Differences Between Footnotes, Endnotes, and Parenthetical Citations

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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.

No matter which of these types of in-text citations you use, you will need to include a works cited list or bibliography at the end of your paper that includes the full references for your sources. Your instructor may also ask you to create an annotated bibliography where you also include a short paragraph summarizing and evaluating each source along with its full reference.

Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:

What is a footnote?

A footnote is a type of in-text citation. The information in the text body is marked with a superscript number1 (raised number), and the corresponding source citation and note is at the bottom (or the foot) of the page the superscript appears on.

footnotes example


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.


Solution #1: How to choose between using footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical in-text citations

1. Look at the citation style’s guidelines; what does it recommend to use for in-text citations?

Most citation styles favor a certain in-text citation format, but allow flexibility to use notes if needed.

Generally, use parenthetical in-text citations for these styles

  • MLA — Notes are allowed in some cases (bibliographic notes, content notes), but are not often used. Click here for more information.
  • APA– Notes are allowed in some cases (content footnotes, copyright attribution), but are not encouraged. Click here for more information.
  • Harvard
  • Chicago, author-date

Use notes for:

  • Chicago, notes-bibliography

2. What in-text citation style does your instructor, journal, colleagues, or even area of expertise usually use?

Ask others or examine guidelines from your instructor or journal. Context matters! For example, Chicago style has two styles of citation: notes-bibliography (uses footnotes) and author-date (uses parentheticals).

  • Notes-Bibliography:  Often used in the humanities.
  • Author-Date:  Often used in the science and social sciences.

Solution #2: How to create small, raised numbers (superscript) numbers for footnotes

The small, raised numbers you see in footnotes are called superscript. It looks like this:

See the example of superscript at the end of this sentence.1

Below, we will cover how to create superscript in a Google Doc, in a Word document, and via HTML.

Google Doc

  1. Highlight the number you want to turn into superscript.
  2. Go to the “Format” section and follow this page:  Format –> Text –> Superscript
  3. Select “Superscript” to format the number.
  4. If you’re using a keyboard, you can also try the following key combinations:
    • Windows:   [Ctrl] and [.]
    • Mac:  [Command] and [.]

Word document

  1. Highlight the number you want to turn into superscript.
  2. On the “Home” editing bar/menu, look for the superscript button. It looks like this: [X2]


Place the number you want as super script with the tags <sup>1</sup>.

Find free citing help for MLA format at www.easybib.com! We also have guides to help anyone make APA citations for books, websites, and other sources.

Should the DOI be included in parenthetical citations?

The DOI is not included in parenthetical citations. The DOI is usually only included in a source’s full reference in the bibliography.

For more information, see these guides on citing a journal in MLA and citing a journal in APA.

What is the difference between a parenthetical citation and an in-text citation?

A parenthetical citation is a form of in-text citation. The only difference is it is enclosed in parentheses unlike a narrative citation (APA style) or a citation in prose (MLA style). Narrative citation and citation in prose are incorporated into the text and act as a part of the sentence along with the text.

APA style


Rutledge (2018) urged the need for a proper education system.


The need for a proper education system is urged (Rutledge, 2018).

MLA style

Citation in prose:

First occurrence: Bill Rutledge urged the need for a proper education system.

Subsequent occurrences: Rutledge urged the need for a proper education system.


The need for a proper education system is urged (Rutledge).