Footnotes Frequently Asked Questions

Footnotes Frequently Asked Questions

I have never written a paper using footnotes before. Should I panic?

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No. Please do not panic! I will try to explain as clearly as I can what my expectations are. The style of citations historians use in footnotes is based on a writing handbook called the Chicago Manual of Style.

What is a footnote citation?

A footnote tells your reader where exactly you got your information. It lists the bibliographic citation and the page number (where relevant) that your information or quote came from.

When should I use a footnote?

You should use a footnote anytime you use an exact quote.

  • You should also use a footnote whenever you paraphrase information that is unique to one author or primary source.
  • You do not need to footnote information that can be considered common knowledge. For example, it is common knowledge that the Civil War ended in 1865. So it would not be necessary to cite a source when you note that piece of information.
  • What I should put in the footnote?
  • The footnote tells your reader how to find the information that you just gave them. You should tell them the author, title, publication information, and, where possible, page number. (The latter is often not possible for online sources.) This informationshould be formatted using whichever style your professor has specified. In this class, I ask you to use the Chicago Humanities Style, sometimes called Turabian.
  • What is the difference between the full citation and the short citation?
  • The first time that you cite a source, you give all of the information about when and where it was published. After the first time, you only give an abbreviated version of that information. In both the full and short citation you always give the author (if there is one), part of the title, and, where possible, the page number you are referring to.
  • How do I insert a footnote?
  • The full version of MS Word—which you can get for free from FIU if you do not already have it—has a function that inserts and automatically numbers the footnote. In current versions of MS Word, this function is located in the “References” tab and is called “Insert Footnote.” I recommend that you use Word. But Google Docs and most other word processing programs also allow you to insert footnotes. In Google Docs, it is under the “Insert” menu.
  • Where do I put the footnote?
  • You should insert the footnote immediately after the period at the end of the sentence. In history papers, we do not like to see footnote numbers inserted in the middle of sentences. Here is a very short video tutorial that shows someone doing this:

Does the footnote go before or after the period and the quotation marks?

period >> close quote >> footnote number

It should look like this:“…at the end of the story.”[1]

Do I also need to put a citation in parentheses in the text?

No. Using in-text citations with parenthesis is a completely different method for citations that you may be familiar with from high school or other FIU classes. Use footnotes instead of parenthetical citations in your text. You definitely do not need both.

Do I need a bibliography or list of citations at the end of my paper?

No. I do not require a bibliography or citation list at the end of your papers. Instead, I ask that you use footnote citations. Other professors may ask you to do both. I am not requiring both.

Can you give an example of a full citation and its short version?

Here is an example of a full citation.[2]

Eric Foner, Give me Liberty! An American History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), 127.


Note: you add 127 at the end because that is the page number where the information is given. This is called the full citation because it gives you all of the bibliographic information.


The next time that you make a footnote about this same source, you should not give the full citation. You only need to list what is called the short citation. So a second footnote might look like this.[3]

Foner, Give Me Liberty!, 127.

Notice the shortened title and that the footnote numbers are sequential. MS Word does the latter automatically for you.

Can you show me what the citations look like for the papers I have to write?

Yes. For every paper I will provide you with a list of the sources you are required to use, and include the full and short citations. You can cut and paste these citations into your footnotes. Of course you will have to add your own page numbers where relevant. Because I provide this information for each paper, there is no excuse for having incorrectly formatted citations.

Where can I get more information about what professors expect for citations?


[1] Blank Sample

[2] Eric Foner, Give me Liberty! An American History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012), 127.


[3] Foner, Give Me Liberty!, 127.

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