How to Use Footnotes Referencing Style: Complete Guide

Tips on Using A Footnote Correctly

Across the globe, allegations of plagiarism are what every writer tries to avoid by all means. Students and non-student writers all have to learn how to cite sources properly.  Research is the core upon which human advancement rests upon today.  Research helps to discover what was previously unknown and it could also help in updating our knowledge about a thing, person, object or phenomenon.


Writing Documents and Disseminating Research Results

It is the need for research that warrants the need for writing. Writing has become the means through which latest research activities and results are published so as to contribute to the human “pool of Knowledge”. Hence, we often see these products of research in the form of research papers, textbooks, magazines, journals, dissertations, etc. All these are attempts to document and disseminate their research works.

The implication of this is that every researcher has to learn the basics of writing as part of his/her research process. A researcher that does not document his research result does not stand the chance of being able to claim originality of idea with regards to the research conducted.


New Research Depends on Previous Researches

Every research of whatever phenomenon and from whatever field/discipline is and will be built on previous, pre-existing research. You cannot conduct research without appropriating previous knowledge gained through the reading or studying of other people’s research.

Sir Isaac Newton, the famous scientist attests to this fact in his 1675 letter to Robert Hooke in which he says “if I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”. Even the great Scientist, Newton, acknowledge the importance of previous research and discoveries upon which he built his own.

Tips on Using A Footnote Correctly
Tips on Using Footnotes Correctly

Citation as Recognition of Previous Research

Citation; footnotes, endnotes, references, bibliography, etc. are all attempts by writers (students and non-students) to give recognition to predecessors in the research the current student or writer intend to engage in. It is required by law that a researcher recognizes the contribution of his/her predecessors to the phenomenon or subject matter under scrutiny. In fact, in many scholar writings and disciplines, “literature review” of previous books on the subject matter is required. Good examples of such writings include Dissertations and Thesis.

The inability, negligence or deliberate decision of the researcher/writer or student to recognize previous authorities often attract serious penalties; some as much as going to jail. The simple solution to this is the proper use of citation.


Footnotes and as a Form of Citation

There are very many forms of citation. They exist as footnotes, endnotes, references, bibliography, etc.

  • Endnotes

An endnote is as the name implies; a note that comes at the end of a document. An “endnote” therefore can be defined as an explanation, reference, or comment placed at the end of a dissertation/thesis, an article, research paper, chapter, or book. Often times, like footnotes, endnotes often serve two main purposes in a research paper: Firstly, they are used to acknowledge the source of a quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Secondly, they also provide explanatory comments that would have interrupt the flow of the main text if it were placed in the page where it is needed.


  • Reference

Like endnotes, “Reference” also appears at the end of the chapter of the document. A reference citation is the documentation needed to make your paper acceptable for academic purposes. It gives authoritative sources for your statements, helps the reader gain access to those sources, and acknowledges the fact that the information used in a paper did not originate with the writer. The referenced sources are arranged in alphabetical order.


  • Bibliography

The word bibliography is from the two Greek words, “biblio” which means “book” and “graph” which means “to write”. A bibliography is “a list of the books referred to in a scholarly work, typically printed as an appendix”. It is expected to contain the author’s name, titles of the works, the names and location of the companies that published them, dates of publication and the pages of your sources.

An annotated bibliography includes a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph (the annotation) for each item in the list. These annotations often give more contexts about why a certain source may be useful or related to the topic at hand.

Do you need a bibliography if you have a footnote?

The answer is both yes and no. When the answer is yes, you still need a bibliography if you have information other than details about the book source. For example, you might need to add a short explanation regarding a term, footnotes are a perfect choice. The answer will be no if all what you need a footnote for is just for proper citation. There wouldn’t be any need since bibliography has already taken care of that. In addition, our free bibliography generator tool is a fantastic tool helping thousands of students and researchers with their academic writing.


  • Footnotes

Footnotes are a convention of citing external sources through the use of superscript numbers with their corresponding explanation and/or comment in the section below. It is very similar to endnotes. The only difference exists in placement within the document. While an Endnote is placed at the end of a document, a Footnote is placed at the foot of every page where such reference occurs.

Footnotes are often referenced in the text or an academic essay in the same way as a citation. That is, the referenced text is followed by a superscript numeral, which corresponds to the numbered footnote at the bottom of the page.

What are Footnotes used for?

Like endnotes, footnotes are basically used for the followings: Firstly, they are used to acknowledge the source of a quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Secondly, they also provide explanatory comments that would have interrupt the flow of the main text if it were placed in the page where it is needed.


