Skip to main content
Ontario Tech acknowledges the lands and people of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation.

We are thankful to be welcome on these lands in friendship. The lands we are situated on are covered by the Williams Treaties and are the traditional territory of the Mississaugas, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, including Algonquin, Ojibway, Odawa and Pottawatomi. These lands remain home to many Indigenous nations and peoples.

We acknowledge this land out of respect for the Indigenous nations who have cared for Turtle Island, also called North America, from before the arrival of settler peoples until this day. Most importantly, we acknowledge that the history of these lands has been tainted by poor treatment and a lack of friendship with the First Nations who call them home.

This history is something we are all affected by because we are all treaty people in Canada. We all have a shared history to reflect on, and each of us is affected by this history in different ways. Our past defines our present, but if we move forward as friends and allies, then it does not have to define our future.

Learn more about Indigenous Education and Cultural Services

McGill Guide: Footnotes

In legal writing, materials must be referenced and cited properly to avoid charges of plagiarism. The standard method of citation is the footnote (although particular types of documents may use in-text citations). This page focuses on the use of footnotes in legal writing. In legal writing, footnotes are the most common way of citing material. There are two types of footnotes: textual and citation. Textual footnotes reference material/research of related interest to the subject but which does not directly impact the focus of the paper. Citation footnotes cite the source of the argument or quotation used. A single footnote can contain both textual and citation information.

For additional support when creating your footnote references, read the tip sheets on McGill Citations and Using the Canadian Guide for Legal Citations

When should I use footnotes?

As per the McGill Guide section 1.3.1, footnotes in legal writing are to be used only:

  1. The first time a source is referenced, where a full citation in this first footnote referring to the source is required.
  2. At every subsequent quotation from the source.
  3. At every subsequent reference or allusion to a particular passage in the source.

How are footnotes indicated in legal writing?

Footnotes are indicated by superscripted numbers. Do not use Roman numerals or special characters in your footnotes.
  • As a general rule, place the footnote number at the end of the sentence after the punctuation.
  • When referring to just one word, piece of legislation, or case, place the footnote number directly after the word.
  • When quoting from an English Language source, place the footnote number after the quotation marks or punctuation. e.g. “ . . . ”1 or “ . . . ”.2
  • Footnotes appear on the same page below the text to which they refer.
  • For more guidance, check the McGill Guide at section 1.3 for “Footnote: Rules” 

How do I combine more than one citation into a single footnote?

Do not use multiple footnote numbers if you are referencing more than one source in a single point in your paper. If appropriate, combine the citations in one footnote. The different citations in a footnote are separated by a semicolon, and the entire footnote ends with a period. When combining multiple sources in a single footnote, place the footnote number at the end of the sentence or paragraph. See the McGill Guide section 1.3.4 for an example.

What is an introductory signal in a footnote?

In legal writing, there are a variety of ways to inform the reader to the presence of additional information that supports, contrasts, disagrees, and or contradicts the particular source cited and the way it is used in the text. These are called introductory signals and are placed at the beginning of the footnote. If citing more than one source in the footnote, you may need to use different introductory signals. For examples, see McGill Guide section 1.3.6.

When providing support for your references, insert a comparison, or a rebuttal to a point or argument made. This can be done in the footnotes by indicating the relationship of the cited source to your argument through introductory signals.

Introductory signals are broken divided into several categories, and each category has its own particular introductory signal to guide the reader as to how the cited information is being used by the author. When using introductory signals, no punctuation marks are used between the signal and the source cited.

This list is not exhaustive, but it covers some standard introductory signals:

See: The cited source directly supports the proposition.

See also: The cited source provides additional support, but it is not the most important source to note, or it does not have a clearly or directly related point.

But see: The cited source is in partial disagreement, but it does not directly contradict it.

See e.g.: The cited source is one of numerous that provide support, but the other sources are not cited.

See generally: The cited source is in support and provides background information.

See especially: The cited course is the strongest supporter out of the various sources provided.

Cf: Cf means confer, or compare. The cited course is sufficiently analogous, or it lends significant support to the relevant point.

Contra: The cited source is in direct contradiction.

Below is an example of an introductory signal as it would appear in your footnote: 

See Madelein Cantin Cumyn, L’administration du bien d’autrui (Cowansville, QC: Yvon Blais, 2000) at nos 24-51; Emmanuel Gaillard, Le pouvoir en droit privé (Paris: Economica, 1985) at 150-155. See also Paul Roubier, Droits subjectifs et situations juridiques (Paris: Dalloz, 1963) at 185-187.

For more examples of introductory signals, see McGill Guide section 1.3.6.

Introductory signals are not used in two situations:

  1. When the source in the footnote is referencing a direct quote in the main text;
  2. When the source’s title appears in the main text for the first time. In this case, only include the other remaining elements of the citation.

Examples of these situations can be found in the McGill Guide in section 1.3.6. 

Can I give more information about the citation in the footnote?

Should further information be necessary to clarify how a cited source supports the in-text proposition, the author may choose to include parenthetical information within footnotes. The information provided (e.g., brief description or quotation) should be no longer than one sentence. The parenthetical information must begin with a lowercase letter. However, if the quotation begins with a capital, make it a lower case in square brackets (e.g., “[t]he . . .).

This additional information may require a pinpoint reference; see McGill Guide section 1.3.7 for more information on how and when to use parenthetical information in your paper.

What is the difference between Ibid and Supra?

The first time you cite a source in your writing provide a complete citation in a footnote. However, subsequent citations can use ibid or supra, which are used to refer back to the original full citation.

Ibid is used when you need to refer to the same source used in the footnote immediately preceding the ibid note. Ibid can also follow a supra or another ibid. When using ibid, indicate the pinpoint reference, unless it is the same as the previous footnote.

However, if the full citation is immediately before the note, you must use ibid. For example:

1McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 9th ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2018) at 1.3.2.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

Supra is only used when the note refers to a source for which there has already been a full citation referenced. Supra note # is written in the footnote to refer to the necessary footnote of the previously cited material. Supra only refers to the source and not the pinpoint, so you must reiterate or add the necessary pinpoint reference. You may include “and accompanying text” after Supra note if you want to also direct the reader to the relevant main text (e.g., Supra note 2 and accompanying text.).   

For example:

1 McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 9th ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2018) at 1.4.2;

2Ontario Tech University, “McGill Citation Style: Your Quick Guide to Citing Legal Sources based on Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation The “McGill Guide” McGill Law Journal, 9th Edition (2018)” (December 2019), online (pdf): Ontario Tech Library Citation <Legal_Citation_9thed_OT_Dec19REV-2.pdf> at nos 4–5.

3 Ibid.

McGill Law Journal, supra note 1 and accompanying text.

5 Ontario Tech University, supra note 2 at 5.

For additional supports, the Ontario Tech library has reference copies under the call letters KE259.C35 2018; a quick guide is also available.


McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 9th edition, (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2018).

Ontario Tech University, “McGill Citation Style: Your Quick Guide to Citing Legal Sources based on Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation The “McGill Guide” McGill Law Journal, 9th Edition (2018)” (December 2019), online (pdf): Ontario Tech Library Citation <Legal_Citation_9thed_OT_Dec19REV-2.pdf>.