How to Do Footnotes
Footnotes are powerful tools, they are used to provide ancillary information and also citations in the footer of a page. Most often, editors of books, journals and other media will ask that parenthetical information be included in footnotes as a way to control the prose of the document. When used properly, a footnote is an excellent way to add to work or to quickly cite or reference quotes and other secondary information.
There are several footnote formats.
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.
- Navigate to the end of the sentence where the footnote will go. If you are using a word processor like Microsoft Word, navigate to the references tab and select ‘footnote’ and then ‘insert footnote’ You should see a number “1” to the right of the sentence, and another in the footer. In the footer, you will type all of the information that you want to be included in the footnote.
- 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.
Method B: Utilizing footnotes as a way of providing further information
- 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.
- Use this method of footnote moderately. Overdrawn footnotes, with in-depth explanations, are off putting. They distract and confuse the reader. If you end up having a lot of additional information, consider adding to the body of the paragraph.
- 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.
MLA Format Examples
For anyone required to adhere to the MLA (or Modern Language Association) guidelines for footnote citation, there are a number of things that need to be done when authoring an MLA research paper that requires foot and/or endnotes.
MLA Paper Example
If you choose to indent your paragraphs as recommended in the MLA Handbook (132), begin a new paragraph by typing the first word 1/2″ (1.25 cm or 5 spaces) from the left margin. The entire essay is typed double-spaced, except for Footnote citations at the foot of the page. Title of essay centered, 1” (2.5 cm) margin on all four sides, page number at upper right hand corner 1/2″ (1.25 cm) down from the top.
If your instructor prefers that paragraphs not be indented, you must still double-space your lines, but you will need to quadruple-space between paragraphs. More empty space is created for the instructor to write comments when paragraphs are not indented.
How to Use Footnotes
Footnotes must be listed numerically and consecutively, both in your essay and in your Footnote citation. Footnote numbers must be superscripted. In your text, add a superscripted number immediately after the quote or reference cited with no space.
The Footnote citations must be added at the foot or bottom of the SAME page where you have cited the sources. All first Footnote references must be cited in full. Subsequent references of the same work may be shortened to include only the author’s last name and page number. If the source cited has no author stated, use whatever minimal information is needed to identify the work previously cited, e.g. short title and page number. Formerly, the Latin terms ibid. and op. cit. were used but they are no longer preferred.
It is recommended that you use Endnotes in place of Footnotes. This will eliminate the need to allow sufficient space to accommodate all the required Footnote entries at the bottom of the same page where your citations occur. If your instructor has no preference, use the much simpler Parenthetical Documentation in place of Footnotes or Endnotes.
For details on how to handle Footnotes that continue onto the next page, please see MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 6th ed., pages 299-300.
Begin your Footnote citations four lines (quadruple space) below your text. Follow the spacing as shown in the example below, e.g. indent the first line 1/2″ (1.25 cm), and add a space after the superscripted number. Do not indent the second and subsequent lines of Footnotes. Single-space Footnotes within each citation as there is not much room at the bottom of the page. Double-space entries between citations, and be sure to list them in the same consecutive order as cited in the text of the essay.
Mr. K. Smith
18 April 2006
The Many Facets of Taboo
The World Book Encyclopedia defines Taboo as “an action, object, person, or place forbidden by law or culture.”1
An encyclopedia of the occult points out that taboo is found among many other cultures including the ancient Egyptians, Jews and others.2
Mary Douglas has analyzed the many facets and interpretations of taboos across various cultures. She points out that the word “taboo” originates from the Polynesian languages meaning a religious restriction.3 She finds that “taboos flow from social boundaries and support the social structure.”4
In reference to Freak Shows at circuses, Rothenberg makes the observation that people who possess uncommon features and who willingly go out in public to display such oddities to onlookers are acting as “modern-day taboo breakers” by crossing the “final boundary between societal acceptance and ostracism.”5
In traditional British East Africa, between the time of puberty and marriage, a young Akamba girl must maintain an avoidance relationship with her own father.6
Looking at taboo in a modern society, Marvin Harris gives an interesting example of the application of cultural materialism to the Hindu taboo against eating beef.7
5 Kelly Rothenberg, “Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society,” 1996, BME/Psyber City, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://bme.freeq.com/tatoo/tattab.html>.
6 Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (New York: Random, 1918) 17.
