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What Is the Difference Between a Footnote & a Bibliography for MLA Citation?


The Modern Language Association Handbook (7th edition) provides guidelines for how to incorporate specific components, such as footnotes and bibliographies, within your writing. Footnotes can provide your readers with additional ideas that are not part of the body of your paper but are still relevant to the content or they can immediately direct readers to additional sources that provide further discussion related to the topic of your paper. The bibliography includes the full citation information for all of the sources used within your paper -- both in the body and in the footnotes.

The Footnote

Content footnotes give additional information about the content, and bibliographic notes provide additional sources related to the content. The footnote is found at the bottom, or foot, of the page. It is marked by a superscript number within the body of the text. The superscript number also appears at the bottom of the page, along with the additional explanatory or bibliographic information.

If specific sources are used to write content footnotes, this information should be cited through parenthetical citations within the footnote and then with full citation information within the Works Cited, or Bibliography, page. Bibliographic footnotes point your readers to specific, related outside texts without providing much commentary on them. Full citation information for these sources should also be included on the Works Cited page.

The Bibliography

The Bibliography, or Works Cited, page is the last section of a paper. It compiles the full citation information for any source cited in or consulted for the paper into one location and allows your readers to get an overview of the works informing your thinking. The full citation information found in this section tells your readers when and where a source was published, whereas a footnote might only include the title of the work. Additionally, no information besides the citation information is included within the bibliography.

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About the Author

Christine Maddox Martorana has been writing professionally since 2003. Martorana has been teaching college-level composition and journalism classes since 2007. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English at Florida State University.