There are two purposes of a footnote: to document the facts presented in your essay and to democratize the process of doing history. As to the first purpose, you do not have to footnote every single statement of fact in your essay. Certain well-known or easily discovered facts do not need to be footnoted (i.e., Lyndon Johnson became president upon the death of John F. Kennedy in 1963; Abbie Hoffman tried to levitate the Pentagon in 1967). Nonetheless, you should always footnote direct quotations. You should also cite any important and non-obvious information that is critical to your argument. As to the second purpose of a footnote, you should cite anything that you think the reader might want to know more about upon reading your essay. This allows the reader to check your facts, contest or verify your interpretation, and / or find out more about the topic at hand. Thus, any statement that is surprising, particularly interesting, or potentially open to dispute should be footnoted.
Example Footnotes: All footnotes should indicate the author (where known), title, date of publication, and page numbers.
- Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction (New York: Broadway Books, 1998), 23.
- Brian Drake, “Groovy: A History of Sixties Pop Music on Vinyl,” Journal of Rock and Roll 17 (November 2010): 1-15.
5. Herman E. Talmadge to Lyndon B. Johnson, Mar. 15, 1967, Richard B. Russell Library, Athens, GA, Box 12, Folder 2, p. 3.
18. Dean Rusk, oral history interview by Dennis Farney and David Ignatius, Oct. 3, 1971.
For more examples see Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).