Research paper footnotes are used for various purposes. Different documentation styles have their own rules and limitations on the use of footnotes. Hence the first thing to find out before using them is whether they are permitted by the style of writing asked for by your instructor, for your assignment. You should also check whether there are any instructions in the guidelines which specifically ask for footnotes or forbid its use in the assignment.
The main purpose of a footnote in a research paper assignment is to give information on the sources to the readers, as they are reading through. Even though footnotes never provide elaborate bibliographical information, it will give the reader the most important details like the name of the book, the author’s surname and the page number. Footnotes also serve the purpose of giving additional information on certain points in the research paper. These could be background information or some related aspects which the audience might be interested in, with regard to the discussed topic, even though not relevant enough to be included in the research paper.
Even though footnotes were very commonly used in earlier times, some documentation styles considered it a distraction for the readers and brought about changes in their rules forbidding its usage. Hence, before using research paper footnotes it is necessary to find out if the documentation style used for your assignment permits its use. Chicago style is one documentation style which encourages footnotes. In fact, in the humanities style citation method of Chicago style, footnotes are mandatory. On the other hand, APA style does not permit footnotes. But there are also clauses which refer to the use of footnotes in the style, in exceptional cases. The purpose and format to be used are also mentioned in the style manual. MLA style of documentation also allows the use of footnotes.
Footnotes appear at the bottom of the respective pages and are linked to the text with a superscript. Numbers are usually used for the purpose of linking the source to the information. The numbers appear on the top of the last word of the citation. The information at the bottom of the page will be numbered accordingly, linking the information to the citation. Each style has a different requirement of the details given in the footnotes. Hence you should check the style guidelines and your assignment guidelines in order to determine what all information should be given in your research paper footnotes.
If you are using the footnotes for the purpose of giving additional information on a certain point of discussion, then number it accordingly. Do not include irrelevant or insignificant information in the footnotes. Whatever you write as a footnote should be very precise. Do not elaborate on any point in the footnote.
Research paper footnotes should be added if and only if permitted. Remember to study the formatting style well before using footnotes. Refer to the style manual and the research paper guidelines if you are not sure of how to use them. If you are opting for a custom research paper, remember to mention the instructions on footnotes.