How Do You Use Footnotes?


Quick Answer

Footnotes are instrumental tools for writing research papers and informing readers of the sources that a papers uses. The footnote should include the name of the author or authors of the source involved, the title of the work and any other pertinent information that is required either by the specific citation form that the writer uses or by context.

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Full Answer

Before adding a footnote, the writer needs to determine if one is necessary. If the information did not come from the author's own immediate knowledge and expertise and was culled from another source before being introduced into the paper via either paraphrase or direct quotation, it demands footnoting. The footnote is added to the bottom of the page, usually appearing below a demarcation line separating it from the main body of the text. Each individual footnote is identified by a single superscript numeral at the end of the relevant sentence, and the same corresponding numeral accompanies the footnote below the demarcation line. Footnotes need to conform to the citation style required by the teacher, professor or organization. The two most common academic styles are the Modern Library Association, or MLA, and the American Psychological Association, or APA.

Regardless of style manual, different sources call for different footnote wording and formatting. For example, footnotes citing books are different from those for journals, newspapers and magazine articles. Finally, footnotes serve not only as a method of reference but also as a space to include information that would be excessive or clunky inside the main body of the text. This means that writers may use the footnote for further elaboration on a point, the nature of the reference itself, or other tangential sources.

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