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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Using footnotes

Footnotes should primarily be used to reference a text or an idea you have cited in your dissertation. You can also use them to give more substantive information, but as a general rule, you should keep footnotes to a minimum. If the material is an important part of your argument, it should go in the main body of your essay; if it isn’t, ask yourself whether it is really essential to include it at all.

More substantive footnotes are useful in the following cases:

  • to point the examiner/reader to other works which explore a certain issue in more depth. Here you are demonstrating that you are aware of wider debates, etc., which are pertinent to your work, but it may be distracting to go into such detail in the main body of your dissertation. You should only use a footnote in this manner if the material you are presenting is directly relevant to your argument, however: it should not be used just to list other items you have read on the subject.
  • to give an explanation of a term that may be unfamiliar to your reader, or which has an unusual meaning in this context. Again, this is material which would disrupt the flow of your argument too much if it was included in the main part of the dissertation.
  • to let your reader know that you are aware that a particular term or argument is problematic in a specific way, and to give your reasons for employing it anyway.