MLA footnotes and endnotes

In MLA style, when you refer to a source, you use a parenthetical citation in the main text. Footnotes and endnotes can be used for two purposes:

  • Bibliographic notes: mentioning additional sources that are relevant to your point
  • Content notes: adding extra information or explanation that doesn’t fit into the main text

Footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes appear at the very end of the paper. MLA permits the use of either type.

Using MLA footnotes to reference sources

If you want to direct the reader to additional sources that add further support or context to your point, but are not directly discussed in the text, you can reference them in a footnote or endnote. This is called a bibliographic note.

Example

1. For further discussion of Australia’s early publishing industry, see Crittenden 5–11 and Kent 17–34.

However, if you quote, paraphrase, or otherwise mention the source in the main text, you should use an in-text citation.

Using MLA footnotes to give extra information

If you want to add background information, elaborate on an explanation, or make additional comments that would interrupt the flow of your text, you can also use a footnote or endnote for this purpose. This is called a content note.

Content notes usually also refer to other sources, but they include more detail or evaluation than bibliographic notes.

Example

4. For an insightful exploration of how “deep time” figured in 19th-century British science, see Sera-Shriar. The relation between geology and industrial modernity is also elaborated by Taylor, who traces the connections between James Watt’s steam engine and James Hutton’s geological discoveries (35–36).

However, long content notes can be distracting for readers, so use them sparingly, and keep them as brief as possible. If a piece of information is essential to your point, you should include it in the main text.

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Formatting footnotes and endnotes in MLA

Both footnotes and endnotes are indicated by superscript numbers. They usually appear at the end of a sentence after the period.

If you need to use a footnote in the middle of a sentence, place the number directly after a punctuation mark (with the exception of the dash, where the number comes before).

Example

Four main factors have been determined possible characteristics of any successful fictional work:6 popularity, enduring fame, commercial success and scholarly appeal. Each of the case studies must possess at least one of these.7

The footnote or endnote itself begins with the corresponding number, followed by a period and a space. It should be the same font as the rest of your document, but a smaller font size.

Example

7. Grabianowski and “100 Best Novels” support the selection of these four case studies, all of which are considered successful works by these sources.

Your word processing program should allow you to automatically insert footnotes.

Formatting the endnotes page

If you are using endnotes, list them on a separate page directly before the Works Cited list. The title, Notes, appears centred at the top of the page. Like the rest of an MLA format paper, the endnotes should be double-spaced.

Citing footnotes and endnotes in MLA

If you refer to a source in a footnote or endnote, you must include it in the Works Cited list. The note should mention the author’s last name, which begins the Works Cited entry. If there is no author you mention the title instead.

Example

Grabianowski, Ed. “The 21 Best-Selling Books of All Time.” How Stuff Works. Discovery Communications, 2012.

“100 Best Novels.” Modern Library. Random House, 2012.

You can easily create your Works Cited list using our free MLA citation generator.

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Shona McCombes

Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.

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