Guide to Essay Writing - Footnotes
- 3.1 Footnotes, notes or endnotes
As a rule-of-thumb one could say that, although footnotes or notes are necessary, your interpretation should be able to stand without them. Thus, you should not carry on your main argument in footnotes. Generally speaking footnotes should be used to back up the argument by giving sources. Occasionally they can be used to present subsidiary arguments or useful details which would clutter your main argument.
Appendices can be useful in presenting a detailed argument the 'result' of which you can use in your text, (e.g. a complex argument about the disputed dating of a specific work). An appendix can also be used to provide detailed information which can then be used in a summarised form in the text (e.g. an essay on women artists of the 1970s might include an appendix of lists of exhibitions with an analysis of how many male and how many female artists exhibited). Appendices are best avoided in short essays.
- 3.2 Reference to footnotes/ notes
When to use notes is a question of judgement. As a general rule however, you should use them to indicate the sources of:
(i) facts which are not generally known or agreed upon
(ii) information which cannot be taken for granted (e.g., percentages of male and female artists in exhibitions in a certain year)
(iii) particular approaches or interpretations
(v) it is not necessary to footnotes facts which are generally known
- 3.3 Location of footnotes/ notes
Notes may be placed at the foot of the page ('footnotes') or at the end of an essay ('notes' or 'endnotes'). If you are writing a thesis of several chapters, place the notes at the end of the thesis, not at the end of a chapter (they can be difficult to find). If you have a great number of notes located together at the end of a long essay or thesis, it helps your reader if you indicate the pages or chapters to which they refer at the top of the page.
The most convenient reference to a note is numerical. The number should generally be placed at the end of a sentence or, if necessary to be very specific, at a break in the sentence (e.g. at a comma, a semi-colon or brackets.)
1. 'New Painting', exn cat., John Smith Gallery, London, 1-3 May, 1912
2. Not to be confused with Stampnich
3. Collected Works, London, 1980
- 3.4 form of footnotes/ notes. First reference
The first time you refer to a source you must give all bibliographic details. Subsequent references must be shortened.
Author's full name (or that of editor or compiler). In notes, the first name and/or initials precedes surnames. In a bibliography the surname comes first.
Complete title of book (exactly as given on title page, underlined or italicised)
Name of translator if any
Edition, if other than the first
Number of volumes
Date of publication (you can, if it is relevant, refer to the date of the first edition)
Volume number, if any
Page number(s) of particular citation
It is not necessary to list the publisher; if you do, be consistent and list the publisher for every entry.
Ludmilla Vachtova, Frank Kupka, London, 1967, 13-17*
*Sometimes you will find that the page reference is indicated by p. (page) or pp. (pages). Today, however, the tendency is simplified and the 'p' is often omitted.
Benedict Nicolson, Joseph Wright of Derby: Painter of Light, 2 vols, London, 1968, I, 95
Bernard Smith, Australian Painting 1788-1970, 2nd ed., Melbourne, 1971, 170
Periodicals, poems, chapters of books, essays and articles in collections, the rule is to use quotation marks when citing a reference that is part of a whole (an article is part of a journal; a chapter is part of a book, etc).
Author's full name (as with books)
Title of article (in quotation marks)
Name of the periodical (underline)
Volume number (if necessary)
Date of the issue
Page number(s) of the particular citation
Marianne W. Martin, 'Futurism, and Apollinaire, Art Journal, Spring 1979, 256
It is not necessary to give volume and issue numbers when a month and year are sufficient to identify the source. But one has to be careful of some northern hemisphere journals which use the seasons - which, of course, are different from ours.
Poems, chapters of books, essays and articles in collections
The same form applies as for articles.
1)Guillaume Apollinare, 'Zone', Oeuvres Poetiques, Paris 1962, 149; first published in Les Soirees de Paris, Nov. 1912, 24
2)Guillaume Apollinaire, 'Modern Painting', Apollinaire on Art: Essays, ed. Leroy C. Breunig, trans. Susan Sulleiman, London 1972; first published as 'La Peinture moderne, Der Sturm, Feb. 1913, 2-3
Title of exhibition catalogue
Museum/gallery or other location
City and date
Example: Fernand Leger, exh. cat., Musee des Arts decoratifs, Paris 1971, 65
The authors of a catalogue used not to be listed; today they are:
Example:Meda Mladek and Margit Rowell, Frantisek Kupka. 1871-1957. A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1975, 64
Authors full name
Title of thesis
Type of thesis
University or College
Date of thesis
Example: Lindsay Errington, Social and Religious Themes in English Art 1840-1860, Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1973
Since this entry is unpublished, the title is neither underlined nor given quotation marks.
- 3.5 Form of footnotes/notes: Subsequent references (incl. Latin abbreviations)
After the first full reference to a book, article, etc., subsequent references should be shortened. Enough information should be given to allow easy identification. For example:
5. Fernand Leger, exh. cat., Musee des Arts decoratifs (Paris, 1971), 65
6. Ludmilla Vachtova, Frank Kupka, London 1967, 13-17
7. Vachtova, Kupka, 75
8. Marianne W. Martin, 'Futurism, Unanimism and Apollinaire, Art Journal, Spring 1979, 256
9. Martin, 'Futurism, Unanimism and Apollinaire', 268
10. Ibid., 270 (if same page, Idem can be used)
Avoid using the Latin abbreviations 'op.cit.' or 'loc. cit'. Students almost invariably use them incorrectly. A shortened authors name and shortened title immediately gives the reader the unambiguous information that is required. 'Ibid' and 'idem' are more useful, but should be used only when the preceding note to which they refer is immediately visible - it is irritating if the reader has to search through the preceding pages to find the relevant note.
