Documentary note style

In a documentary note style, references are provided in footnotes at the foot of the page or endnotes at the end of the text. In books, endnotes are placed either at the end of the individual chapter or at the end of the book. In the text, documentary notes are identified by a numeral, usually in superscript. This numeral is placed after the concluding punctuation, unless it refers only to part of the sentence; in that case, it is placed after the relevant word or part of sentence. Attached to the numeral is a footnote at the bottom of the page or an endnote at the end of the chapter, book, etc.

Several style manuals

There are several style manuals for documentary note styles, for instance New Oxford Style Manual (2016) and The Chicago Manual of Style (2017). The MHRA Style Guide is another notes style manual, issued by the Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA).

Note that The Chicago Manual of Style (2003) contains information about two kinds of reference styles; the one we refer to here is the documentary notes style. The Chicago Manual also outlines an author-date style. For more information about that, see

We provide basic information about documentary notes referencing. For more detailed information, see, for instance,
  • New Oxford Style Manual (2016)
  • The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.
  • K. L. Turabian's Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
  • The MHRA Style Guide: A Handbook for Authors, Editors, and Writers of Theses (2013) is available on the MHRA website:

AWELU information about documentary note styles

As there are different versions of documentary note style, we here present the basics of this type of reference style to help you see what you need to check with the guidelines of the specific style you have been asked to follow in your writing:


In-text references

When sources are cited, a numeral in superscript is placed after the sentence to direct the reader to a footnote/endnote, where the reference is provided. The numeral thus functions as a cue to the reader. The first time a source is referred to, a full reference is given in the note. In the example below, the writer has quoted a passage. Right after the sentence in which the quotation is provided, a superscript numeral is placed. The reference information is then given in a footnote. That footnote starts with the same numeral. Note that numerals in footnotes/endnotes are not in superscript.


In a war of unprecedented length and intensity, anxiety disorders became endemic, even among those who willingly served within range of the enemy’s weapons. Fear of the possibility of being shamed in the future was itself a cause of postwar anxiety, when the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder might surface without warning – an alarming possibility in a society in which an "operative opposition lay between healthy masculinity and a pathological lack of male behaviour".11
11. Paul Lerner, Hysterical Men: War, Psychiatry, and the Politics of Trauma in Germany, 1890–1930 (Cornell University Press: Ithaca and London, 2003), p. 8.
Comment: The reference in the footnote/endnote looks very much like the entry in a Bibliography, the difference being that the author's name in the footnote/endnote is given in first name - last name order, whereas it is given in reverse order in a Bibliography.
When the same source is referred to again, a short reference is provided:
Lerner suggests that although Freud had been relegated to the margins of medical debate since 1900, not least because of his address to sexual development, his pre-war thinking remained highly influential, particularly the thesis that neurotic pathology should be understood in terms of the conversion of unprocessed affect into physical symptoms.13
13. Lerner, Hysterical Men, pp. 185–7.
Comment: The short reference consists of the last name of the author plus page numbers or (as is the case in our example) of the author's name, a short form of the title of the cited work plus page numbers.
Examples come from:
Fox, P. (2006). Confronting Postwar Shame in Weimar Germany: Trauma, Heroism and the War Art of Otto Dix. Oxford Art Journal, 29(2), 247-267. 


The list of references in documentary note styles is called a Bibliography. As references are given in full the first time they occur, the information in the bibliography and in the footnotes/endnotes is almost the same. In some publications, there will be no separate bibliography, but only notes. If there is a Bibliography, the entries are listed in alphabetical order.

Reference to book

Format for footnote / endnote:

First name Last name, Book Title (Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication), p. page number.

Note that

  • the author's first name is often given in full
  • book titles are capitalised and italicised
  • place of publication, name of publishing company and year of publication should be placed within parentheses

The second time a reference is made to a work, a short reference is used, for instance:

Last name, page number.
Last name, Short Title, page number.

Note that if several works by the same authors have been used, a short title, or year of publication, must be added for clarity.

Format for entry in the Bibliography:
Last name, First name, Book Title (Place of publication: Publisher,
     Year of publication)
If the book has more than one author, their names should be listed in the same order as on the book's title page, separated by commas. If there are more than three authors, only the first writer's name is listed, followed by 'et al.'.

Reference to journal article

Format for footnote / endnote:

First name Last name, "Article Title", Journal Title volume (Year): page number.

Note that

  • the author's first name is often given in full
  • titles of articles are written within quotation marks. In British publications, single quotation marks are sometimes used.
  • journal titles are capitalised and italicised
  • volume number is always provided; regarding issue number, practices vary.
Format for entry in the Bibliography:
Last name, First name. "Article Title", Journal Title volume (Year):
     inclusive page numbers.
Use of DOI

Most style manuals recommend the inclusion of a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) if available. The DOI is often found on the article title page. For more information about DOI:s, see 

Reference to chapter in edited book

Format for footnote / endnote

First name(s) Last name, "Title of chapter" in Name of editor (ed.), Title of Book (Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication), inclusive page numbers.
Format for entry in Bibliography
Last name, First name. "Title of Article" in First name Last name
     (ed.), Title of Book, Publisher, Place of publication, Year of
     publication, inclusive page numbers of article.

Reference to webpage

Format for footnote / endnote:

First name Last name, "Title of web page", paragraph number or section number, Title of Website (date of publication). <url>, accessed Date of access.</url>

Note that

  • if there is no stated author, start with the title of the page
  • as web pages are not paginated, paragraph numbers can be used to identify the part of the text being referred to.
  • The Oxford Style Manual stipulates that the date of publication (if available) should be placed in parentheses; The Chicago Manual of Style states that "last modified" is inserted before the date.
Format for entry in Bibliography
Last name, First name(s). "Title of web page", Name of
, (date of publication). <url>, accessed Date of

Further formatting

Capitalisation of titles

Note that in documentary note styles, the initial word and all words except articles (a/an/the), prepositions, and conjunctions are capitalised in book titles as also in article titles. For general information about capitalisation in English, for instance about the use of capital letters in so-called proper nouns (names of people, places, institutions, etc.), see 


When the same source is referred to in subsequent notes, the Latin word 'Ibid.' can be used. Ibid., short for ibidem, means'in the same place'. To avoid long strings of 'Ibid.' if few sources are referred to repeatedly (for instance in the analysis of a specific text), page numbers can sometimes be provided within parentheses in the running text. Students using a documentary notes styles should check with their teachers if this is appropriate in the assignment.

Documentary notes style online resources

The Chicago Manual of Style offers some free online resources, as does the MHRA:

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