Reasons Why Citations Are Important In Writings

Citations are very important in modern writings particularly due to the consciousness of the avoidance of allegations of plagiarism. Therefore, writers employ various citation forms such as the use of footnotes, endnotes, headnotes, reference, and bibliography. The use of one of these forms of citation would be determined by the format of your department. The use of footnotes is to be determined by your Department’s guiding reference principle. It is commonplace for students to come across essays with footnotes.

The following are some of the reasons why citations are important in writings:

  • Citations Show That You Have Done Your Research

When you cite other sources, it is a pointer to the fact that you have adequately done your research. Paying attention to details is the hallmark of good research. Whoever picks up your write-up would definitely appreciate it much more that another that has no write-up.


  • Citation Gives Room For Factuality and Credibility

There are some disciplines such as the sciences that thrive practically on facts. When you use citations in your work, it gives your work credibility as anyone in doubt of the information you have presented may simply check the sources you have cited for verification.


  • Citations Develop Your Writing Skill

Developing a habit of using citations in your work is a subsequent development of your writing skills. A writer or student that uses citations such as extensive footnotes would be free from accusations of sloppy writing, intellectual laziness, vague thinking, assumptions and generally false claims. For example, the substitution of phrases and claims like “it is common belief that…”, “people often say…” “Everybody agrees that…” etc. with factual, specific sources is a mark of good research and writing.

  • Good, Careful Citation Builds your Reputation as a Good Scholar

A good Bibliography, Footnote, Headnote, Endnote and/or Reference when carefully and correctly used overtime, it builds the opinion people would develop towards you as a scholar. It will become a norm for people to trust your writing as one that is always factual and verifiable. This is particularly essential if you are in the Sciences.


4 Steps on How to Insert a Foot Note into a Microsoft Word Document

Not only must you know how to use footnotes correctly, you must also know how to insert them properly in Microsoft Word Documents. To insert Footnotes in your MS Word document, simply follow the following five simple steps:

  • Open Microsoft Word
  • Type your document
  • Place your cursor where you wish to insert the number that would stand for the footnote
  • Go to the Ribbon at the top of your word page and click on “References
  • Click on “Insert Footnotes”

That’s all! It is as simple as ABC.

Tips on Using a Footnote Correctly

If you must use Footnotes, then you should learn to use them correctly. You have to know the Dos and Don’ts that surround the use of footnotes.  Peachy Essay professional writers have found the following tips very useful in helping to use footnotes correctly. They are as follows:

  1. Write Your Footnotes Last:

This is already self-explanatory. If you intend to use footnotes, then it is more advisable that you first of all finish typing your document for that page before you follow the process described above to insert your footnote. Writing your footnotes last is to ensure that your typed document does not become disarranged.

  1. Don’t Use The Same Number Twice

Don’t use the same number twice, even if you are using the same source more than once. Each time you mention the source on a new page, it should be allocated the chronological number that fits with the other footnote citations on that page.

  1. Place Your Footnote Number After the Last Punctuation Mark

The correct placement of your footnote number is to place it immediately after the word to which the footnote citation refers. For example, if the footnote citation refers to a paragraph, then place the footnote number immediately after the final punctuation mark of the paragraph.

  1. Don’t change your Footnote Font

Ensure that you use the same font for both the main body of your essay with footnotes and the footnotes itself. Do no use a different font for neither the foot number nor the footnote.

  1. Don’t Use Footnotes For Scientific Papers

If you are a science student or you intend writing a paper on science, then you should be aware that scientific papers do not allow the use of footnotes. They could take endnotes, but even at that, they use endnotes rarely. If possible avoid them altogether to be on the safer side. However, some other disciplines such as Law, History and the Humanities generally use them a lot.


  1. Use Sequential Foot Numbers Only

When numbering your citations, ensure you use sequential numbers starting from number 1 till whatever number you have. Do not start numbering differently when you get to another page. Continue with the next sequential number on a new document page. Also, even if a citation has the same source, still give it a sequential number of its own. However, Footnote numbering is usually reset with each new chapter, though you can also choose to continue numbering them continuously throughout your work.


  1. Make The Font Of Your Footnotes Smaller Than The Rest

While you must not use a different font for your footnote, however, you must make the font smaller. This allows for easy identification.


From the foregoing, it would be clear that writing essays with footnotes or any other kind of writing require devotion to certain details if such writing were to be regarded as a scholarly product worthy of getting an “A” grade.  Many students choose to use footnotes without having a firm grasp of how they should be used appropriately.


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