Posted by: nancyisanders | February 20, 2015

Citing Research and Using Footnotes

Thanks, Carole Jenks, for asking such a great question about using footnotes when we make our sidebars. For those of you who didn’t see Carole’s comment she posted, here it is:

Hi Nancy,I enjoyed your blog post about sidebars. I was wondering if you could send a screenshot of an example of how you do your footnotes for your manuscript? Do you put little numbers in your manuscript of where you got your information? Thank you for all of your help.

The answer is, yes, I put little numbers in my manuscript. For example I put my curser next to the word in my document I am citing my research for. Then I click on the Toolbar at the top of my Word document and click INSERT. Then I click FOOTNOTE and follow the commands in the pop-up box to put it at the bottom of my page. A little number is inserted automatically at the spot of my text that I had my curser. And at the bottom of my page it allows me to paste the title of the book along with the page number of where I found my info.

Here’s a screen shot of some notes I’m taking on FROGS right now:
Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 9.31.42 AM

Here’s some info on the process I took to create that page of research notes:

As you can see on the 3-week calendar we’ve been following, typically, I schedule a time for research most days for an hour or so before I sit down to write each section I’m going to write.

Sometimes I sit in a chair and take notes by hand about what I read.
• I often have my outline on a clipboard sitting next to me.
• As I read the books I either add a new fact to my outline or add a second or third source to a fact that’s already on my outline.
• I do this by hand.

Sometimes I sit at my computer desk to read my research books and take notes on my computer about what I read.
• I have a little devise called a book chair. It holds the book open while I’m reading.
• I can easily look back and forth from the book to my laptop and type in my notes into my outline in a very fluid method

There are two methods I use
Method #1:
• On short projects such as a picture book or an easy reader, I’ll often insert a footnote.
o I state a fact.
o I insert a footnote
o In the footnote I copy and paste the entry for the book from the bibliography I’ve already created for my project.
o I add in the page number.
o The benefits of doing this is that all your complete citations are already in place if you need it to show an editor.
o The negative part about doing this is that you can have so many footnotes on each page that you only have 1 or 2 paragraphs of text. It gets bulky and can also be more time consuming.

Method #2:
• On long projects such as Frederick Douglass for Kids, I use a special code.
o Since I’ve written numerous children’s books on African American history, I actually own several hundred key research books on my topic.
o Each of these books has its own special code.
o But just this past week I’ve been working on a manuscript about frogs. I borrowed a bunch of books from the library to use as my research books.
o I gave each of these books a special code, too.

On my bibliography, I make a second copy of it and type in the code I’m using for each book. For a short project, I just use alphabet letters. Sometimes I go from A-Z or sometimes I just use the first and last letters of the author’s name. Such as One book’s code could be RS if the author is Richard Sherman and another book could be TJ if the author is Tim Johnson.

Now on a manuscript where I’m literally using hundreds of books for my research, instead of making a second copy of my bibliography to keep track of my code, I just list my books in a long list using 1 or 2 key words from each title. I put the code next to it. I format my manuscript to have 3-4 columns of text.
• I can have all my books with their codes on 1-2 pages like this.
• If I forget what the code is for each book, I can search the document for it.
• If I own the book, I write the code inside the front cover
• If I borrow the book, I put a sticky note inside the front cover with the code on it.

So when I’m reading that book and plugging in notes on my outline, here’s what I do:
I simply write down the code and the page number I found that fact on. For example I might write down this fact:
• The largest frog in the world is the Goliath Frog.
o After that fact, I will write down RS24.
• This means I found that fact in the book by Roger Sherman on page 24.
• Then when I’m reading a different research book and I find that same fact, I go back there and add TJ42 next to the RS24. This means I found the same fact on page 42 of the book by Tim Johnson.
o I like to have 3 sources listed next to each fact.
• The benefits to this system is that
o your outline doesn’t get bulky with lengthy footnotes at the bottom of each page. Each fact simply has 3 little codes next to it.
o You can also move very quickly through your research by adding in such a simple reference for each fact.
o When you’re reading hundreds of pages of research, this system is my preference to use
• The negatives to this system is that if your editor requires footnotes you have to go back through and plug in each of the citations from the bibliography along with the page number.
o But I just try to do this in chunks so it doesn’t get too overwhelming.

As you can see on the screen shot of the research on FROGS I am currently doing, I used both footnotes at the bottom and also a little code. That’s because I’m reusing this research for a long project so started using little codes instead of pasting the title of the book in the footnotes.

I hope this helps show the process that works for me. If any of you have tips on how you actually do your research, let us know!


  1. Hi Nancy,I appreciate your help and I was able to add footnotes to my manuscript today. I am up late trying to get my manuscript ready to submit to Kaeden books soon. Hopefully I can send my manuscript by Monday. I wanted to let you know I appreciate your blog and all of the help that you have given me and to other writers. Thank you and have a great night!Carole Jenks

    • Carole, I’m so excited you’re almost ready to submit. Yay for you! And thank you for your kind words. Have a great weekend!

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