How to use footnotes and endnotes

Footnotes are superscript numbers (1) placed within the body of text. They can be used for two things:

  1. As a form of citation in certain citation styles
  2. As a provider of additional information.

Using footnotes has one big advantage; you can include additional information without distracting the reader from the main text.

Using footnotes for 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 or endnote 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/endnote 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.

Using footnotes for additional information

Even if your citation style uses parenthetical citation instead of footnotes, you might choose to include footnotes to provide the reader with supplementary information..

For example, MLA footnotes can be used to direct the reader to further relevant sources or add information that could be useful but is not critical to your text.

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?

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing.

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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

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.
Is this article helpful?
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!).

12 comments

Nina
June 13, 2021 at 1:54 PM

Hi-
Can I use Harvard to cite additional information in footnotes? I have information in my dissertation that is not necessary relevant for the main body of literature but might be helpful for the reader to view for further clarification. I wanted to see if this information could be included in a footnote if I use Harvard citation style. Thanks.

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
June 14, 2021 at 3:53 PM

Hi Nina,

Yes, it's certainly valid to do this when relevant. Just include a footnote number at the relevant point in the text, then a footnote at the bottom of the page providing the additional information. If you need a citation within the footnote, just present it in the usual format for Harvard in-text citations.

Reply

Carrie
April 27, 2021 at 5:39 PM

The design program I'm using does not allow superscript. I am at a complete loss as to how to accommodate footnotes without the option of superscript. Is there an alternative style of notation I could use?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 3, 2021 at 4:12 PM

Hi Carrie,

If you're unable to switch to a program that does support superscript (or copy-paste superscript numbers in from elsewhere, if that works?), the best option may be to use numbers in square brackets in place of superscript numbers. E.g. "Smith states that the study was a success.[1]" This obviously doesn't look as neat, but may be the best choice in the absence of superscript.

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Christopher Perryman
April 4, 2021 at 10:11 AM

If you are using footnotes but you are continuously using the entire article/book for multiple portions of the word doc, are you supposed to just use the same number (for example, 1 for each entry)? I have a table I am filling out and I am using one outside reference for the entire table but I am wondering if I have to put the same number for each entry or how does that work?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 6, 2021 at 3:12 PM

Hi Christopher,

Generally, you should use a new footnote (with a new number) for each citation, even if it's of a source that you've cited previously. Some citation styles allow you to write shortened citations when citing the same source again, but the second citation would still have a different number.

In the specific case of a table, though, it would be fine to just have one footnote for the source referenced repeatedly within the table, and then use the same number at the various points in the table where the citation is needed. That said, if the references are different in any way (e.g. the first citation cites page 4, the second page 7), then you should definitely use separately numbered footnotes.

Hopefully that helps to clarify things!

Reply

Tea
February 10, 2021 at 8:41 PM

Hi, if I put the exact same sentence in the footnote (for additional explanation) should I write the name of the author and year in the footnote as well?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
February 17, 2021 at 5:07 PM

Hi Tea,

If you include the same quote again in a footnote, you should indeed add the citation for it there as well. I would advise considering whether you actually need to include the same quote twice though; it's generally best to avoid redundancy in academic writing, so make sure you have a good reason to repeat the quote like this.

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John Doe
January 12, 2021 at 2:58 AM

I was wondering how we should differentiate between endnotes and footnotes in the "number part". Is it [1] for endnotes and 1 for footnotes? Or should I just use the same number regardless and move on, ignoring a 1 endnote, and continuing with the next number for footnotes?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
January 19, 2021 at 4:02 PM

Hi John,

In academic writing, it's unusual to include both footnotes and endnotes in the same document. Style guides generally either specify one or the other; some styles (such as Chicago) permit the use of either footnotes or endnotes, but you should choose one and use it consistently.

If in doubt, I'd suggest looking at similar texts in your field or consulting your style guide to find out how best to approach this.

Reply

thabo
February 29, 2020 at 11:20 AM

do i use footnote whe i've qouted

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
March 2, 2020 at 11:24 AM

Hi,

If the citation style that you're following uses footnotes to cite sources in the text, then yes, you should include a footnote each time you quote a source. Some styles (such as APA and MLA) use parenthetical citations in the text instead of footnotes, so check the rules of the style and follow them consistently.

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