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How to Write Footnotes in MLA and APA

You were trying to get away from footnotes by creating your paper in MLA or APA format, but you just can’t avoid them. Remember that footnotes in MLA or APA are a rare occurrence. You’ll only use MLA 8 or APA 7 footnotes to make bibliographic, content or copyright notes. Basically, you’re just going to give your reader a little extra information that wouldn’t fit in the text. Now that you know when you’ll use them, dive in to how to write an example footnote citation for your MLA or  APA paper.

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When to Use Footnote Citations in MLA

Your professor has asked for footnote citations and now you’re freaking out. Thankfully, MLA footnotes are simple. MLA footnotes serve two purposes.

  • Bibliographical citations replace or supplement parenthetical citations when they get too complicated. They’re also useful for a string of sources, as well as to flag translations or editions.
  • Content notes justify a study, explain word choices, or add further information that is related to a point.

Creating an MLA Footnote Example

When it comes to MLA footnotes, it is all about style. View these MLA footnote examples to create a bibliographic and parenthetical citation.

How to Create an MLA Parenthetical Footnote Citation

Denoting a footnote in MLA style requires a number in superscript. Try to place this at the end of a sentence. It should come after punctuation or quotes. However, in some cases, it’ll make most sense to have the superscript number in the middle of a sentence.

MLA Footnote Example: In-Text

Alaskans must avoid their father during the time of puberty.In that area, obstacles come in to “keep the men and women separated.”The men and women in stories are kept separate,and this might be due to some financial obstacle.

How to Write a Footnote Citation in MLA

Place footnotes at the bottom of the page in their own special section. Follow the same numerical order on the page. Firstly, start each note with the superscript number that corresponds with the in-text citation. Then, remember that bibliographical notes provide citations similar to the works cited and vary based on the source. By contrast, content notes will point the reader to where more information can be found.

MLA Bibliographic Citation Footnote Example

1Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (New York: Random, 1918) 26.

MLA Content Note Citation Footnote Example

2See Green, especially 1-8, to show the different courtship principles.

Student writing footnotes for research paper

When to Include APA Footnotes

APA format doesn’t generally recommend you write footnotes at all. You’ll typically opt for parenthetical references instead. Even so, there may come a time when you are unable to avoid footnotes. Like MLA, this happens in two instances.

  • Content notes provide supplemental information that doesn’t fit in the text.
  • Copyright permissions cite reprinted material like images or tables, or quotes that are more than 400 words.

How to Create APA In-Text Footnote

To create a footnote in APA style, you’ll add a superscript number after the punctuation. The exceptions are dashes and parentheses. Place footnote numbers before dashes and inside parentheses. See how this works in the example.

APA Footnote Example: In-Text

Journalists examined –over several years1— the ancient tools used in photojournalism.(These can be seen in the Cambridge Museum.3)

Formatting Footnote Citation in APA

The formatting for content footnotes and copyright footnotes is different. However, each will start with the superscript number in the related text. See these examples.

APA Content Note Citation Example: 

1See Burquest (2010), especially chapter 5, for more information on this journalist’s theory.

APA Copyright Note Citation Example: 

From the chapter “Theories of Photojournalism” W. Jones and R. Smith, 2010, Photojournalism, 21, p. 122. Copyright 2007 by Copyright Holder. Reprinted with permission.

Where to Place APA Footnotes and Endnotes

When you write footnotes, you can choose to format them at the bottom of the page (footnotes) or on a separate page at the end of the paper (endnotes). Place your endnotes after the reference list on a separate page with its own title: Endnotes. This is where you can list all your notes.

Footnote vs. Bibliography or References

Bibliographies, references and footnotes all work to relay information about the text. However, the information you’ll find in each is different. Bibliographies and references offer full citations of the works that were used to create the different arguments and concepts in the text.

Footnotes, on the other hand, provide bibliographical information in tricky situations. They can also provide further context that doesn’t fit in the body of the writing. Additionally, footnotes are set off with superscript numbers and found at the end of the page, while bibliographies and references are their own entity at the end of the entire research paper or essay.

Using Footnotes in MLA or APA

Footnotes are a great tool for helping to clarify thoughts in a paper or get rid of confusion caused by overly long bibliographical citations. While they can be scary to create your first time, footnotes serve a unique purpose in keeping your writing clean and concise.

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FAQ How to Write Footnotes in MLA and APA

How do you write footnotes in MLA?

To write footnotes in MLA, you will include a superscript number after the quoted material. The format of the footnote varies based on its use. The two types of footnotes in MLA include content notes or bibliographical citations. Content notes provide further explanation, while bibliographical citations replace complicated citations.

Can you use footnotes in MLA?

Yes, you can use footnotes in MLA style, but they are not common. They can be used to provide additional content or if the bibliographic citation is complicated.

What is a footnote example?

In both MLA and APA, a footnote example includes the citation found at the bottom, or foot, of the page corresponding to the superscript number found in the body of the work. The footnote might consist of the type of work and author’s name along with other information related to the type of citation.

How is a footnote supposed to look?

The look of a footnote varies based on the information it is conveying. However, footnotes are indicated by a superscript number in the body of the work. The citation for that information is at the foot of the page. Hence, the name 'foot' note.

What goes in a footnote?

The information included in the footnote depends on what it’s being used for. A bibliographical citation is used to replace parenthetical citations that are complicated. Content notes add additional information to justify or explain a point. Copyright permissions provide information about the copyrighted material in the quote.

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