United Nations Editorial Manual Online
Footnotes and other references
II. General instructions on footnotes and text notes
Footnotes. In resolutions and decisions, all sources are cited in footnotes. In masthead documents, sales publications and reports issued as supplements to the Official Records, footnotes may be used to cite:
Text notes. In masthead documents, publications and supplements to the Official Records, text notes are used to cite:
Footnotes, text notes or references directly in the text. In masthead documents, publications and supplements, references to newspaper articles, public statements, interviews, personal communications and material on a website may be given in footnotes, text notes or directly in the text, as appropriate.
Note: Whether sources are cited in footnotes, text notes or directly in the text, information provided in one format should not be repeated in the other formats (see also Excessive referencing below).
Footnotes to items in the text are placed at the bottom of the page. Endnotes are not used. Footnotes to figures and tables are placed directly below the figure or table (see Tables/Notes to tables). Footnotes to items in a boxed text contained in a document or publication are normally placed within the box.
Footnotes indicated by asterisks and other symbols are placed above footnotes indicated by numbers and lower-case letters when they appear at the bottom of the same page. For additional information, see Footnote indicators/Footnotes indicated by lower-case letters and Footnotes indicated by asterisks and other symbols.Footnotes in boxed summaries. Footnotes are not given for items in a boxed summary at the beginning of a document if the items can be referenced in the main body of the text. When it is necessary to include a footnote to an item in a boxed summary, the footnote is indicated by a lower-case letter and placed within the box.
Authors are reminded that they should cite only sources that are strictly relevant and necessary. Commonly known or easily verifiable facts do not require a source note.
Once an item has been referenced, whether in a footnote or text note, the reference should be repeated only when necessary for the sake of clarity or to change a specific element in the reference, such as a section or paragraph number. When it is necessary to repeat a reference in documents and publications, a shortened reference may be used. In resolutions, an item is referenced the first time that it is mentioned in the preamble and the first time that it is mentioned in the operative part; when it is necessary to repeat a reference, the footnote indicator is repeated without repeating the footnote itself. For further information, see Repeated references.
General references to sources. To acknowledge sources used extensively in preparing a document or publication and avoid multiple footnotes or text notes, a general reference can be given in a single footnote or at an appropriate place in the text.
Combined footnotes or text notes. The number of footnotes or text notes can sometimes be reduced by combining them, provided that no ambiguity results.
Author-date and keyed references. In publications, the number of footnotes can be reduced by using the author-date system or keyed references. For further information, see Reference lists and bibliographies/Author-date system and Keyed references.
Basic guidelines are provided in this section for citing sources accessed over the Internet. For instructions on citing specific types of electronic source material and examples, including references to Internet sources, CD-ROMs and e-books, see United Nations sources and Outside sources.
Citing Internet sources
Style. Internet sources are identified by a uniform resource locator (URL), an electronic address, which is written in standard (roman) font, not italics, and without angle brackets (< >). In footnotes, a full stop is placed after URLs.
Prefixes. URL prefixes (protocols), such as "http", "https" and "ftp", are always followed by a colon and two forward slashes (http://, https:// and ftp://). The prefix should be deleted when the URL contains "www" (e.g. www.unhcr.org). In other cases, the prefix must be included to ensure that the URL will work (e.g. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org). The editor or author should check to see whether the URL works without the prefix.
References to material posted on a website. If the material cited is easily found using a search engine, a reference to a website in a footnote is unnecessary; the publishing data are enough. If it is necessary to use a URL, a reference to a website's home or search page is often sufficient. When the source cannot easily be located from that page, a complete URL directing readers to the specific page or document on the website may be provided; however, given the speed at which specific URLs become obsolete, this practice should be avoided to the extent possible. An alternative is providing a description so that the reader can navigate to the material from the main website.
Disclaimer. For publications with footnotes containing many URLs, the following disclaimer may be used:
References to a website as a whole. When readers are referred to a website as a whole for information or when a website is specifically mentioned in a document or publication, the URL can be given either directly in the text or in parentheses after the name of the website.
In resolutions and decisions of United Nations bodies, the URL for a website, if required, is always given in a footnote.
Dates of accessing material
In most documents, there is no need to include the access date if no date is provided; the date of issuance of the document in which the reference is cited should suffice. For publications, where the period from drafting to issuance may be longer, the access date may be included at the discretion of the author and/or the editor.
