What Are the Different Types of Footnote Formatting?

Andrew Kirmayer

Writing an academic report or a research paper requires the author to pay careful attention to footnote formatting requirements. Some industries and institutions have their own specific formatting and may either provide their own style guide or follow a more standard one. The standard footnote formatting styles include those of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA). APA style footnotes focus on the exact research source and its date, and are used for psychological and scientific papers, articles, and journals. Documents in language and literature disciplines tend to stress MLA style, which focuses more on the author than details on the source.

Footnotes can be found at the bottom of the page in a text.
Footnotes can be found at the bottom of the page in a text.

In contrast to endnotes that go at the end of a document, footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page where a reference appears. Footnotes are used to cite quotes from books or articles, sources of statistics, and concepts derived from the ideas of another author’s argument. Information that is used to describe and define concepts in detail can also be cited with its appropriate source. How this information is structured depends on the footnote formatting used.

Footnote formatting for technical and scientific information follow APA guidelines.
Footnote formatting for technical and scientific information follow APA guidelines.

Footnote formatting for technical and scientific information follow APA guidelines. The research source is emphasized because similar articles published by the same author may reflect out of date information. Details that are crucial to the ideas expressed in the paper can be referenced using citations within the text. The references can otherwise be highlighted by a superscripted number or asterisk that corresponds to the specific footnote.

MLA style is commonly used to format footnotes.
MLA style is commonly used to format footnotes.

In APA-style footnotes, the last and first name of the author appear at the beginning, followed by the article title or website in italics. It is optional to add the date, in brackets or parentheses, on which the information was retrieved. The website address, if appropriate, must be placed at the end of the footnote.

Another major style of footnote formatting is MLA. This format focuses on the author, but if the author’s name is not known, the website can be mentioned in italics first. The author’s name goes first in other cases, followed by the date the information was found in month, day, and year format. Information on the source title or website address follows this information. This kind of footnote formatting, like other aspects of MLA, is designed to provide concise and brief citations in the text, and is tailored to the needs of scholastic disciplines.

The asterisk symbol may be used to denote footnotes.
The asterisk symbol may be used to denote footnotes.

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Discussion Comments


For those who are working on an academic paper that requires footnotes which is the standard choice for footnote formatting?

I didn't hear our professor give any paper formatting guidelines except to produce a paper up to academic standards. I suppose the other students might know what that means but I am torn between choosing APA or MLA style. Perhaps I might be a bit more concerned about this than I should be but I like to get things right the first time. I am enrolled in a sociology class if that helps at all. I am currently learning towards APA style as it seems to come up a lot in sociology papers.


Formatting different types of footnotes can be a real pain if you are in a time crunch and need to get an assignment in quickly. There are lots of free programs online that help you with proper footnote formatting. You can easily select the style you need, such as APA or MLA, among other lesser known styles.

Another great thing about the online programs is that they also do a great job of putting together bibliographies, even annotated ones.

As a tip though, you should always take a minute and manually check through the footnotes provided is they can contain the occasional mistake. It is always better for you to catch any errors than to have your professor find them.


@Mammmood - Here’s a tip that most people may not know about.

You don’t have to pay for software to create your footnote or bibliography. You don’t even have to download it.

If you go to EBSCO Host, it has a feature where it will automatically display the footnote or bibliographic reference for the source that you are citing.

You can even have it display a Chicago footnotes format if you want. It’s right there, from the moment you cite the source.


I think that keeping up with the requirements for a proper footnotes format in your academic paper is a science in itself. For years I had a thick style manual with me when I wrote papers in college.

Then something wonderful happened. People started developing software that would create the footnotes and bibliographies for you. I bought a package and it was a real time saver!

For once, I could focus on writing the paper and not the mechanics of how the footnotes or bibliographies were supposed to appear. The software even sorted the bibliography at the end of the paper, and applied the necessary italics, underlines or bold fonts to the text, as required by the particular format.

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