How to Write Footnotes & Endnotes for a Research Paper

Further information on copyright and plagiarism

This Chapter deals only with simple and common examples on how to write Footnote and Endnote citations.

Prior to learning how to write proper Footnote and Endnote citations, it is essential to first develop a stronger understanding of the MLA format.

MLA Format Definition

By way of definition, MLA style refers to the citation method developed by the Modern Language Association. This specific type of documentation method is most commonly used in the English (or other language) literature, cultural studies, and gender studies and humanities fields.

MLA guidelines dictate a number of parameters for in-text citation. For example, if the main paragraphs of your essay include reference to work written by someone other than yourself, you must acknowledge the quote or reference, in parenthesis, and follow this up with the surname of the original author and the page number indicting where the reference can be found in the originating source.

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MLA Citation Example:

The gender wage gap is shrinking because “more women are entering trades and executive level business fields.” (Smit, 98).

Keep in mind that there are a number of things to consider when using the MLA format for sources that are not your own. More specifically, does the original material have two or more authors? Or, does the source come from a journal or a website? Perhaps it’s a source from a source? Or maybe even a block quote. Each of these things will necessitate a specific variation of the MLA style be followed.

Another thing to consider is the ‘works cited’ or the bibliography.

How to Write a Bibliography

Commonly referred to as a ‘works cited’ list, the bibliography is where you list relevant (and necessary) information about the sources used in your paper. Each and every source utilized in your paper must appear in the bibliography – no exceptions.

Adhere to these guidelines when creating your bibliography

  • The bibliography should always appear on a separate page. The page will be numbered, in sequential order, according to the pages contained in the essay. On occasion, if the list is shorter in length, it may be reasonable to include the bibliography on the final page of the essay. However, the general rule of thumb is to use a separate page.
  • The title – Bibliography – or – Works Cited – should always be centered. Remember that a proper MLA heading should always appear in the centre of a page. There is no need to use bold or italic font or to underline the title.
  • The entire bibliography should be double spaced (or 1.5, 2.0 etc as long as it follows the same space alignment as the rest of the essay.)
  • Every entry will utilize what is known as a ‘hanging indent.’ A hanging indent simply means that the first line of each entry is flush with the margin and that every subsequent line should be indented five to seven spaces (equal to Tab.)
  • Unlike other documentation styles, MLA format citations examples and bibliography texts should reference the authors surnames in alphabetical order. In cases where the surname of the author is not known, it is appropriate to list titles alphabetically.
  • When more than one work, written by the same author, is to be cited, they should be alphabetized by title and the name of the author included in the initial entry.

Footnotes and Endnotes

MLA Footnotes and Endnotes are used to give credit to sources of any material borrowed, summarized or paraphrased. They are intended to refer readers to the exact pages of the works listed in the Works Cited, References, or Bibliography section.

What is a footnote: The term ‘footnote’ refers to ancillary notes added to the end of a page. They are used to offer commentary or cite references on a specific part of text in the body of the paper. For example, should an author wish to include an interesting fact or comment about one of the statements made in the paper, but that comment is seemingly irrelevant to the argument being presented, they may choose to include that information in a footnote. In this scenario, they would embed a symbol as a placeholder for the footnote at the end of the sentence being commented on and reprint the symbol and their commentary in the footnote.

The main difference between Footnotes and Endnotes is that Footnotes are placed numerically at the foot of the very same page where direct references are made, while Endnotes are placed numerically at the end of the essay on a separate page entitled Endnotes or Notes.

If you are still using a typewriter, a superscript number is typed half a space above the line after the last word of the citation, e.g., “The Information Superhighway is giving way to a Commercial Superhighway.”1 If you are using a word processor, you can access the superscript function. To type a Footnote citation, the same superscript number is put at the beginning of the Footnote at the bottom of the same page where the citation occurs.

When mentioning a work for the first time, a full and complete Footnote or Endnote entry must be made.

The process for including Footnotes or Endnotes in fairly consistent for most types of texts, however, what about including footnotes on virtual media like websites and blogs?

