Essay Writing Tips: Footnoting

The reason that footnotes are used is to help the reader acknowledge what part of the paper they are reading are particular sources to help provide supporting information for a particular claim or argument on a topic.

Here are four places that commonplace to see footnotes.

    Article Book Research Paper Online Report

    When using footnotes, always use American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), or Chicago Style for citations, depending upon what style has been asked. According to Purdue University’s website, APA style is used when describing social sciences, such as psychology and sociology. MLA, according to its website is mostly common used in humanity subjects such as writing and literature.

    Included with a footnote is the following information:

    • Author
    • Title of book, article, research paper, or report
    • Publication information (what company)
    • Year
    • Page numbers

    When using footnotes be sure to avoid the following:

    • Using different numbers when citing the same source in paper
    • Be sure to have the same number next to the sentence or paragraph that uses the same source. For example, if one has a paragraph from a book about George Washington and then refers to another part of the same book, then the same number should be next to it. The numbering should consistent throughout as to help the reader.

    • Inconsistent styles
    • Do not switch between citation styles. For example if the paper is being written in MLA style, then be consistent; do not switch to APA or Chicago half way during the paper. When using the same source multiple times, make sure that it is shortened after the first time of usage with just the author’s name, title of the reference and the page number(s) being used.

    • Not consistent numbering
    • When using footnotes there is going to be a bibliography or reference page that the reader will be looking at in order to get more detailed information that they can look at later on. Be consistent with the numbering not only in the paper but also on the citation page. For example if a source is cited as “1” then the same source should be in the number “1” spot on the bibliography or reference page.

    • Not having the source(s) ready to cite
    • A common mistake for people to make is that they have a source that they want to use and use it but then forget to insert the footnote at the bottom. Make sure after using the source that the footnote is inserted, as well as put onto the bibliography or reference page to avoid plagiarism.

    • Long explanations for a footnote
    • Make sure that there is only a sentence or two of explanation in the footnote section about the source. Do not make it into a paragraph. If more detail is needed then put that in the reference page or bibliography section underneath the citation.



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