding information about the source in the footnotes, it is possible to use the footnote as a place to provide related information – often taken from sources that are not directly cited in the body of the paper.
  • Keep it brief. If an essay quotes a source that talks about something specific and you need to clarify this, the footnote after the number will be brief, direct and include citations.
  • Often time, editors will suggest that additional information be included in parenthesis. Remember to take into account the prose and the flow of information.
  • Make sure that the footnote is necessary. Prior to using footnotes to further reference sources, ask your teacher how you should be citing sources and if footnotes are required. Most often MLA footnote format asks writers to make use of in-text citations, instead of a footnotes. In this case, footnotes are reserved for supplementary information.

sample of footnotes in research paper

MLA Format Examples

Mla paper example.

Useful information: How to write a research essay professionally?

How to Use Footnotes


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Headnotes or Footnotes? A Quick Guide on Organizing Your Research Paper

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In academic writing, footnotes, endnotes, and headnotes provide additional information on a particular topic. They are placed in the document as a supplement to the main text. These notes can be inserted into the document as a footer or at the end of a chapter.

The notes should be kept as brief as possible. The objective is to provide more information without distracting the reader. We discuss the different types of notes, how to use them, and their pros and cons.

What Are They and Why Use Them?

A footnote is a reference placed at the bottom of a page or footer. They are referenced in the text in the same way as a citation i.e. the referenced text is followed by a superscript numeral ( 1 ), which corresponds to the numbered footnote at the bottom of the page. When writing your research paper , you would use a footnote for two major reasons:

  • To cite sources of facts or quotations
  • Provide additional information  

The two types of footnotes are:

  • Content : Supplements or simplifies substantive information; not detailed.
  • Copyright permission : Cites quoted text and any reprinted materials used in the text.

The format of footnotes is fairly standard (see below for specific rules) and is the same as that for references as follows:

Adrian Johns.  The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 623.

When citing the same reference again, the footnote can be shortened as follows:

Johns.  Nature of the Book , 384–85.

Some older journals use “ ibid ” instead of a shortened version of the reference. Ibid is short for the Latin “ ibidem” , which means “in the same place.” This format was previously used in most printed text but rarely used now.

Endnotes are much the same as footnotes except that they are placed at the end your research paper instead of at the bottom of a page. In books, they can be placed after each chapter or at the end of the book.

In many cases, the book publisher decides the best placement. Endnotes, as footnotes, are numerically noted in superscript. The format is the same as that for footnotes.

Headnotes are used as introductions in legal documents or as summaries of the text that follows them. In academic writing, headnotes are explanatory notes included with tables and figures. They are placed below the table itself or just below the figure title and typed in a font size that is smaller than the main text (e.g., 8- or 10-point font). Headnotes are used to define acronyms used, units of measure, significance, etc. Because tables and figures should be able to “stand alone” without the main text, headnotes should always be used.

Format for Footnotes, Endnotes, and Headnotes

Although the format for footnotes and endnotes is almost similar, there are specific rules depending on the journal where the paper is submitted. Most scientific journals use specific reference formats; however, some style guides do not allow footnotes and endnotes.

For example, the Modern Language Association (MLA), which deals specifically with disciplines in the humanities allows limited use of footnotes. These are to provide the reader with other sources for more information on the subject covered. The MLA style for these notes is shown in the example below and the number corresponds to the superscript number noted in the referenced text:

See [name of author], especially chapters 3 and 4, for an insightful analysis of this trend.

MLA suggests using “content” footnotes when necessary to avoid interrupting the text with an explanation or other details.

In contrast, the American Psychological Association (APA), the style for the behavioral and social sciences, does not usually allow footnotes. Your particular journal guidelines will provide that information.

A third style guide, the American Medical Association (AMA) , is used mostly with papers in the biological and medical sciences. AMA also discourages the use of footnotes but allows them on the title page. The information on the title page would include the authors’ names and affiliations, corresponding author, members of affiliated groups, etc.

Pros and Cons

Scientific papers do not usually include footnotes. Endnotes may be used sometimes, but sparingly. Other disciplines, such as law and history, still use them regularly . There are pros and cons to each.

The advantages of using footnotes are that they provide the reader with a fast reference and link to additional information. They are easy to insert and will automatically print. The advantage of using endnotes instead of footnotes is that their placement is less distracting. They also provide the reader with an easy reference list in one place.

