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*History: Mining Footnotes/Endnotes: Using Footnotes

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For more about searching for secondary sources, see the general History guide

For more about searching for primary sources, see the Primary Sources: History guide

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Why Do Historians use Footnotes?

Shane Landrum, Florida International University, explains how and why historians use footnotes.

Need Help with Citation Styles?

The GSU Library has copies of all major style manuals at these locations:

  • Reference Collection (Library North 2)
  • Research Support Desk (Library North 1; left-hand side of User Services Desk).

Or, try this online resource, which includes citation information for the major style manuals:

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

What Are References?

Every scholar (INCLUDING YOU!) must cite their sources, both primary and secondary.

This is to allow other scholars (including you!) to follow the trail of evidence being used to support an argument.

References can be in several formats, depending on the citation style used.
Most historians use the Chicago Manual of Style, also known as Chicago style.

In Chicago style, the most common formats for references are:

  • Footnotes: at the bottom of a page of an article or book
  • Endnotes: at the end of the entire article or book
  • Bibliography: list of works cited (not always provided; if there is a bibliography, it will be at the end of the book/article)

How Do I Start?

  • Find a secondary source (usually a book or an article) related to your topic
  • Look for the most up-to-date secondary sources (check date of publication!)
  • Check source’s references (endnotes, footnotes, bibliography)


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Citation styles for history

Historians generally use the Chicago Manual of Style or its derivative, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (commonly known as Turabian, after its author). Though not identical, the two styles are very similar.


The Chicago/Turabian style offers two systems:
1) notes and bibliography (humanities style)
2) author-date

Historians prefer the humanities style because it accommodates a wide variety of sources. Documentation is presented by notes (either footnotes or endnotes) and a bibliography.

Ask for hard copies of these manuals at the Research Support Desk on Library North 1.

See also Chicago Manual of Style Online (new!!)


Who Is Ms. Ibid., and Why Does She Publish So Much?

Common Chicago Manual of Style abbreviations:

ed. or trans.: "edited by" and "translated by." Useful names to know, but distinct from a work's author. For a collection of essays etc., usually the editor's name is what's given as author, i.e. "Smith, John, ed., Soooo-EEE!: Essays on Hog Calling."

ibid.: "in the same place." Citation is to the same source given in previous footnote or endnote.

n.d.: "no date." Means the date of publication is unknown.

n.p.: "no place." Means the place of publication is unknown.

para.: paragraph, can be used when citing material on a website

For a complete list of scholarly abbreviations in the Chicago Manual of Style, see section 10.43 of the hard copy manual (or search for section 10.43 in Chicago Manual of Style Online).

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