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A comment (abbreviation Note ) is generally understood to mean a comment , a short verbal utterance. In the book industry and in the humanities in general , a note is an addition to a text passage that is not integrated into the text, but is typographically separated from it in such a way that it forms a separate unit. Comments are particularly common in scientific literature. Most of the time, they contain evidence, i.e. precise details of the places in sources or in scientific publications on which the statements in the text are based or to which they refer. The purpose of outsourcing certain information to the notes is to ensure that the presentation is clearer.

In scientific usage, the term “note” refers to all footnotes and endnotes regardless of their content. The entirety of the annotations in a scientific paper is called annotations , annotation apparatus , or scientific apparatus .


A note can be implemented in the following forms:

  • as a final note at the end of the chapter or work. Endnotes are less reader-friendly than footnotes, especially when they are broken down into chapters, due to their lack of clarity.
  • as a footnote. Footnotes are the most convenient for the reader because the text and related notes appear on the same page. The footnotes are usually numbered either page by page or chapter by chapter. Instead of using consecutive numbers, they can also be linked to the corresponding text passages using certain characters (footnote marks), usually asterisks or skewers.
  • in electronic texts also as a hyperlink .
  • as a marginal note (marginal note). Marginal notes are right next to the associated text and therefore often do not even have to be assigned to it by a special symbol. However, the layout must provide a sufficient margin.

Different forms of annotation can also be used for different content, for example footnotes for factual comments and endnotes for references.

In some publications, numbers are used that appear in the text in square brackets with the same font size and as superscript characters, sometimes also combined with letters. These numbers can refer to footnotes or endnotes. The form of the annotation is often specified by the publishers in order to preserve the uniformity of the typeface of the publications. Sometimes a list of numbered publications is referred to at the end of the work, primarily in research and literature reviews. References to literature that is not included in the list are then inserted into the text with sufficiently precise information in brackets. This is how the book series Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte proceeds .


The note says:

  • most often precise evidence for a statement or a quote :
    • a reference to the literature , i.e. an indication of the relevant point in a publication that is cited or referred to or otherwise referred to.
    • the indication of a source (in the sense of the historical use of the term "source").
  • an explanation of the specified source.
  • a brief description of the previous research discussion or a reference to an alternative interpretation of the source's statement that is represented in research.
  • a reference to further literature on the subject that is addressed at the passage in the text to which the note refers.
  • Additional remarks on brief explanations in the text or the presentation of additional thoughts by the author that are not absolutely necessary for the argumentation in the text. This is considered admissible, but such remarks in the notes are rare in secondary literature ; they are considered inexpedient because they bloat the annotation apparatus. Clarifying factual comments are common for source editions . If they are relatively short, they can be annotated, otherwise they will be placed in a separate comment section.

In general, a note should be kept as brief as possible. It should not contain any information that the reader needs to know in order to be able to follow the explanations in the text, because the explanations in the text should also be conclusive for readers who do not observe the comments. First and foremost, the note is intended to be used for assignment and not to accommodate material that the author would like to cite but for which he cannot find a suitable place in the text. The latter can be presented in appendices ( excursus ).

Quoting in the annotation apparatus

Often, a significant part of the references in the annotation apparatus of a work relates to publications that are cited in a bibliography that is contained in the work and can therefore be cited in abbreviated form in the footnotes. According to the author-year system (Harvard quote), there is strong shortening; It is important that the reader can find the publications cited in the notes clearly and as quickly as possible in the bibliography. In the case of shorter work (articles, reviews) you often do without your own bibliography; then the references in the notes must be complete, at least when they are first mentioned. The first mention must be complete, even if the comments include publications that are not included in the literature list. Subsequent comments can then be quoted in abbreviated form and referred to the first mention, for example: "see Meier (as above note 3) p. 5.". Not reader-friendly is the citation "loco" (at the specified place) or "lc" (loco citato), which is widespread in older scientific literature, if it refers to a citation in an earlier note, but the number of the note is not given.


  • Evelyn Eckstein: footnotes. Notes on poetry and science (= Notes: Contributions to scientific marginalistics. Vol. 1). Lit, Münster et al. 2001, ISBN 3-8258-5112-5 (at the same time: Stuttgart, Universität, Dissertation, 1999).
  • Jürgen Kästner: Notes in books. Basic structures and main lines of development. In: Library Volume 8, No. 3, 1984, pp. 203-226.
  • Henry J. Steffens, Mary Jane Dickerson, Wolfgang Schmale : Documentation techniques. In: Wolfgang Schmale (Hrsg.): Writing guide history. Learn scientific writing step by step (= UTB. Vol. 2854). Böhlau, Wien et al. 2006, ISBN 3-205-77520-1 , pp. 273–289, here pp. 285f. (“What should you include in your notes / footnotes?”).
  • Heinz Quirin : Introduction to the Study of Medieval History. 5th edition, Steiner, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 3-515-05867-2 , pp. 233-235.

Web links

Wiktionary: Note  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Duden. The large dictionary of the German language in ten volumes , 3rd edition, Vol. 1, Mannheim 1999, p. 230.
  2. Martina Hartmann : Studying medieval history , 3rd edition, Konstanz 2011, p. 35; Henry J. Steffens, Mary Jane Dickerson, Wolfgang Schmale: Documentation techniques . In: Wolfgang Schmale (Hrsg.): Writing guide history. Learning to write scientifically step by step , Vienna 2006, pp. 273–289, here: 285f .; Notes . In: Meyers enzyklopädisches Lexikon , 9th edition, Vol. 2, Mannheim 1971, p. 243; Note . In: Brockhaus Enzyklopädie , 21st edition, Vol. 2, Leipzig 2006, p. 87.
  3. Rolf Agte: Note . In: Severin Corsten et al. (Ed.): Lexicon of the entire book system , 2nd edition, Stuttgart 1987, p. 94f.
  4. See the recommendations by Henry J. Steffens, Mary Jane Dickerson, Wolfgang Schmale: Documentation techniques . In: Wolfgang Schmale (Hrsg.): Writing guide history. Learning scientific writing step by step , Vienna 2006, pp. 273–289, here: 286.
  5. Hartmut Blum, Reinhard Wolters : Studying old history, Konstanz 2006, p. 174; Henry J. Steffens, Mary Jane Dickerson, Wolfgang Schmale: Documentation techniques . In: Wolfgang Schmale (Hrsg.): Writing guide history. Learning scientific writing step by step , Vienna 2006, pp. 273–289, here: 286.
  6. To deal with notes in editions see Heinz Quirin: Introduction to the study of medieval history , 5th edition, Stuttgart 1991, pp. 133, 234f.
  7. Hartmut Blum, Reinhard Wolters: Studying old history , Konstanz 2006, p. 174; Heinz Quirin: Introduction to the Study of Medieval History , 5th edition, Stuttgart 1991, p. 233.
  8. ^ Heinz Quirin: Introduction to the Study of Medieval History , 5th edition, Stuttgart 1991, p. 234.