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How to Footnote a Website

Technology is ever changing, and as such, the process for standardizing citation on websites has not yet been formalized. However, many thought leaders believe that the inclusion of website footnotes will not only lend credibility to the site, but also allow readers to utilize originating sources in order to gather additional information. Creating a website footnote is not difficult.

  1. Visit the website for which the footnote is being created.
  2. Locate (if possible) the name of the web page author. Write down the name of the website, the date the information was published online, the site URL and the date that you visited the page.
  3. List the recorded information in order, using commas. MLA format example: John Smith, “The Hot Summer Sidewalk,” 2009, (accessed September 25, 2010).
  4. Note whether or not the website has a date of publication by using “n.d.” to signify “no date”.

NOTE: Only one sentence is used in a Footnote or Endnote citation, i.e., only one period or full stop is used at the end of any Footnote or Endnote citation. In a Bibliography, each citation consists of a minimum of three statements or sentences, hence each entry requires a minimum of three periods, e.g., a period after the author statement, a period after the title statement, and a period after the publication statement (publication/publisher/publication date).

More tips concerning MLA footnote example.

First Footnote or Endnote example of MLA format:

2 G. Wayne Miller, King of Hearts: The True Story

of the Maverick Who Pioneered Open Heart Surgery

(New York: Times, 2000) 245.

Bibliography example:

Miller, G. Wayne. King of Hearts: The True Story of the

     Maverick Who Pioneered Open Heart Surgery. New York:

     Times, 2000.

Use of ibid. and op. cit.:

Gibaldi (313) does NOT recommend the use of these old-fashioned abbreviations: ibid. (from the Latin ibidem meaning “in the same place”) and op. cit. (from the Latin opere citato meaning “in the work cited.”)

For Footnote or Endnote citations, if you should see the term ibid. being used, it just means that the citation is for the second mention of the same work with no intervening entries:

3 Ibid. 12-15.

More commonly, author and page number or numbers are now used instead of ibid., e.g.:

4 Miller 12-15.

For second or later mention of the same work with intervening entries, where previously op. cit. was used, now only the author and page number or numbers are used:

5 Miller 198.

Useful information: Free online plagiarism checker that shows the percentage of uniqueness of your paper.

Use of Superscript:

[Tab] or indent Footnote and Endnote entries 5 spaces from the left margin. Leave one space between the superscript number and the entry. Do not indent second and subsequent lines. Double-space between entries. Number Footnotes and Endnotes consecutively using a superscript, e.g., 7.

For Endnotes, you must use the same superscript number (as in your text) at the beginning of each Endnote in your Endnotes list. Start your list of Endnotes on a new page at the end of your essay. Remember to put the Endnotes page before the Bibliography, or Works Cited, or References page.
Examples of first Footnotes or Endnotes, subsequent Footnotes or Endnotes, and listings on Works Cited or References page:

Reference from the Bible, Catechism, or Sacred Texts:

Example in text:

An interesting reference was made to the picking of corn on the Sabbath.8

Example of Footnote citation, long form:

8 Matthew 12:1-8.

8 Mt 12:1-8.

Click here to see abbreviations of Books of the Bible

List under Works Cited:

The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition. New York: Doubleday, 1990.

Example in text:

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Because of its common origin the human race forms a unity, for ‘from one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth.'”9
Example of a first Footnote or Endnote citation for the above quote from Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part I, Section 2, Chapter 1, Article 1, Paragraph 6I, Reference #360, Page 103, would be:
9 Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1994) 360.

Subsequent citation of this same quote:

10 Catechism 360.

Citation of a different quote from the same book:

11 Catechism 1499.

List under Works Cited:

Catechism of the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Examples of Footnote or Endnote citations for other sacred texts:

12 Pius XII, encyclical, Summi Pontificatus 3.

13 Roman Catechism I, 10, 24.

Do not confuse Footnote and Endnote citations with explanatory Notes that some authors refer to as “Endnotes.” These Notes are not considered to be citations but are used to add comments, explanations, or additional information relating to specific passages in the text.

For detailed information on writing Footnotes and Endnotes, use the official MLA Handbook:

MLA Handbook 6th ed.

Information relating to MLA style as presented here has been simplified and adapted from this authoritative publication from the Modern Language Association of America.
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: MLA, 2003.

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