There – I’ve made clear my bias, I’m not a fan of footnotes. Or endnotes.
For one thing, they get in the way of my reading. That’s ironic, in that one of the claimed virtues of footnotes is that they don’t get in the way of the reader, unnecessary details such as authorship or extra detail or explanation can be relegated to the foot of the page (or the end of the paper/ book). If readers wish to follow up or find out more, the footnote is there to give the necessary information; if readers do not want to follow up, then they just carry on reading. The Center for Teaching and Learning at Yale Universtity puts it this way, in a page titled Why Are there Different Citation Styles?
When developing a historical explanation from multiple primary sources, using footnotes instead of inserting parenthetical information allows the reader to focus on the evidence instead of being distracted by the publication information about that evidence. The footnotes can be consulted if someone wants to track down your source for further research.
If the writer thinks the author or the source cited is important, then that information can still be mentioned in the narrative in the text, with full details in the footnote. When the author or source is not considered important, why intrude on the flow of the reading?
While footnotes are often used in the humanities, especially history, they are often used in the sciences as well. It could be that both disciplines deal in facts and a well-read reader in the field will know the facts, so don’t break up the reading.
Science isn’t all about facts, it’s about theories and ideas, thus the notion that knowing the team behind the research and the recency of the research makes author-date citation systems popular Continue reading