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History Students' Research Guide and Tools

In this guide, find guidance on when and how to use Chicago style footnotes and citations. In the future, this guide will also provide help searching for historical resources of academic quality using the library catalog, databases, and area archives.

What's a footnote?

A footnote is a note at the "foot," or bottom, of a page. In the main text of a document, a superscript number (sitting slightly above the normal line of text) alerts the reader to the existence of a footnote.

Footnotes usually DO NOT replace a bibliography (see this example paper). When in doubt, follow your instructor's rules for formatting.

Where and how do I insert a footnote?

Examples of where to insert the footnote number in-text:

How to insert the footnote number and footnote:

This will insert a superscript number in the text of your document, and prompt you to write the corresponding footnote at the bottom of the page. Even if you add your footnotes out of order, Word will automatically update the footnote numbers for you.

When do I need a footnote?

Quoting, Paraphrasing, or Summarizing Another Source

In this case, the footnote serves as a citation for the source material you're using. If you're familiar with MLA or APA styles, a footnote is used like an in-text citation: use it to tip off the reader that the information in a sentence is coming from somewhere or someone else.

Elaborating on an Idea or Detail

You can also use a footnote to say more on a topic without interrupting the flow of your paper. When you do this using your own words and thoughts, it is called a substantive note.

If you would like to add commentary to a footnote providing source information (that you have quoted, paraphrased, or summarized), make sure the source comes first. Seperate the citation from your commentary with a period.  

Basic Footnotes for Common Sources

Footnote for a Book
1. Author First Name Last Name, Book Title: In Italics (City of Publication: Publisher, Year), page range of referenced content.

For example:

1. Clarence Decker, The Victorian Conscience (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1952), 33-35.

Footnote for a Journal Article
2. Author First Name Last Name, "Article Title in Quotes," Journal Title in Italics volume number, no. issue number (Publication Year): page range of referenced content.

For example:

2. Reed Schneider, "100 Years After the Titanic," Voyager: Northeast Wisconsin's Historical Review, 29, no. 2 (2013): 58-59.

Footnote for a Newspaper

3. Author First Name Last Name, "Article Title in Quotations," Newspaper Title in Italics, publication month and day, publication year.

For example:

3. A. Moncrieff Sim, "If Titanic Had Arrived," New York Times, April 18, 1912.

Further Guidance on Footnotes/Bibliographies

Get Help Online:

OWL Purdue's Chicago Style Guide -- a friendly and example-heavy break-down of how to footnote for many types of sources

Chicago Sample Paper -- scroll to the end to see a Chicago-style bibliography, with explanations of the rules being followed

Citing a Photograph or Digital Image

Get Help in Print:


The 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is available for in-library use at the Reference Desk on the 2nd floor of Elihu Burritt Library. A reference librarian will be happy to help you learn to navigate this manual, so that you can find the information you need. 

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