Referencing Guide: The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Footnotes

Putting together references and footnotes can be a tricky and complicated task for many students. However, when it comes to essay writing or dissertation writing, using footnotes and references is one of the most important elements of your work. If you don’t use the right footnotes, your grades are likely to suffer to a great extent. Most universities are strict when it comes to the right usage of footnotes and referencing. Therefore, it is important for students to understand the finer details of using them. So, here are a few do’s and don’ts of using footnotes.

Do’s

  • Use the appropriate number of footnotes on each page. Make sure that you are not cluttering any pages. If you feel that there are too many footnotes on a page, you can move them to the next page
  • Insert footnotes that are in the correct numerical order. This is extremely important in order to ensure that the reader is not confused
  • Check and double-check the placement of the footnote. Each page should include the sources that have been used
  • Ensure that you are following the correct style of referencing. There are several differences in the styling of the footnotes based on the type of referencing, and some referencing styles do not require footnotes at all
  • Use footnotes only when they are absolutely necessary, and they provide actual citations and references
  • If you’re using Microsoft Word, it is always a good practice to insert footnotes using the references tab. This will automatically number your footnotes, saving time and effort

Don’ts

  • Don’t use any short-form words or unknown abbreviations in the footnotes. There is a set format that needs to be followed
  • Don’t use any informal language in footnotes. Even though they are not part of the main text of the essay or the dissertation, footnotes need to be written in a formal way
  • Don’t mix up two footnotes. This is a major risk in case you are using two studies from the same author. Mixing up the footnotes will mess up your work
  • Don’t use a combination of numbers and symbols to mark your footnotes. This will unnecessarily complicate your work, and you may lose track of the numbering
  • Don’t make your footnotes too long. You need to keep them brief and only provide the required information to the reader. Longer footnotes can take up a lot of the space on your page, while also distracting the reader.