Mla Footnotes Vs Bibliography

Using Footnotes and Endnotes in MLA Format

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Endnotes and footnotes supply your readers with additional information. Some disciplines and advanced courses require the use of one or the other, and MLA format dictates the format for both types of notes. Superscript, consecutive numbers steer readers to documentation instead of the traditional in-text citations found in MLA.

While both types of notes refer readers to sources in your Works Cited page, the difference between footnotes and endnotes lies in where they appear.

  • Footnotes appear at the bottom of each individual page.
  • Endnotes appear in one location at the end of your paper, but before your Works Cited.

There are two types of footnotes and endnotes:

  • Explanatory notes
  • Bibliographic notes

Endnotes are the type of supplemental notes preferred under the MLA format, but your assignment instructions help you know which type of note (if any) to use.

Bibliographic vs. explanatory footnotes and endnotes in MLA format

The two types of footnotes and endnotes in MLA format include explanatory and bibliographic notes.

  • Bibliographic notes—These notes give your readers an additional source of information should they wish to pursue a topic. In other words, it gives them an additional source to consult. See the below examples of the footnote or endnote that would correspond to an in-text reference.
    1. See Ogletree, chapter three, for a more in-depth look at how dreams of this nature affect your conscious thoughts.
    2. For more research that found similar results, see Richter 29-39, Cook 128-131, Barnabile 49-57.
  • Explanatory notes—These footnotes and endnotes are also known as content notes. They attempt to explain something that might be too much of a digression in the text of your paper. See the below example:
    1. In her first interview, Siess spoke of a different viewpoint, but that was before most of her convictions were formed on the subject (124).

Numbering footnotes and endnotes in MLA format

To mark footnotes and endnotes in MLA format, superscript Arabic numbers are used. Any punctuation is placed before the superscript number with the exception of a long dash, which goes after the number. Never use an asterisk (*), brackets (< >) or any other type of symbol to note the use of footnotes or endnotes.

  • When Siess was a teenager,2 her views were more in align with her parents, but as she grew older, her thoughts slowly changed into what she believes today.
  • Many of these same researchers3—despite what their research revealed—still do not believe that it is the cause.

Formatting Footnotes and endnotes in MLA format

The numbers used as superscript references correspond to footnotes and endnotes in their respective location within your paper.

Footnotes—As of the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook, there are no specifications for setting up footnotes, which reiterates the MLA format’s preference for endnotes. However, the previous edition dictates the following formatting:

  • Place four single space, blank lines between the text of your paper and the list of footnotes
  • Use single spacing between each footnote
  • Indent the first line of each footnote five spaces
  • Keep subsequent lines in line with the left margin
  • Use a period and a single space after the number for each footnote
  • Follow with the footnote itself

Endnotes—Endnotes are placed on a separate page in MLA format. The setup requires that you follow a few guidelines:

  • Keep the title (“Notes” is multiple endnotes are used, “Note” if only one is used) centered on the page
  • Avoid extra formatting of the title
  • Number the notes to match the corresponding notes in the body of your paper
  • Double space each note
  • Indent the first line of each endnote five spaces
  • Keep subsequent lines in line with the left margin
  • Use a period and space following each endnote number
  • Follow with the endnote itself


  1. For further reading, see Miller, chapters 11, 12 and 14.
  2. To see how Siess felt during this time, her first book highlights her views and positions as they were formed during her teenage years. See Siess, chapters 20 and 21.

Whether you use footnotes and endnotes largely depends on each assignment and the preferences of your instructor. If you are unsure about using these types of notes, ask if they should be used in addition to the normal in-text citations used in MLA format.

MLA Endnotes and Footnotes


MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2018-01-16 01:42:04

Because long explanatory notes can be distracting to readers, most academic style guidelines (including MLA and APA, the American Psychological Association) recommend limited use of endnotes/footnotes; however, certain publishers encourage or require note references in lieu of parenthetical references.

MLA discourages extensive use of explanatory or digressive notes. MLA style does, however, allow you to use endnotes or footnotes for bibliographic notes, which refer to other publications your readers may consult. The following are some examples:

     1. See Blackmur, especially chapters 3 and 4, for an insightful analysis of this trend.

     2. On the problems related to repressed memory recovery, see Wollens 120-35; for a contrasting view, see Pyle 43; Johnson, Hull, Snyder 21-35; Krieg 78-91.

     3. Several other studies point to this same conclusion. See Johnson and Hull 45-79, Kather 23-31, Krieg 50-57.

Or, you can also use endnotes/footnotes for occasional explanatory notes (also known as content notes), which refers to brief additional information that might be too digressive for the main text:

     4. In a 1998 interview, she reiterated this point even more strongly: "I am an artist, not a politician!" (Weller 124).

Numbering endnotes and footnotes in the document body

Endnotes and footnotes in MLA format are indicated in-text by superscript arabic numbers after the punctuation of the phrase or clause to which the note refers:

Some have argued that such an investigation would be fruitless.6

Scholars have argued for years that this claim has no basis,7 so we would do well to ignore it.

Note that when a long dash appears in the text, the footnote/endnote number appears before the dash:

For years, scholars have failed to address this point8—a fact that suggests their cowardice more than their carelessness.

Do not use asterisks (*), angle brackets (>), or other symbols for note references. The list of endnotes and footnotes (either of which, for papers submitted for publication, should be listed on a separate page, as indicated below) should correspond to the note references in the text.

Formatting endnotes and footnotes

Endnotes Page

MLA recommends that all notes be listed on a separate page entitled Notes (centered, no formatting). Use Note if there is only one note. The Notes page should appear before the Works Cited page. This is especially important for papers being submitted for publication.

The notes themselves should be listed by consecutive arabic numbers that correspond to the notation in the text. Notes are double-spaced. The first line of each endnote is indented five spaces; subsequent lines are flush with the left margin. Place a period and a space after each endnote number. Provide the appropriate note after the space.

Footnotes (below the text body)

The 8th edition of the MLA Handbook does not specify how to format footnotes. See the MLA Style Center for additional guidance on this topic and follow your instructor's or editor's preferences.

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