Ask the MLA
Are notes compatible with MLA style?
Yes. Two kinds of notes are suitable with the parenthetical citations used in MLA style: content notes and bibliographic notes. These may be styled either as footnotes or endnotes.
Content notes offer the reader comment, explanation, or information that the text can’t accommodate. In general, they should be used only when you need to justify or clarify what you have written or when further amplification of your point is especially helpful.
Example in Text
See Green, especially 1-7, and also Hinnant, for further description and discussion of the courtship novel. Green considers Mansfield Park a courtship novel, including it in a list of such novels in the period 1740-1820 (163–64).
Green, Katherine Sobba. The Courtship Novel 1740-1820: A Feminized Genre. UP of Kentucky, 1991.
Hinnant, Charles H. “Jane Austen’s ‘Wild Imagination’: Romance and the Courtship Plot in the Six Canonical Novels.” Narrative, vol. 14, no. 3, 2006, pp. 294-310. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20107392.
In MLA style, bibliographic notes are best used only when you need to cite several sources or make evaluative comments on your sources.
For strong points of view on different aspects of the issue, see Public Agenda Foundation 1-10 and Sakala 151-88.
For a sampling of materials that reflect the range of experiences related to recent technological changes, see Taylor A1; Moulthrop, pars. 39-53; Armstrong et al. 80-82; Craner 308-11; and Fukuyama 42.
Published 29 February 2016
How to Do Footnotes
Footnotes are powerful tools, they are used to provide ancillary information and also citations in the footer of a page. Most often, editors of books, journals and other media will ask that parenthetical information be included in footnotes as a way to control the prose of the document. When used properly, a footnote is an excellent way to add to work or to quickly cite or reference quotes and other secondary information.
There are several footnote formats.
Method A: Footnote Citations
- Create the works cited or bibliography prior to entering footnotes. Footnotes are typically a condensed version of a citation at the conclusion of a text. Any content included in a footnote will typically be done last. Finish the paper in its entirety, including all references used, and then add footnotes.
- Navigate to the end of the sentence where the footnote will go. If you are using a word processor like Microsoft Word, navigate to the references tab and select ‘footnote’ and then ‘insert footnote’ You should see a number “1” to the right of the sentence, and another in the footer. In the footer, you will type all of the information that you want to be included in the footnote.
- The footnote symbol should be stamped after any punctuation used. The corresponding number appears outside of the sentence.
- Include the citation for a reference or quote. Should you be using a footnote in the place of an in-text citation, it is necessary to include the surname of the writer or editor, along with the title of the work, edition, series, location of publication, date of publication and the name of the publisher.
- Citation of an online resource. In order to cite a website, or another online source, in a footnote you will need the name of the writer, or the editor of the website, along with the title of the website, the URL and the date it was accessed.
Method B: Utilizing footnotes as a way of providing further information
- Using footnotes as a means to provide clarification of information to the reader. Rather than adding information about the source in the footnotes, it is possible to use the footnote as a place to provide related information – often taken from sources that are not directly cited in the body of the paper.
- Keep it brief. If an essay quotes a source that talks about something specific and you need to clarify this, the footnote after the number will be brief, direct and include citations.
- Use this method of footnote moderately. Overdrawn footnotes, with in-depth explanations, are off putting. They distract and confuse the reader. If you end up having a lot of additional information, consider adding to the body of the paragraph.
- Often time, editors will suggest that additional information be included in parenthesis. Remember to take into account the prose and the flow of information.
- Make sure that the footnote is necessary. Prior to using footnotes to further reference sources, ask your teacher how you should be citing sources and if footnotes are required. Most often MLA footnote format asks writers to make use of in-text citations, instead of a footnotes. In this case, footnotes are reserved for supplementary information.
MLA Format Examples
For anyone required to adhere to the MLA (or Modern Language Association) guidelines for footnote citation, there are a number of things that need to be done when authoring an MLA research paper that requires foot and/or endnotes.
MLA Paper Example
If you choose to indent your paragraphs as recommended in the MLA Handbook (132), begin a new paragraph by typing the first word 1/2″ (1.25 cm or 5 spaces) from the left margin. The entire essay is typed double-spaced, except for Footnote citations at the foot of the page. Title of essay centered, 1” (2.5 cm) margin on all four sides, page number at upper right hand corner 1/2″ (1.25 cm) down from the top.
If your instructor prefers that paragraphs not be indented, you must still double-space your lines, but you will need to quadruple-space between paragraphs. More empty space is created for the instructor to write comments when paragraphs are not indented.
