Endnotes or Footnotes? What to use? This dilemma is probably as old as the concept of citation or referencing itself. No matter how qualified or profound a writer you are, it is absolutely okay if you are confused between these two methods of referencing. Footnotes and Endnotes both serve the same purpose in different ways. And this is the reason why there is usually so much confusion about which method to use.

If you are in college, you know that the research assignments and papers require a lot of references. In fact, it can be said that the students in college and university are the most confused about which method of referencing to use. The reason behind this is that while writing these assignments, there are usually a lot of things running in their mind. They need to make sure that they reference every line or word that is required. At the same time, they want to make sure that they do not end up doing a lot of references. Moreover, they want to make their assignment appealing to the eye as well and hence, they end up getting confused about which method of referencing they should use.

Why is there a need to use References?

Imagine that you have some extra information that cannot be included in the essay or the assignment that you are writing using parentheses. Moreover, it is really important for you to make sure that this information goes into the document. If it does not, the quality of your document will turn out to be very low. This is where footnotes and endnotes come in. They give the student or the writer a chance to include everything in the document that cannot fit inside the main text.

What are Footnotes?

In the simplest of words, footnotes are the notes placed at the bottom of a page inside a document. The purpose of using footnotes is to cite references or comments on a designated part of the text in the main body on the page above it. For instance, when a writer wants to add a comment that he thinks is interesting to a particular sentence he has written, but the comment is not directly linked to the argument of the paragraph, he can do this using a footnote. While doing this, the writer has to make sure that he adds the symbol of a footnote to the sentence for which the comment is made. Once this is done, the symbol can be reprinted again at the bottom of the page and the comment can be added.

Footnotes are not just used for interesting comments. They are also utilized by writers to refer to relevant sources of information. They are also used for citations. The writer can use footnotes to let the readers know where the information has come from or where the readers can look to find other sources on the same subject.

What are Endnotes?

Unlike footnotes, endnotes are placed at the end of a document. In simple words, an endnote is a note used by the author to cite a particular source or to make a comment or a small explanation at the end of a research paper. An endnote is placed sequentially keeping in mind where the reference to it appears in the document.

Just like in the case of a footnote, the endknots are signified in the text of a document with the help of a superscript number. But these notes, unlike the footnotes, are not placed at the bottom of the same page where the sentence or paragraph that is being referenced appears. Endnotes are generally placed collectively at the end of the document. Endnotes are basically used when the writer wants the reference to contain more text and at the same time not compromise on the format of the paper. In such a case, endnotes prove to be really helpful for an author.

Similarities between Footnotes and Endnotes

The biggest similarity that these two methods of referencing have is the purpose of their use. Both of these methods are supplemental to the main text of a document. They add to the information already provided in the main body of the document. Both of them explain some point mentioned in the document or they expand upon the material included in the document. One should note that both these referencing methods may, at times, also contain bibliographic information, background material, and other references.

To find endnotes or footnotes, all you need to do is look for a small number in superscript. Usually, this superscript is an indication of the usage of a footnote or an endnote. However, when there are only a few footnotes or endnotes to be used, the author may also use asterisks or other alphanumeric symbols. Every footnote or endnote in a document begins with the same number that the corresponding part of the text has been allotted. This is done in order to make sure that the readers or the students do not face much difficulty while understanding the references. The numbers or symbols are meant to tell the readers that which footnote or endnote is meant for which part of the text.

Differences between Footnotes and Endnotes:

The biggest difference between footnotes and endnotes is of their placement inside a document and it has already been mentioned above. The biggest difference is of where they appear within the text or the document. Footnotes, as their name suggests, appear at the ‘foot’ of the page while the endnotes appear at the end of the written word or the text. They might even appear on a different page altogether. If the endnotes are used in a book, they appear at the end of the book. Usually, the font used for the footnotes and the endnotes is smaller than the one used for the main text of the book or the document.

Advantages of using endnotes:

There are many advantages that the use of endnotes grants to the readers as well as the author. Some of these advantages are:

1. Less distracting

Since the endnotes appear at the end of the document or the book and not at the bottom of the page, they are quite less distracting than footnotes. The reader does not get distracted as there is nothing but the main text on the page. As a result, there is no break in the reading. The narrative of the text flows better. It does not break at all.

