The commentative or reflective footnote: lost art and lost science.

Don’t know where to put that thought? Put it in a commentative footnote!
This is a writing tool invented long ago (see Anthony Grafton’s EXCELLENT The Footnote: A curious history) that is way underused in writing science! You can comment on

  • methods
  • personalities
  • ideas
  • theories
  • problems
  • words
  • history
  • future directions
  • references
  • other parts of your thesis (endophoric citations)

Some students report that their thesis advisors frown on this technique.  This might mean they are merely naive about writing.  But even if you can’t keep your footnotes in your final version, the commentative footnote is a way for YOU to write reflectively about your own area of expertise and to develop your own voice.

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