How to do APA footnotes

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Footnotes are a way for the author to provide additional content to their papers without distracting the reader from the text. They can be content based, providing a little more insight on an idea you raise in the text, or they can be used to provide copyright attribution for long quotes and passages.

Properly formatted APA footnotes can be placed at the bottom of the page. Alternatively, you can put them on their own page after the references. Either way, it’s important to know how to use footnotes properly.

In this guide, students can learn about the different uses for footnotes as well as how to format footnotes according to APA Style. All of the information here comes straight from the 7th edition of the Publication Manual.

How to use footnotes

There are two primary reasons why an author would use footnotes:

Using a footnote citation for content

As mentioned above, there are a few different ways to use footnotes. The more common way is when an author wants to provide extra insight on an idea without disrupting the flow of the text. This is called a content footnote.

Using a footnote citation for copyright attribution

When you are reproducing a portion of a copyrighted work, like an extended passage from a book or journal, it is necessary to provide copyright attribution. This can be done inside a footnote.

If it is an image or graph you are reproducing, copyright attribution can go in the figure note or table note.

Endnotes vs. footnotes: What’s the difference?

According to APA Style, the author may choose to place the footnotes on the bottom of the page on which the callout appears or at the end of the paper on their own page(s).

“Endnotes” is a function on many word processors that insert callouts and place the notes at the end of the document. While this is the same idea as footnotes, APA calls for a specially-formatted footnotes page.

To place the footnotes at the end of your document, check the preferences of the footnote function. You should be able to select “End of Document” instead of “End of Page.”

How to format APA footnotes

Always use the footnotes function of your word processor to insert footnotes. This will make it much easier to keep track of everything even as page content changes.

How to format footnotes correctly:

  • Always use the footnotes function.
  • The callout should be in superscript, like this.1
  • The callout should come after the punctuation, like this.2
  • If there’s a dash3—the callout comes before the punctuation, not after.
  • All callouts should appear in numerical order, like this.4

APA footnotes example

Now let’s have a look at what properly formatted APA footnotes look like in action.

Here is an example of a concise, relevant, and properly formatted footnote from “The role of renewable energy in the global economy transformation”, published in Energy Strategy Reviews.

… A transition away from fossil fuels to low-carbon solutions will play an essential role, as energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions represent two-thirds of all greenhouse gases (GHG).1


1This data refers to the situation in 2010 and it includes emissions from industrial processes. Emissions from the latter are released during the physical and chemical transformation of materials like clinker production. Since these industrial production processes are also consumers of energy, here we made the choice to combine them with CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion.

In this example, the footnotes function automatically created a dividing line at the bottom of the document. It has also reduced the font size by 1pt, which is neither required nor discouraged by APA.

The reason this is a good example, however, is because the footnote provides supplemental information that is both relevant and substantive.  The information would have been too distracting to appear in the main text, but it provides helpful insight on the author’s research method.

Published October 28, 2020.

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