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How to Write Footnotes in a Report

Updated on December 26, 2012
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Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

Reasons for Writing Footnotes/Endnotes

In academic, and, indeed in any other kind of serious writing, it is essential that the writer acknowledges the source of anything that is quoted or used as a reference. Plagiarism is a serious offence and if authors are quoted extensively it is also wise to apply for permission to use the work.

Footnotes are written at the bottom of the page while Endnotes come at the end of the article, paper or book, but the citation of both remains the same. Citation in footnotes and endnotes are different from a Bibliography which requires a separate format.

There are four basic reasons for writing footnotes or endnotes:

  1. To acknowledge indebtedness to a specific source.
  2. To establish the validity of a statement or evidence given in a text.
  3. To provide cross-reference to information in another part of the same written work.
  4. To extend or clarify ideas or information that has been presented in the work.

Citation of References

Many schools, colleges and universities have their own rules about citations and these should be readily available to their students. Different disciplines also have their own requirements for citation. However, there are other occasions, such as writing an article for submission to a journal or writing a book when the following examples may be helpful.

I am limiting this to citations for books only. If other sources are required to be used, they may be found quite easily on the internet. There are numerous other sources, including journal articles, magazine articles, newspapers, even documents, interviews and electronic sources.

  • Book Written by One Author: The first time the citation is made, it begins with the author's first name, the initials of other names, then the Surname, comma, The Title of the Book (in italics), open bracket, the Place of Publication, comma, the Country of Publication, colon, the Name of Publisher, comma, the year of publication, close bracket, comma, and the page number. For the second and subsequent citations only provide the author's surname, comma, page number.
  • Books with Two or Three Authors: cite in the same way as for one author, putting the first name followed by the surname of each author in the order given on the book's title page, with 'and' between the two names; if there are three authors a comma is added between each author's name. For the second and subsequent citations only provide the authors' surnames, comma, page number.
  • Books with Four or More Authors: Give the first name and surname of the first author only, followed by a comma, then write et al. followed by a comma before the title. For the second and subsequent citations only provide the first author's surname, comma, page number.
  • Translated Book: Follow the above but after the title of the book add comma, trans., first name(s) of the translator and surname, before opening the bracket. For the second and subsequent citations provide the surname of the author (not the translator), before the page number.
  • Edited Book: If there is only one editor, the first citation is the same as that of an author, except that after the editor's first name, surname, comma, ed., is added. For following citations give the surname, comma, ed., and, if possible, a shortened title. If there are more than one editor give the names as for authors and change the ed., to eds., . If there was a subtitle following the title, omit this in second and subsequent citations.
  • Subsequent Editions: If the edition is not the first, it needs to be noted. Add a comma after the title of the book and add the number of the edition before the bracket: , 2nd ed (. If it is a revised edition it is abbreviated; add , Rev. ed. (. This is not noted in second and subsequent citations.
  • A Chapter from an Edited Book: For the first citation give the name and surname of the contributor, comma, the title of the Chapter followed by the word in followed by the name(s) of the editor(s) and then continue as before.
  • Multivolume Work: When making a citation from a volume within a multivolume work give the first name of the author, surname, Title of article, vol. 3, Title of Multivolume Works, etc. In second and subsequent citations only give the surname of the author of the article, page number.

Explanation of Terms

There are standard terms that are used when writing footnotes and endnotes. It is useful to commit these to memory as they may need to be used frequently in a long dissertation. They include the following:

et al.: A Latin abbreviation of et alii, meaning 'and others.'

etc.: Abbreviation of the Latin et cetera, meaning 'and all the rest.' It is used to describe other similar things. Beware! Do not over-use this term.

ibid: This is a Latin abbreviation of ibidem, which means 'in the same place.' It is used in consecutive footnotes to avoid repeating citation of a previous reference. It can be used alone or be followed by a page number, if it differs from a page previously used.

idem: Latin for 'the same.' It is used in an otherwise complete footnote instead of the name of an author or in place of a word that has just been mentioned.

loc.cit.: An abbreviation of the Latin term, loco citato, meaning 'in the passage already quoted.' it refers to a non-cnosecutive reference of the same page number(s) and so gives the author's name, but not the page number(s).

op cit.: This, too, comes from the Latin, opere citato, meaning 'in the work already cited.' It is used when references follow each other closely but not consecutively. It usually includes the author's name and always gives the page number.

Secondary Source: This means that the writer has used a source which is not the primary source but another writer's version or a paraphrase of the primary source. In citing the reference emphasis may be placed on either the writer of the secondary source or on the content that is the work of the primary source.

Superscript: A letter, figure or symbol that is written or printed above the line. It is often much smaller that the size of the print in the body of work.

Additional Hints for Writing Footnotes/Endnotes

There are a few additional hints that can be helpful when writing footnotes or endnotes.

  • Periodical: A publication that is released on a regular basis. It may be a journal, a scholarly publication, or a magazine, a popular type of publication.
  • Punctuation: Usually no punctuation marks follow the superscript, either in the text or in the footnote/endnote.
  • Title Page Protocol: If three cities are listed in a title on the title page, only the first is named in the footnote, for the sake of brevity.


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      stars439: Thank you for your visit. I hope it will be useful for you. May God bless you, too.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Thank you for sharing this important knowledge. I will put it in my favorites so that when I want to learn something , and I allways do, then there it is. God Bless You Dear Cherished Heart.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: They often do seem to be a problem, so I'm glad you think this will be helpful. Thank you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      As instruct students on writing, footnotes seem to be an area they always need extra guidance. Your tips are wonderful and will help many to submit a quality report.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      shiningirisheyes: Thank you, you're a great, encouraging commenter.

      Marcia Ours: And we remember best the things we learned at school, they seem to stick - or some of it does!

      Cherry4: I'm so glad it is helpful, that was the intention.

    • Cherry4 profile image

      Cherry Ann 5 years ago from New York

      Thank you BlossomSB, very interesting and indeed helpful for me.

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      Marcia Ours 5 years ago

      I remember having to do this in school! It's something everyone should know.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Outstanding and thorough instruction my friend. You are a fine teacher.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Nila Eslit: Glad they were helpful.

      Michele Travis: Thank you for your lovely comments. It's so important to do things the right way first off, then they don't have to be repeated!

      Lipnancy: That's a very kind thought. Thank you.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks. They should post this in the learning center. Very informative.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      This is a great topic. Also a wonderful way to learn how to write. Thank you so much for writing this. I really need it!

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      Nila Eslit 5 years ago

      Thank you for these helpful tips.