Using Footnotes: The Dos And Don’ts | Assignment Collections |


Footnotes are a very useful part of a research paper, but you must use them cautiously. It is always better to use footnotes instead of endnotes. Using footnotes in APA and MLA styles is slightly different.

Writing a research paper can be a tedious task. It requires the student to research, analyze the facts, and write well-researched content. Writing such an assignment aims to provide factual information on your study topic. Some students may know how to write but don’t know how to include footnotes in their assignments. This leads to poor grades. This article will discuss the dos and don’ts of using footnotes.

What are Footnotes?

A footnote is a short text placed at the bottom of a page. It is usually used to give additional information on the topic discussed in the body of the text or to indicate that a source used in writing an article, essay, or book has been cited within the main body of the text. There are different types of footnotes and endnotes. Footnotes are also known as running footnotes, marginal notes, or endnotes.

Footnotes do not necessarily have to be placed at the bottom of the page or paper but rather can be placed on any part of the page that makes sense for your research. Footnotes should be placed where they will not distract from the rest of your text.

Footnotes and Endnotes: What’s the Difference?

Footnotes and endnotes are simply two different ways to cite your sources in your research paper. The difference between them is that footnotes are found at the bottom of a page, while endnotes appear at the end of your document. In most cases, footnotes contain information that supports a fact or idea in your paper; they should not be used to explain definitions or provide background information.

Endnotes typically contain additional information that supports claims made in your paper; they may also include references or citations for other sources you used during your research process.

The main difference between footnotes and endnotes is that footnotes appear at the bottom of a page while endnotes appear at the end of a chapter or book. Footnotes are most commonly used in academic papers, while endnotes are more commonly found in books.

To use footnotes or endnotes effectively, first determine which style your instructor prefers. If you’re writing an academic paper and unsure of your instructor’s preferences, ask him or her before drafting your paper.

The Dos and Don’ts of Using Footnotes

They can be used for many purposes, but there are some dos and don’ts. Here are some of them:

The Dos of using Footnotes

  1. Footnotes are useful when they provide relevant information that can’t be placed in the main body of your paper but needs to be included. It can refer to an interesting fact or statistic you want to share with your readers but doesn’t fit anywhere else in your paper.
  2. Use footnotes when you need to cite specific sources of information or when you want to provide more details about a concept or idea mentioned in your paper.
  3. Footnotes should be used only when necessary; don’t overdo it with them because they may make your paper look overwhelming and complicated for readers who aren’t familiar with academic writing standards yet (if any).
  4. Include an alphabetical list of all sources cited in your paper at the end of the document (not in-text). This list should include author name(s), title(s) and publication date(s). If necessary, you may also include other pertinent information such as URL, volume number, or page numbers.
  5. The information in your footnote should be the same as in your bibliography or list of references. You shouldn’t have extra information unless it’s something that needs to be added but cannot be placed anywhere else in your paper.
  6. Use footnotes for additional information not integral to your argument. Use footnotes for more information about a citation, but do not use them as a way to avoid citations altogether.
  7. Include a footnote at the bottom of each page if you have more than one footnote on that page. Only include one footnote per page if it contains two or more different sources of information (i.e. if each source has multiple pieces of information in its own right).

The Don’ts of using Footnote

  1. Do not use footnotes to make up for poor writing.
  2. Do not use footnotes to pad out an essay with unnecessary information or anecdotes that do not pertain to your topic.
  3. Do not put in too many footnotes, and make sure each one has a purpose for being there.
  4. Do not cite something that does not need to be cited, such as personal opinion or facts that are common knowledge among most people who would read the paper (i.e., everyone knows what the Titanic is).
  5. Do not use footnotes within parentheses; they should only be used at the bottom of each page (or section) where they are needed — not inside other parts of your writing!
  6. Do not use them for opinions or personal opinions.

Pros of Using Footnotes

  1. It increases your credibility as well as trustworthiness by providing evidence for your arguments
  2. It enables you to make a clear connection between your ideas and the sources that support them
  3. It helps you avoid plagiarism by citing original sources of information and ideas you used to develop your own argument.
  4. Writers use footnotes to provide additional information about their work, such as source material for facts or ideas not found within the main text.
  5. Footnotes help writers focus on their writing rather than spending time formatting how it will appear in print (or online).
  6. You can avoid repetition by using footnotes instead of repeating information in the body of your paper.
  7. Footnotes provide more space for citations than endnotes do.
  8. They make it easier for readers to find specific passages in your essay because they can skip over unnecessary information.

Cons of Using Footnotes

  1. It may irritate and distract the reader from the article’s main point.
  2. The number of words used in a footnote can be very large and will not be used by the reader.
  3. If you have a lot of footnotes, it will make your article look cluttered and unprofessional.
  4. Footnotes can make your article less readable if they are too long or too many.
  5. Footnotes are often used as an excuse for lazy research and poor writing skills.
  6. They can be used to hide errors and make it look like you have researched more than you actually have.
  7. It’s difficult to read a long article that has many footnotes in it.
  8. You can’t tell where the information is coming from (the original source).
  9. A footnote distracts the main text, making it harder for readers to focus on what you’re trying to say.
  10. They take up more space than endnotes.
  11. The author’s name is not included on the title page.
  12. There’s no way to distinguish between different types of citations in one document (for example, two different sources for one quote).

 What are the Rules for Footnotes?

The purpose of footnotes is to provide additional information that would otherwise detract from the text’s focus. They can be used for:

  • Footnotes should only be used when absolutely necessary. If you don’t need them, don’t use them!
  • Footnotes should be used only for extra information or clarification, not to rephrase ideas or arguments that have already been made in the body of your text.
  • Footnotes should not be used; instead, a bibliography or a list of references at your paper’s end.
  • Use footnotes when you need to add a few details about something mentioned earlier in your paper but do not want to interrupt the flow of your writing with an interruption like a bracketed citation.
  • Use them sparingly. You can have too many footnotes, especially if they’re distracting or not useful to your readers.
  • Make sure your footnote is on the same page as its reference. If you need to use a footnote in a sentence that isn’t at the bottom of a page, make sure it’s on the same page as its reference.
  • Make sure each footnote has its own line at the bottom of the page (or wherever your software tells you it’s supposed to go).
  • Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page on which they appear and are numbered consecutively throughout the document.
  • Footnotes should include only information that is essential to understanding or clarifying your work;
  • Avoid using footnotes to provide extra details or examples about something already mentioned in your text.
  • You may want to include references for facts that can be verified by other sources (which can be found online).

Bottom Line

There you have it, dear reader. These are the basics of what makes an effective footnote. While reference lists may be scorned by the uninitiated, you can see for yourself how using them in your writing can enhance the experience for your readers. In addition to the points mentioned above, there is much more to learn about using footnotes and references—mainly due to the intricacies of language and conventions.

Footnotes are crucial for academic writing.  They are effective in increasing one’s credibility and persuasiveness. Research studies have proven using footnotes helps influence readers and increases your credibility and persuasiveness. Footnotes well used are an advantage to the author.


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