2. No confusion in the page

This is another advantage of using endnotes. Since they appear at the end of the document, they do not create any confusion for the readers. Their usage does not involve any cluttering up of the pages. A reader does not get tempted to see the references given below while going through a page. Thus, endnotes, in a way make sure that the reader goes through the document or the text smoothly and without any disturbance.

3. The reader can read all the notes at once

Since the endnotes appear at the end of the text or document, the reader gets a chance to read, comprehend, and contemplate all the notes and references of the document at once. The endnotes are generally a separate section of the research paper or essay, and thus a reader has the opportunity to finish the entire document first and then go through all the references. In this manner, endnotes help the author to make sure that the readers do not feel any confusion while going through his work.

Disadvantages of using endnotes:

1. Confusion while referencing:

Because of the appearance of the endnotes at the last of the document, many times, the author does not number them continuously but starts over for every new chapter. This might sound simple but this one tiny move ends up creating huge confusion for the readers. In the case of a huge book or research paper with multiple chapters or sections, it becomes quite difficult to comprehend the endnotes if the author has started over for every chapter in case of numbering. The problem is that while looking at the endnotes, the readers would have to remember the chapter number as well as the endnote in order to find the right one.

2. Continuous flipping of pages

While reading a long document in which endnotes have been used as the method of referencing, if the reader wishes to read the endnote as the reference to it appears in the text, it can be highly time-consuming. Academic works are filled with references and if the reader wishes to read the endnote reference instantly, he’ll have to flip the pages to the end of the document. Because of the high number of endnotes, he will have to do so a lot of time and thus, a lot of time will be wasted in the process.

3. Negetive Impact

Endnotes can even have a negative impact on how the readers may receive your work. If you are a student writing a research paper in college, you do not want to take that chance. Since the endnotes are placed collectively at the end of the document, they might give the readers or your supervisor an impression that you are trying to hide something in the fine print. They might give the readers an impression that the endnotes are like the disclaimer in an advertisement in which something is being hidden. This is perhaps one of the biggest disadvantages of using endnotes.

Advantages of using footnotes:

1. It quickens the process

Since the footnotes are available right at the bottom of the page, the process of comprehending the references is fairly quick. In fact, the process becomes quite easy for all readers. For the readers who are really interested to understand the meaning of the text, footnotes seem to be the right choice as they give them the chance to quickly take a look down the page to find out the reference they are looking for. Footnotes eliminate the need to flip through the pages and reach the end of the document every other minute. Thus, footnotes also make sure that the process is smooth in their own way.

2. Easy to Link

Moreover, because of the position of the footnotes, they allow the reader to immediately link the footnote or the reference to the idea and the subject of the text. The reader or the supervisor does not need to take the time to find a note among many at the end of the paper.

3. Automatic Process

Another advantage of using footnotes as the method of referencing is that while printing off specific pages of a document, the footnotes are automatically included. Thus, the usage of the footnotes lightens the workload of the writer a bit.

Disadvantages of footnotes:

1. Negative impact

Footnotes can end up negatively impacting the overall look of the page. As a student, you would obviously not want this. Since they are placed at the bottom of the paper, they can result in most of the text on a page unclear. They can end up destroying the visual appeal of a page and even an entire document or book.

2. Acquire More space

Many times, footnotes can be really long and thus, they can end up acquiring more space than the main text on the page. Although this issue is considered okay and acceptable in legal scholarship, one cannot deny the fact that it destroys the visual appeal of the page. As a student, you should always remember that the main or basic purpose of the document that you are writing is to impart information and knowledge. Although the references are also a part of the information, they are still the secondary priority while writing the document.

3. Difficult to manage

So, keep in mind that if the footnotes are way too lengthy, then there is a risk that they could end up dominating the page. Moreover, if there are columns, charts, or multiple tables on a page that contains a small portion of the text, it could become difficult for the author to decide where to place the footnotes on the page.