It happens to all students at some point: in the haste to complete a research paper and ensure that it conforms to the required style, certain terms form a mental collision and thus create confusion. Such is often the case with a footer and a footnote, which is understandable considering that both appear at the bottom of a page.
The Purpose of a Footer
Think of a footer as a time-saver -- a way to breed consistency in a paper while conveying information. Exactly what information is contained in a footer is up to the writer. Flip through some books or papers; you're bound to find many different examples. At the least, footers often contain the page number, but they also can include other identifying information, such as the chapter title, book title or author's name. This information is often centered at the bottom of the page, but it doesn't have to be. For example, a footer that contains only a page number might be positioned flush-left on even-numbered pages and flush-right on odd-numbered pages.
The Purpose of a Footnote
Although footnotes have largely fallen out of favor, they can be valuable to a reader because they contain ancillary information about the text on the same page. Readers are alerted to a footnote by a super-scripted number that appears at the end of a sentence. In papers, footnotes are numbered consecutively, from first to last; in books, they might be numbered consecutively by each chapter. By tracing the corresponding number to the bottom of the page, the reader can glean additional information. Think of a footnote as a type of postscript -- not important enough to be included in the text itself but interesting enough that the writer wants you to know about it. For example, a reference to a research study of high school students might contain a statistic, follow by a super-scripted number. The footnote might read as follows: “On the day this study was conducted, it was 'senior ditch day' at the school and enrollment was about half of the usual count.”
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