You do, however, need to recognise what these words signify as you will encounter them - particularly in older texts:
'ibid.' (Latin, ibidem = 'in the same place'); used when references to the same work follow one another (as in n. 10 above). A page reference is necessary. 'idem' (Latin = 'the same'); used to refer to the same reference and same page number (as in n. 10 above).
'op. cit.' (Latin, opere citato = 'in the work cited'); used to refer to an already cited book.
'loc. cit.' (Latin, loco citato = 'in the place cited'); as with op. cit. but used for the location of an article, poem, etc., in a book or journal.
- 3.6 Footnotes/endnotes conclusion
There are other more detailed conventions of usage, but the above information provides a basic guide. Remember that the conventions of footnotes are not designed simply to be irritating to the writer, but are a common language which will provide the reader with everything needed to locate your reference. It is worth mastering these conventions as soon as you can, as you can then relax and need not check up every time you make a note. Examiners or markers can become extremely irritated if they are not used correctly and may even give the essay back to you, reserving the mark until you have corrected them.
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If you indent your paragraphs, the entire essay is typed double-spaced. Title of essay centered, 1” (2.5 cm) margin on all four sides, page number at upper right hand corner ½” (1.25 cm) down from the top.
If your instructor prefers that you do not indent your paragraphs, you must still double-space your lines, but you will need to use quadruple-space between paragraphs.
Endnotes must be listed numerically and consecutively, both in your essay and in your Endnote citation. Endnote numbers must be superscripted. In your text, add a superscripted number immediately after the quote or reference cited with no space.
Endnotes must be added on a separate Endnotes or Notes page at the end of your essay just before the Works Cited or Bibliography page. All first Endnote references must be cited in full. Subsequent references of the same work may be shortened to include only the author’s last name and page number. If the source cited has no author stated, use whatever minimal information is needed to identify the same work previously cited, e.g. short title and page number. Formerly, the Latin terms ibid. and op. cit. were used but they are no longer preferred.
It is recommended that you use Endnotes in place of Footnotes. This will eliminate the need to allow sufficient space to accommodate all the required Footnote entries at the bottom of the same page where your citations occur. If your instructor has no preference, use the much simpler Parenthetical Documentation in place of Footnotes or Endnotes.
Recommended reading on Footnote citation MLA.
Mr. K. Smith
18 April 2006
The Many Facets of Taboo
The World Book Encyclopedia defines Taboo as “an action, object, person, or place forbidden by law or culture.”1
An encyclopedia of the occult points out that taboo is found among many other cultures including the ancient Egyptians, Jews and others.2
Mary Douglas has analyzed the many facets and interpretations of taboos across various cultures. She points out that the word “taboo” originates from the Polynesian languages meaning a religious restriction.3 She finds that “taboos flow from social boundaries and support the social structure.”4
In reference to Freak Shows at circuses, Rothenberg makes the observation that people who possess uncommon features and who willingly go out in public to display such oddities to onlookers are acting as “modern-day taboo breakers” by crossing the “final boundary between societal acceptance and ostracism.”5
In traditional British East Africa, between the time of puberty and marriage, a young Akamba girl must maintain an avoidance relationship with her own father.6
Looking at taboo in a modern society, Marvin Harris gives an interesting example of the application of cultural materialism to the Hindu taboo against eating beef.7
Begin your Endnotes page by centering the title Endnotes or Notes 1″ (2.5 cm) or about 6 lines from the top of the page. Double-space your entries, indent each Endnote citation 1/2″ (1.25 cm) or 5 spaces from the left margin, do not indent subsequent lines, add a superscripted Endnote citation number at the beginning of each citation, leave one space after the superscripted number, and list entries in the same numerical order as they appear in the text of your paper.
For samples of numerous other Endnote citations, please see MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th ed., pages 300-313.
1Alan Dundes, “Taboo,” World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.
2 “Taboo,” Occultopedia: Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences and Knowledge,
Site created and designed by Marcus V. Gay, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.occultopedia.com/ t/taboo.htm>.
3 Mary Douglas, “Taboo,” Man, Myth & Magic, ed. Richard Cavendish, new ed., 21 vols. (New York: Cavendish, 1994) 2546.
4 Douglas 2549.
5 Kelly Rothenberg, “Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society,”
1996, BME / Psyber City, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://bme.freeq.com/tatoo/tattab.html>.
6 Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (New York: Random, 1918) 17.
7 Marvin Harris, “The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle,” Current
Anthropology 1992, 7:51-66, qtd. in McGrath, “Ecological Anthropology,” Anthropological
Theories: A Guide Prepared by Students for Students 19 Oct. 2001, U. of Alabama,
18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/Murphy/ecologic.htm>.
If your instructor considers your Endnotes to be adequate documentation, you may not be required to complete a Works Cited, References or Bibliography page. Otherwise, a separate page must be added at the end of your paper entitled: Works Cited, References, or Bibliography to include all of the citations already listed on your Endnotes or Notes page. See example below.
Douglas, Mary. “Taboo.” Man, Myth & Magic. Ed. Richard Cavendish. New ed. 21 vols. New York: Cavendish, 1994. 2546-2549.
Dundes, Alan. “Taboo.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. New York: Random, 1918.
McGrath, Stacy. “Ecological Anthropology.” Anthropological Theories: A Guide
Prepared by Students for Students. 19 Oct. 2001. U. of Alabama. 18 Jan. 2005
Rothenberg, Kelly. “Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society.” 1996. BME/Psyber City. 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.bme.freeq.com/tattoo/ tattab.html;.
“Taboo.” Occultopedia: Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences and Knowledge.
Site created and designed by Marcus V. Gay. 18 Jan. 2005 http://www.occultopedia.com/t/ taboo.htm.