How to Use Footnotes
Footnotes must be listed numerically and consecutively, both in your essay and in your Footnote citation. Footnote numbers must be superscripted. In your text, add a superscripted number immediately after the quote or reference cited with no space.
The Footnote citations must be added at the foot or bottom of the SAME page where you have cited the sources. All first Footnote references must be cited in full. Subsequent references of the same work may be shortened to include only the author’s last name and page number. If the source cited has no author stated, use whatever minimal information is needed to identify the work previously cited, e.g. short title and page number. Formerly, the Latin terms ibid. and op. cit. were used but they are no longer preferred.
It is recommended that you use Endnotes in place of Footnotes. This will eliminate the need to allow sufficient space to accommodate all the required Footnote entries at the bottom of the same page where your citations occur. If your instructor has no preference, use the much simpler Parenthetical Documentation in place of Footnotes or Endnotes.
For details on how to handle Footnotes that continue onto the next page, please see MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers 6th ed., pages 299-300.
Begin your Footnote citations four lines (quadruple space) below your text. Follow the spacing as shown in the example below, e.g. indent the first line 1/2″ (1.25 cm), and add a space after the superscripted number. Do not indent the second and subsequent lines of Footnotes. Single-space Footnotes within each citation as there is not much room at the bottom of the page. Double-space entries between citations, and be sure to list them in the same consecutive order as cited in the text of the essay.
Mr. K. Smith
18 April 2006
The Many Facets of Taboo
The World Book Encyclopedia defines Taboo as “an action, object, person, or place forbidden by law or culture.”1
An encyclopedia of the occult points out that taboo is found among many other cultures including the ancient Egyptians, Jews and others.2
Mary Douglas has analyzed the many facets and interpretations of taboos across various cultures. She points out that the word “taboo” originates from the Polynesian languages meaning a religious restriction.3 She finds that “taboos flow from social boundaries and support the social structure.”4
In reference to Freak Shows at circuses, Rothenberg makes the observation that people who possess uncommon features and who willingly go out in public to display such oddities to onlookers are acting as “modern-day taboo breakers” by crossing the “final boundary between societal acceptance and ostracism.”5
In traditional British East Africa, between the time of puberty and marriage, a young Akamba girl must maintain an avoidance relationship with her own father.6
Looking at taboo in a modern society, Marvin Harris gives an interesting example of the application of cultural materialism to the Hindu taboo against eating beef.7
5 Kelly Rothenberg, “Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society,” 1996, BME/Psyber City, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://bme.freeq.com/tatoo/tattab.html>.
6 Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo (New York: Random, 1918) 17.
7 Marvin Harris, “The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle,” Current Anthropology 1992, 7:51-66, qtd. in Stacy McGrath, “Ecological Anthropology,” Anthropological Theories: A Guide Prepared by Students for Students 19 Oct. 2001, U. of Alabama, 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.as.ua.edu/ant/Faculty/Murphy/ecologic.htm>.
If your instructor considers your Footnote citations to be adequate documentation, you may not be required to complete a Works Cited, References or Bibliography page. Otherwise, a separate page must be added at the end of your paper entitled: Works Cited, References, or Bibliography to include all of the above Footnote citations. See sample below.
More information about MLA Footnote format.
Douglas, Mary. “Taboo.” Man, Myth & Magic. Ed. Richard Cavendish. New ed.
21 vols. New York: Cavendish, 1994. 2546-2549.
Dundes, Alan. “Taboo.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 2000 ed.
Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. New York: Random, 1918.
McGrath, Stacy. “Ecological Anthropology.” Anthropological Theories: A Guide
Prepared by Students for Students. 19 Oct. 2001. U. of Alabama. 18 Jan. 2005
Rothenberg, Kelly. “Tattooed People as Taboo Figures in Modern Society.”
1996. BME/Psyber City. 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.bme. freeq.com/tattoo/tattab.html>.
“Taboo.” Occultopedia: Encyclopedia of Occult Sciences and Knowledge. Site created
and designed by Marcus V. Gay. 18 Jan. 2005 <http://www.occultopedia.com/t/ taboo.htm>.
Writing an MLA style essay does not need to be an intimidating task, particularly if you’ve taken the time to create an outline, learned how to cite footnotes and created your supplementary pages (title and bibliography.) Putting forth the effort to carefully research your topic, and to create finished paper that is organized and flows nicely from one paragraph to the next is the best way to ensure that you well on your way to a passing grade and a strong career for academic writing.