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Differences Between Footnotes, Endnotes, and Parenthetical Citations

There is a lot of terminology when it comes to citations and giving proper credit to sources. Three of the terms that sometimes get mixed up are footnotes, endnotes, and parenthetical citations. Each is different, as we will see below.

Footnotes vs. Endnotes

Both footnotes and endnotes are common writing tool features implemented when using various citation styles. They provide writers with a clear method in directing the reader to further information on the research topic and additional citations. Though the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, footnotes and endnotes have a few key differences.

The most obvious difference between footnotes and endnotes is the placement of each within a paper. Footnotes are found at the bottom of a page (i.e. in the footer) and endnotes are located at the end of a complete document, or sometimes at the end of a chapter or section.

While the content in footnotes and endnotes can look the same, they serve different functions. Footnotes are used as a citation vehicle for a short citation, while endnotes can contain more text without compromising the format of the paper. They each also typically use a different numbering system, which allows the reader to determine where they should look for the additional information (either in the footer of the page, or at the end of the document).

APA format only uses parenthetical citations/reference list. MLA format can have footnotes and/or endnotes, but more commonly uses parenthetical citations and work cited. Chicago format almost always has footnotes or endnotes.

Both footnotes and endnotes tend to be supplemented by a bibliography or works cited page, which displays the complete citation of each source the writer cited in each footnote and endnote throughout their paper. Depending on the citation style, the footnote/endnote entry provides more specific location information than the entry in the bibliography. For instance, when citing a whole book in Chicago Manual of Style, the page number of the cited information is contained in the footnote, whereas this localized information is omitted from that source’s entry in the bibliography.

Footnote Entry Example:

F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (New York: Scribner, 1920), 25.

Bibliography Entry Example:

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise. New York: Scribner, 1920.

Parenthetical Citations

Parenthetical Citations are citation tools commonly used in APA and format MLA format. They usually contain the cited works author’s name, and an additional piece of information that further describes the source, usually the publication date of the source or the page number where the cited material can be located within the source.

Parenthetical Citations are used directly following the quote or cited material written in the document. Typically, they come at the end of the sentence that contains the cited material. They let the reader know when the author is using information or words that are not their own. While they demonstrate that a citation is being made, they should not be treated as a substitute for quotation marks when an author’s words are being presented exactly. They should also be included even when paraphrasing someone else’s work.

Each parenthetical citation made in a document should correspond to an entry in a works cited page or reference list at the end of the document. The entry in the works cited or reference list provides further detail about the source being cited.

Parenthetical Citation Example:

(James, 2009)

Reference List Entry Example:

James, Henry. (2009). The ambassadors. Rockville, MD: Serenity Publishers.


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