What are footnotes and endnotes?

Footnotes function either as a form of citation used in certain citation styles or as a provider of additional information. The reader is directed to these footnotes by a superscript number1 placed within the body of text.

These superscript numbers can also correspond to endnote citations, which are essentially the same as footnotes, but collected at the end of a chapter or article instead of at the end of the page.

Footnote and endnote citations

Citation styles such as Chicago A, OSCOLA, Turabian and ACS require the use of footnote citations instead of author-date in-text citations.

This means that if you want to cite a source, you add a superscript number at the end of the sentence that includes the information from this source.

This number corresponds to a footnote citation, where you include information such as the author, title of work, date, etc. What you include depends on the citation style.

Example of a footnote citation:

Citation styles such as Chicago A, OSCOLA, Turabian and ACS require the use of footnote citations instead of author-date in-text citations.1

1Courtney Gahan, What are footnotes and endnotes? Amsterdam: Scribbr, 2018.

Citation styles using footnotes and endnotes

Citation styles using footnotes: Chicago A, OSCOLA, Turabian, ACS
Citation styles using endnotes: Vancouver, IEEE, AMA, NLM, AAA, ABNT

Your supervisor will be able to tell you which citation style you should be using. It is crucial to use your citation style correctly in order to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism has serious consequences.

Explanatory comments in footnotes

Even if you are not required to use footnotes because of your designated citation style, you might choose to include footnotes to provide the reader with supplementary information that could be useful but is not critical to the understanding of the interpretation presented.

If you wish to include footnotes or endnotes because you want to provide supplementary information, you should consider:

  • The number of notes. Too many footnotes can clutter the page.
  • The reader’s perspective. What is more convenient for them?
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How to insert footnotes

Microsoft Word makes it very easy to insert footnotes, following these simple steps:

1. Place the cursor where you would like the superscript number to appear.
2. Click on “Insert Footnote” in the “References” tab. The superscript number will appear in the text automatically.
3. The corresponding number will be automatically inserted in the footer ready for you to add the footnote citation.
4. Type in your footnote citation.

You can follow the same process for endnotes, simply by choosing “Insert Endnote” in the “References” tab.

Footnotes and endnotes

By default, footnotes will be numbered 1, 2, 3, etc, while endnotes will apply Roman numerals, e.g. i, ii, iii. If you would like to change this, simply click the small arrow in the footnotes/endnotes section under the “References” tab, and select the option you prefer from the dropdown menu.

insert footnotes in Word

Tips on how to format footnotes

  • Don’t use the same number twice, even if 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.
  • Footnote citations must be in a smaller font than the main text of your document. If you use a 12-point font for your main text, use a 10-point font for your footnotes.
  • The footnote number is placed immediately after the word to which the footnote citation refers. If the footnote citation refers to a paragraph, then place the footnote number immediately after the final punctuation mark.
  • Footnote numbering is usually reset with each new chapter, but you can also choose to number them continuously throughout your dissertation.
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Courtney Gahan

Courtney has a Bachelor in Communication and a Master in Editing and Publishing. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2013, and joined the Scribbr team as an editor in June 2017. She loves helping students and academics all over the world improve their writing (and learning about their research while doing so!).

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