When citing Internet material that is likely to be revised, in particular time-sensitive information that may be updated (such as information contained in databases), authors should provide the date on which they retrieved the information. The date is given in parentheses at the end of the footnote.
Sources available in print and electronic form
When an outside source is available in both print and electronic form, authors should normally cite the version that they actually used. When the publication dates of the print and electronic versions differ, the date of the version used should be given in the reference.
Material available on the Official Document System website. United Nations masthead documents and supplements to the Official Records are issued in print and on the Official Document System (ODS) website (https://ods.un.org). They should always be cited as described under United Nations sources. While the latest version issued on ODS is considered definitive, the ODS website should not be included in any references.
Material not available on the Official Document System website. Many United Nations documents and publications are issued in print, and made available online, but not on the ODS website. See United Nations sources for the style to be followed when citing such sources.
Guidelines on Internet publishing. For guidelines on Internet publishing in the United Nations and on publishing in an electronic format, see administrative instructions ST/AI/2001/5 and ST/AI/189/Add.28.
The names of authors are normally given as they appear on the work cited. The form used (full first and middle names or initials and last name) should match that on the title page of the book or on the article cited. When a work has more than three authors, only the first author is listed, followed by “and others”.
Organization as author and publisher. When an organization is both author and publisher (no separate publisher is indicated on the title page of the book or publication), the name is normally given in the author’s place and omitted from the publishing data. The name of the organization is spelled out, not abbreviated, unless the abbreviation has been defined in a previous footnote, the text or a list of abbreviations at the beginning of the text. In a multi-author publication or a publication with discrete parts, the name of the organization is spelled out at first mention in every chapter or paper.
Titles and subtitles
When a work has a title and subtitle, both are normally included in footnotes. Titles and subtitles are separated by a colon. A second subtitle is separated by a dash.
Titles of books, publications, periodicals and newspapers are italicized. Titles of articles, internal documents, unpublished works (i.e. those for which there is no ISBN or ISSN) and most research reports are set in standard (roman) font and enclosed in quotation marks. The titles of databases, websites and most series (not the Official Records series or the Treaty Series) are set in standard font without quotation marks. However, titles of unpublished works and research reports with more than 50 pages are italicized.
Works not translated. The title of a work that has not been translated into the language of the document in which the reference appears is normally given in the language of publication. Titles of Arabic, Chinese and Russian works are transliterated when they appear in texts issued in other languages. Titles in other non-Latin alphabets are transliterated where possible.
Titles of works in another language are set out in the normal way (e.g. the title of a book, periodical or unpublished work or research report with more than 50 pages is italicized and the title of an article is enclosed in quotation marks). A translation of the title may be given in parentheses after the title of the published language version. The translated title is not italicized or enclosed in quotation marks. For additional information, see United Nations sources/Sales publications/Publications not issued in all languages.
Titles and subtitles of books, publications, periodicals, newspapers, series, databases, websites and unpublished works with more than 50 pages are capitalized. Initial capital letters are used for all words except articles, conjunctions and prepositions unless they are the first or last word in the title or subtitle.
In references to any other sources, including masthead documents, articles in a book or periodical, material on a website and unpublished works with 50 pages or less, only the first word of the title (but not the subtitle), proper nouns and adjectives and recognized geographical names are capitalized.
References to specific elements in a source
References used to substantiate statements or identify items mentioned in a text should be as specific as possible, indicating the relevant paragraphs or chapter and section, annex, appendix, table or figure in the source.
Given that page numbers may vary across language versions and formats, they should be avoided where possible. Page numbers can be given when there is no alternative, however, as in a reference for a source that does not contain numbered sections or paragraphs. Page numbers are always used in references to advisory opinions, judgments and orders of the International Court of Justice.
Use of "see"
When the statement or item being referenced does not correspond to the whole of the final element cited (e.g. to the entire section of the report), the reference should be introduced by "See". Examples are given throughout these instructions. "See" is not used when the reference is to a page number.
The words listed below designating parts of a work are abbreviated as shown when they are used in footnotes, text notes and other references. They should never be abbreviated when they occur in a sentence or when used without a numeral.
The following should never be abbreviated:
References to page and paragraph numbers in the plural are given as shown:
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