I have come across some documents (not publicly viewable) that state that footnotes (for the purposes of adding further information) are not permitted in an academic text writen using in-text citations. This seems nonsense to me and I strongly suspect it is a misunderstanding that has solidified into a rule in this particular academic sidestreet.

Could anybody point me toward a reputable source (or at least a definitive example) indicating either way on the issue?

  • 1
    Look in the APA Manual, it contains a short section on footnotes. To summarize: Footnotes are allowed in APA style, but discouraged.
    – user5645
    Dec 14, 2016 at 8:26

2 Answers 2


The fallacy here is the idea that there are general rules at all. There are no general rules about what is allowed in an academic paper, or any other kind of writing. There are specific style guides -- some public, some specific to a particular institution or publication -- and their rules cover the particular institution or publication that publishes or ascribes to them.

So, the only requirements that you should worry about are those imposed by the particular publication or institution you are writing for, and those rules should be contained in a particular style guide.

If two style guides differ on some rule, this is not a disagreement, it is merely a difference. If two soldiers from different armies exchanged clothes, then both their respective commanders would consider them to be out of uniform. But if they met a soldier of a different army in the uniform of that army, they would not consider them to be out of uniform, even though the uniform they were wearing was different from their own.

  • I understand this. My question is about following a category of style guides. For example, it is perfectly correct to say "when using an in-text citation style, those in-text citations should not list the title of works" – this is a general rule that holds for those style guides. My question is whether there is a definitive statement within some or all of those style guides on this question.
    – dbmag9
    Dec 13, 2016 at 14:23
  • In that case, you should name the style guides you are interested in in your question. Also, you should address why you can't find your answer by looking at those style guides.
    – user16226
    Dec 13, 2016 at 14:44
  • I am writing essays for a teaching qualification; the rubric does not state a particular style guide but rather that citations should be in the in-text style (I appreciate there are multiple; they give examples). One of the guidance documents states "Do not use footnotes" in a paragraph about referencing. Some tutors from this organisation interpret that to mean no footnotes at all. I would like to have an example of a style guide with in-text citation style that explicitly permits/bans footnotes.
    – dbmag9
    Dec 13, 2016 at 16:27
  • You should clarify your question accordingly. But the real answer it to consult the authorities who issued the rubrics you are working under. Only they can say what they actually meant by them.
    – user16226
    Dec 13, 2016 at 16:54

footnotes (for the purposes of adding further information) are not permitted in an academic text writen using in-text citations

That is 100% true according to some specific guidelines, while it's not for others. Citation style is not a universal law. It is a set of conventions used by a community. Therefore rules change from field to field. In my institution for instance the guidelines for authors specify that footnotes must be really short, and not used to write extensive explanations. They are a guide for authors, not a "right or wrong" type of law.

On the other hand, in my literature studies, academic papers all had huge extensive blocks of footnotes, sometimes longer than the text itself.

So, I don't know what style book you are reading from, but what you see as "nonsense" can be perfectly reasonable according to a specific policy.

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