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The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (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 document will focus 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.

When should I use footnotes?

As per the McGill Guide, footnotes in legal writing are to be used only:
1) The first time a source is referenced.
2) A full citation in this first footnote referring to the source is required.
3) At every subsequent quotation from the source.
4) 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 and 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, place the footnote number directly after the word.
  • When quoting from an English source, please the footnote number after the quotation marks.
  • Footnotes appear on the same page below the text to which they refer.

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 to do so, combine the citations into one footnote. The different citations in a footnote are separated by a semicolon, and the entire footnote ends with a period. Place the footnote number at the end of the 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.

Introductory signals are broken down 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. 

For example: 

See Spar: Using this introductory signal preceding the footnote citation tells the reader that the authority cited directly supports the proposition given in the text.

But see Spar: This introductory signal tells the reader that the authority cited is in partial disagreement with the proposition in the text, but does not directly contradict it.

(The complete list of Introductory Signals may be found in the McGill Guide, 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, then the author may choose to include parenthetical information within footnotes. 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, you should provide a complete citation in a footnote. However, subsequent citations can use ibid or supra.

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.

Supra is only used when the note refers to a source for which there has already been a full citation.

However, if the full citation is immediately before the note, you must use ibid and not supra.

[1] McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 7th ed.(Toronto: Thomson /Carswell, 2010) at 1.3.2.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

See McGill Guide for rules governing footnotes for French sources.

The UOIT library has reference copies under the call letters KE259 .C35 2010; a quick guide is also available online at http://guides.library.uoit.ca/citation

McGill Law Journal, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 7th edition, (Toronto: Thomson/Carswell, 2010).

University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Your Quick Guide to Citing Legal Sources based on Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation McGill Law Journal (August 2011), online: http://shared.uoit.ca/shared/department/library/docs/LegalCitation.pdf