Not-Totally-Unsolicited Advice about Footnotes

Last week, I saw a number of 1st year students seeking an advice of a librarian on how to cite the sources that they used in their first memo. Thus, I decided to give you some not-totally-unsolicited advice on this matter.
First, when your TL gives you a piece of paper, a pdf, a photocopy of something, etc., do not hesitate to ask what this is and from where it is coming. This will save you quite a bit of time when you are pressed to finish your work but discover suddenly that this photocopy is in fact a book chapter, and you have no idea about the book title and/ or author. Second, do not wait until the last minute to make your footnotes. Everybody works differently, but my experience shows that if you ‘cite while you write’, you will save time. You will have your paper AND your footnotes ready, save for the final proofing, when you finish writing the last paragraph. On the contrary, if you leave all your footnotes to be done when your paper is written, you will end up trying to figure out where you found this or that quotation and, pardon me, freaking out about supra(s) and idem(s) when you are totally short of time. Third, use the Red Book in conjunction with your common sense and with some reasoning. Do not just scan and skim the text of a section, expecting that a correct form of citation will jump in your eyes. Red Book is not the Bible, so do not expect that it will necessarily have an answer to your particular question. When you have something to cite, think about what rule fits the best your type of source and then, apply this rule.
Last, to cite a source, proceed as follows:

  • determine what it is that you have to cite
  • find respective chapter (Jurisprudence for cases, Secondary Sources for books and journal articles, etc.)
  • READ General Rules section 
  • find the section corresponding to the source that you have
  • READ this section
  • apply the rule to cite the source making analogies if necessary
  • repeat as needed:)

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