About Footnote Formats and Bibliographies

Many students become so frustrated over the many and varied requirements of academic formatting that they often choose to ignore the matter--at their peril! Our space here is too limited to go into the different styles and requirements in detail. But some general observations may help you as you resign yourself to spending money on an up-to-date formatting manual that applies to your particular department.

Remember that the two most extensively used manuals are, first, the MLA Manual (Modern Languages Association) that serves as the guide for English, history, and other humanities fields. The second is the APA Manual (American Psychological Association) that is standard for the social sciences. The Chicago Style is a third alternative, although it is not as widely used. In addition, individual departments may have their own requirements, and you must be thoroughly familiar with them at all times. Do not assume that anyone will tell you about changes! Keep up to date by asking questions and checking at intervals.

Furthermore, if you are planning to publish your writing in a professional journal, be aware that each journal will have its own requirements (as if those above were not enough!), and that if you want that journal to publish your article, you must conform exactly to the publisher's way of doing things.

In academic formatting, every space, period, comma--indeed, everthing--counts. You cannot afford to be sloppy because then you'll have to do your work all over again. The best strategy is to thoroughly learn the format style that you must use, then use it correctly at all times. Eventually it will become second nature and you will not have to work so hard to remember it all. There is software available to help you, and some of it is very good. Just be certain that it is the most up to date software and that it really is the format style that you are required to use.

Finally, in recent years the various powers-that-be seem to have decided that a variety of small changes is good. What worked from the last edition of your manual, therefore, may no longer apply if a new edition has been issued. Consult the latest edition.

Regarding Bibliographies

All academic writing involves research, and all research sources must be listed at the at the end of your completed paper.

That part is clear enough. But confusion reigns over a number of other points. So let's try to sort it all out.

First, Terminology:

Bibliography is the generic term for any list of sources used to complete a paper.

Works cited is the term preferred by the MLA (Modern Language Association). So if you're in a humanities discipline, your bibliography page will be called, Works Cited.

References is the term preferred by the APA (American Psychological Association). If you're in the social sciences, your bibliography page will be called, References.

Occasionally you may be asked to produce an annotated bibliography. "Annotation" is simply the act of making specific notes within the bibliography about your individual sources. Why annotate? Annotation will help you remember the gist of a reference and its usefulness (or limitations), especially when you are working with large numbers of references. Annotation is also a scholarly sharing, a kind of shorthand you are providing to other scholars who are trying to decide whether or not to seek out a source you have already examined.

Annotations need not be long. They should, however, contain the following, unless you are advised otherwise:

  1. The citation of the article of book. See the manual appropriate to your discipline for the correct citation form.
  2. An adjoining paragraph giving the name of the author, the genre, a rhetorically accurate verb (such as "asserts," "argues," "suggests," "implies," "claims," etc.) and athat clause, containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work.
  3. An explanation of how the author develops and/or supports the thesis. For example, chronological order, case studies, surveys, statistical studies, etc.
  4. A statement of the author's apparent purpose, followed by an "in order to" phrase.
  5. A description of the author's intended audience.
  6. A statement about how this material can be useful to your research.

(Thanks to G. McNenny)

Type your annotations using this format:

Author, name of book or article, name of book or journal containing the article, publication facts.
[skip down 2 lines] 
Begin annotation aligned with author's name; no indentation throughout. Single spaced unless you are instructed otherwise.
ASK in your department if you have any doubts!

Here is an example of a completed annotation of a bibliographical entry:

Perry, Richard J. "Why Do Multiculturalists Ignore Anthropologists?" The Chronicle of Higher Education. 4 March 1992:52.
In this opinion piece, Richard Perry, professor and chair of anthropology at St. Lawrence University, argues that those who have newly discovered multiculturalism, such as scholars in literary criticism and sociology, should turn to anthropology for a more comprehensive understanding of issues that anthropologists have been exploring for decades. He faults the new multiculturalists with a perspective that "is based on superficial glimpses that keep the other at arm's length, preserving and even heightening the sense of mystery and fundamental difference" (52). He develops his thesis by summarizing the approaches that these scholars have taken in their studies of other cultures, pointing out their naive reactions and their "tendency to view non-Western cultures as stable, tradition-bound, timeless entities [, a position which] shifts us dangerously back toward viewing the others as beings who are profoundly and inherently different from ourselves" (52). Perry calls attention to this in order to make those in other disciplines aware of the resources available to them in anthropology and to correct superficial approaches to the study of ethnicity and culture. Perry is apparently addressing people in a wide range of disciplines, from sociology to literary studies. This piece is useful to me in its critique of current approaches to ethnicity and multiculturalism in that it calls attention to the ethnocentrism of many scholars' positions, their failure to comprehend complexity in other cultures, and their reluctance to confront the material conditions of other cultures, such as the economic patterns, the food-getting strategies, and the kinship systems.


Adrien, J., Faure. M., Perrot, A., Hamerury, L., Garreau. B., Barthelemy, C., & Sauvage, D. (1991).
Autism and family home movies: Preliminary findings. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 21. 43-49.

Adrien, J., Perrot, A., Sauvage, D., Leddet, I., Larmande, C., Hameury, L., & Barthelemy, C. (1992). Early symptoms in autism from family home movies. Acta Paedopsychiatrica. 55. 71-75.

American Psychiatric Association. (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed., rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

Berger, J. (1994 February 12). Shattering the silence. New York Times. p. 21.

Berkell, D. (1992). Autism: Identification, education, and treatment. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Berkson, G. (1993). Children with handicaps: A review of behavioral research.Hillsdale. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Dahlgren, S., & Gillberg, C. (1989(. Symptoms in the first two years of life: A preliminary population study of infantile autism. European Archives of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences. 238. 169-174.

Fay, M. (1986, September). Child of silence. Life. 9. 84-89.

Gallagher, B., Jones, B., & Byrne, M. (1990). A national survey of mental health professionals concerning the causes of early infantile autism. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 46. 934-939.

Happé, G. (1994). Annotation: Current psychological theories of autism: The "theory of mind" account and rival theories. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 35(2), 215-229.

Useful References for Graduate-level Academic Writing

The Fundamentals

  1. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (for social sciences)
  2. MLA Handbook for Writers fo Research Papers (for humanities)
  3. Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers, A Complete Guide
  4. Strunk and White, The Elements of Style
  5. Williams, Joseph M. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace

Helpful for Mathematics Students
Higham, Nicholas J. Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences

Helpful for Science Students
Wilkinson, Antoinette M. The Scientist's Handbook for Writing Papers and Dissertations

Helpful for Social Science Students
Gebremedhin and Tweeten. Research Methods and Communication in the Social Sciences 
Lane, Lindenfelser, and Powell. Style Manual for Political Science