According to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), endnotes are preferred to footnotes simply because they don’t clutter up a page. CMOS does caution that it can seem disconcerting to a reader to see pages of notes at the end of a chapter or book, so use them sparingly.

Again, another disadvantage to footnotes is that they tend to interrupt the flow of the text. The reader might feel that he must stop and look at the note before moving on, which can be very distracting. Some disadvantages to endnotes are that the reader must turn to the end of the text or chapter to find the additional information. In books with several chapters, this can be tedious, especially if the endnotes are renumbered in each chapter.

As for headnotes, there are really no drawbacks to using them in tables and figures. They offer the reader helpful information that is readily available as they read the data or interpret a figure.

Bottom Line

The style to which you conform when writing your paper will ultimately depend on the journal’s guidelines. Pay careful attention to its protocols for citations and references and whether it will allow footnotes and endnotes. If allowed, be mindful of the disadvantages of both and consider either greatly limiting them or eliminating them altogether.

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How to use and write Footnotes and Endnotes in academic papers

Research papers and reports often include adjuncts such as charts and graphs, tables , diagrams, a hierarchy of headings, citations and references etc. Notes – whether footnotes or endnotes – are an important adjunct. They primarily serve the role of supplying additional information , which, if weaved into the main text, may reduce its ease of readability .

Footnotes vs. endnotes

  • Location : By definition, footnotes appear at the foot of a page on which appears the text they support. Endnotes are placed at the end of a paper, a chapter or a book.
  • Space : Footnotes, being located at the bottom of each individual page, are constrained by the amount of space available, whereas endnotes, located right at the end of the text, are afforded much more ample room.
  • Amount of information (and flow) : The above point (space) is a useful distinction that tells readers what to expect. Footnotes offer small bits of information that you can choose to take in without breaking stride. You could take a quick look and return to the main text on the same page. On the other hand, endnotes may sometimes contain sizeable amounts of information, but you do not have to interrupt your reading of the main text. You can choose to read them once you have reached the end of the document.

Footnotes: Examples

As discussed, footnotes comprise small bits of information short enough to take in at a glance. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate the function of footnotes.

  • A text may mention the name of an organisation and use a footnote to explain that the organisation had a different name in the past.
  • A text may mention a certain sum of money in Korean Won, and the corresponding footnotes will indicate the equivalent sum in US dollars. 

Endnotes: Examples

As discussed too, endnotes can comprise much longer parcels of information. Here too are a couple of examples to illustrate the use of endnotes.

  • While you may describe a certain method in your main text, you might use an endnote to outline in more detail some other tangential studies , perhaps from a slightly different field, which used that same method , the results they produced and why this may be of interest.
  • You might cite an important quotation within the main body of your text and then include in a related endnote the full paragraph or section from which that quotation was taken, thus enabling interested readers to explore the wider context and additional insights if they wish. 

Usage in academic papers and digital documents

As an author of an academic paper, you can choose between footnotes and endnotes depending on how much additional information you want to give. Be aware, however, that footnotes and endnotes, especially endnotes, are virtually never used in research papers in the physical and biological sciences . They may sometimes be used in the social sciences and are more commonly seen in the humanities .

In digital documents, the distinction between footnotes and endnotes and their placement is less important, because the additional information can be connected to the main text with hyperlinks .

Writing footnotes and endnotes

  • Superscripts and symbols : Within the main text, both footnotes and endnotes are typically signalled, or announced, using superscript numbers, although, for footnotes, other symbols such as a star or an asterisk (*), a dagger or obelisk (†), a double dagger or diesis (‡), a section mark (§), a pilcrow or blind p (¶), and so on are also employed, usually in that order. Do note that these symbols are never used with endnotes .
  • Numbers : With numbered footnotes, the sequence either begins afresh on each page or can be continued throughout within a paper, a chapter (e.g. if the book has chapters by different contributors) or a book. Endnotes are always numbered and the sequence is always continuous .
  • Heading for endnotes : Note that the heading for endnotes, when all of them are gathered at the end, is simply ‘Notes’ and not ‘Endnotes’.
  • Footnotes for tables : Table titles, column or row headings, or specific cells within a table can all carry footnotes. Those footnotes are explained at the foot of the table in question and not at the foot of a page on which the table appears.

As a scholar, try to familiarise yourself with the idea of notes and their related mechanics as early on in your writing process as possible. These details can seem numerous at first, but once you master them, you will be able to spontaneously incorporate them into your writing.

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