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Mining References - Humanities: Using Footnotes

Why Do Scholars Use Footnotes?

Shane Landrum, Florida International University, explains how and why historians use footnotes. Many of these concepts are applicable to other humanities disciplines. 

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.

The styles used most often in the humanities are Chicago Manual of Style and MLA Style ("MLA" stands for Modern Language Association)

For information on interpreting APA (American Psychological Association) references and references from other social-science styles, see our Mining Reference - Social Sciences research guide.

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)

In MLA style, the most common format for references is

  • In-text citations: parenthetical references included in the text
  • Footnotes or endnotes (see above)
  • Works Cited list (a bibliography)

How Do I Start?

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



Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user katiew

Need Help with Citation Styles? Online Style Guides

The Research and Citation section of Purdue University's OWL site also includes helpful quick overviews and sample citations from the main citation styles (including Chicago, MLA, and APA

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. ***The new Chicago Manual (2018) is discouraging use of ibid. in current references, but anything published prior to 2018 may include "ibid." in its references.

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).

Creative Commons licensed image by Flickr user Helga Weber