7 Marvin Harris, “The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle,” Current Anthropology 1992, 7:51-66, qtd. in Stacy McGrath, “Ecological Anthropology,” Anthropological Theories: A Guide Prepared by Students for Students 19 Oct. 2001, U. of Alabama, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/Murphy/ecologic.htm>.
If your instructor considers your Footnote citations to be adequate documentation, you may not be required to complete a Works Cited, References or Bibliography page. Otherwise, a separate page must be added at the end of your paper entitled: Works Cited, References, or Bibliography to include all of the above Footnote citations. See sample below.
More information about MLA Footnote format.
Douglas, Mary. “Taboo.” Man, Myth & Magic. Ed. Richard Cavendish. New ed.
21 vols. New York: Cavendish, 1994. 2546-2549.
Dundes, Alan. “Taboo.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. New York: Random, 1918.
McGrath, Stacy. “Ecological Anthropology.” Anthropological Theories: A Guide
Prepared by Students for Students. 19 Oct. 2001. U. of Alabama. 18 Jan. 2005
Rothenberg, Kelly. “Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society.”
1996. BME/Psyber City. 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.bme. freeq.com/tattoo/tattab.html>.
“Taboo.” Occultopedia: Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences and Knowledge. Site created
and designed by Marcus V. Gay. 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.occultopedia.com/t/ taboo.htm>.
Writing an MLA style essay does not need to be an intimidating task, particularly if you’ve taken the time to create an outline, learned how to cite footnotes and created your supplementary pages (title and bibliography.) Putting forth the effort to carefully research your topic, and to create finished paper that is organized and flows nicely from one paragraph to the next is the best way to ensure that you well on your way to a passing grade and a strong career for academic writing.
Footnotes are notes placed at the bottom of a page. They cite references or comment on a designated part of the text above it. For example, say you want to add an interesting comment to a sentence you have written, but the comment is not directly related to the argument of your paragraph. In this case, you could add the symbol for a footnote. Then, at the bottom of the page you could reprint the symbol and insert your comment. Here is an example:
This is an illustration of a footnote.1 The number “1” at the end of the previous sentence corresponds with the note below. See how it fits in the body of the text?
1 At the bottom of the page you can insert your comments about the sentence preceding the footnote.
When your reader comes across the footnote in the main text of your paper, he or she could look down at your comments right away, or else continue reading the paragraph and read your comments at the end. Because this makes it convenient for your reader, most citation styles require that you use either footnotes or endnotes in your paper. Some, however, allow you to make parenthetical references (author, date) in the body of your work. See our section on citation styles for more information.
Footnotes are not just for interesting comments, however. Sometimes they simply refer to relevant sources -- they let your reader know where certain material came from, or where they can look for other sources on the subject. To decide whether you should cite your sources in footnotes or in the body of your paper, you should ask your instructor or see our section on citation styles.
Where Does the Little Footnote Mark Go?
Whenever possible, put the footnote at the end of a sentence, immediately following the period or whatever punctuation mark completes that sentence. Skip two spaces after the footnote before you begin the next sentence. If you must include the footnote in the middle of a sentence for the sake of clarity, or because the sentence has more than one footnote (try to avoid this!), try to put it at the end of the most relevant phrase, after a comma or other punctuation mark. Otherwise, put it right at the end of the most relevant word. If the footnote is not at the end of a sentence, skip only one space after it.
What's the Difference between Footnotes and Endnotes?
The only real difference is placement -- footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes all appear at the end of your document. If you want your reader to read your notes right away, footnotes are more likely to get your reader's attention. Endnotes, on the other hand, are less intrusive and will not interrupt the flow of your paper.
If I Cite Sources in the Footnotes (or Endnotes), How's that Different from a Bibliography?
Sometimes you may be asked to include these -- especially if you have used a parenthetical style of citation. A "works cited" page is a list of all the works from which you have borrowed material. Your reader may find this more convenient than footnotes or endnotes because he or she will not have to wade through all of the comments and other information in order to see the sources from which you drew your material. A "works consulted" page is a complement to a "works cited" page, listing all of the works you used, whether they were useful or not.
Isn't a "Works Consulted" Page the Same as a "Bibliography," Then?
Well, yes. The title is different because "works consulted" pages are meant to complement "works cited" pages, and bibliographies may list other relevant sources in addition to those mentioned in footnotes or endnotes. Choosing to title your bibliography "Works Consulted" or "Selected Bibliography" may help specify the relevance of the sources listed.