A cross-reference directs the reader to another part of the current text.

How to present cross-references is very similar in all types of writing, whether printed or online (eg as PDFs or HTML). The use of italics and capitalisation is the same. The main difference is that, in online material, cross-references are usually hyperlinks, which allow the reader to navigate easily to the referenced content. The hyperlinked text is underlined and presented in blue font. The examples below are for printed documents; see the summary table at the end of this section for print and online examples.

This section covers how to:

Reminder. Make cross-references clear, and be consistent in how they are formatted.

Refer readers to sections of the text

Use Chapter to refer to a main section of text, and Section to refer to a subdivision of a chapter. If chapters are grouped, use Part to refer to the higher-level groupings.

Major parts of a publication and other feature elements such as figures, tables and equations can be numbered with roman or arabic numbers, or with capital letters. Arabic numbers are recommended for parts, chapters, sections, tables, figures and equations:

Part 2     Chapter 6     Section 6.1     Table 2     Figure 4     Equation 6  

Use letters for appendixes:

Appendix A

Formatting cross-references to sections

Use an initial capital for cross-references to specific numbered parts of a publication, to help them stand out:

Refer to Chapter 6.

More detail is found in Section 4.1.

See Table 4.

Use Equation 6 to …

The data in Figure 5 contrast with those in Figure 4.

Details of the method are presented in Appendix A.

The population of the town increased by 20% during this period (Figure 2; Table 6).

Also use an initial capital when referring to specific sections in the plural:

See Chapters 3 and 4.     As shown in Tables 3–5 …

However, if referring to parts of the publication generically, use lower case:

For more detail, see the appendix. [only 1 appendix in the document]

Full details are given in the bibliography.

The introduction outlines the approach.

Further information is given in the appendixes.

The remaining chapters of this book deal with each of these issues in more detail.

For unnumbered chapters or sections, enclose the title in single quotation marks:

Further information is available in the chapter ‘Structuring documents for readers’.

See ‘Results’. Further information is given in ‘Methods’.

If a component of the text – often a figure – has subparts that are identified by letters, refer to them without parentheses, set solid with the number:

The data in Figure 4a show that …

Figures 3a–c show stages of the decay of the specimen.

Positioning cross-references

A table or figure should be positioned soon after it is first referred to, ideally on the same page or 2-page spread as the first cross-reference. All figures, tables and appendixes should be referred to in the text.

Equations, whether mathematical or scientific (eg chemical and nuclear), generally appear as part of the running text (see Mathematics and statistics). They may be referred to before or after they are defined; if before, the cross-reference should be close to the equation. Some texts number all equations, whereas others only number those that are cross-referenced.

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Refer readers to page numbers

Use lower case when referring to numbered pages, and avoid using p (for page) and pp (for pages) in body text:

page 19     pages 57–64

When quoting page numbers, give the first and last page numbers in full, and separate the numbers by an en dash; do not use commas (or spaces) in numbers with more than 4 digits:

10–13     11–19     132–138     428–500     1562–1568     13542–13555

Alternatively, the last page number (except for numbers between 10 and 19) can be abbreviated:

10–13     11–19     105–7     132–8     428–500     1562–8     13542–55

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Refer readers to information in footnotes and endnotes

Footnotes and endnotes are ways of linking a statement in the body of a text with supporting references or extra information that does not fit into the flow of the text. They differ only in where they are placed: footnotes appear at the bottom of the page, and endnotes appear at the end of the chapter or document. In some cases, the organisation producing the publication dictates which one you should use. In other cases, you can use whichever best suits your text.

Choosing footnotes or endnotes

Use footnotes when:

  • you need to add a little extra information – footnotes should be short (eg a single supporting reference, a URL, 1–2 sentences of additional information)
  • you want readers to have immediate access to the extra information – because footnotes appear at the end of the page, readers can easily access them as only a slight detour from the main text
  • you only have a few such notes.

Use footnotes sparingly, because making the reader go back and forth between the main text and footnotes can disturb the flow of information. A long list of footnotes can also form a large block out of proportion to the main text. Consider whether you can include the information within the flow of the main text.

Use endnotes when:

  • you need to add a lot of extra information – endnotes can be longer than footnotes (eg up to a page)
  • it is acceptable for readers to look at the extra information later
  • you have many such notes.

Because endnotes appear at the end of chapter or the whole work, they are useful for documenting numerous references or extra information that would take up too much room at the bottom of the page. However, this also makes it difficult for readers who do want to read them with the text.

Using footnotes and endnotes

Footnotes and endnotes are marked with a superscript number in the text, which matches the number and note presented at the end of the page, section or document.

Superscript numbers are placed at the end of a sentence or clause that they relate to, after the punctuation (if any), with no space between the punctuation and number:

Western Aranda people view buffel grass as an ‘unwelcome stranger’.3

If you have multiple references for a sentence, include commas with no spaces between the numbers:

Buffel grass is only listed as a weed in South Australia.4,5

If you have a span of references, use a hyphen:

Buffel grass is toxic to horses.4-6,9

For referenced bullet points, put the number after the colon if it refers to all the points:

The 3 most pervasive weeds in Australia are:11

  • buffel grass
  • boneseed
  • bitou bush.

or after the bullet point if it refers to just 1 point:

Animals at risk from buffel grass include:

  • horses12
  • cattle13,14
  • kangaroos.15-17

Use the footnote or endnote feature in your word-processing program to insert footnotes and endnotes; do not enter them manually because this will cause problems during editing and design.

Use autonumbered footnotes (not symbols), either numbered continuously throughout the report or numbered for each chapter, if the report is very long. Both systems are supported in standard word-processing software with autonumbering systems.

Some programs, such as Microsoft Word, have tools to link to the same footnote more than once. You can use these to avoid repetition (eg if you refer to the same website on several different pages).

If you are using Vancouver referencing style, footnotes should be labelled with superscript letters (a, b, c) rather than numerals, to avoid confusion. See Vancouver for more information.

Notes in print versus online

Footnotes and endnotes are usually found in printed documents, or in documents that will be included on a website as a PDF or Word file.

True footnotes are occasionally seen on webpages, but this use is declining as references or additional information are added to online content in other ways.

Usually, references are provided within online text as a live link, which can take the user to the reference in a pop-up panel or page, or to the reference on another website. The link may be in either Harvard or Vancouver notation (see References for more information).

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Refer readers to index entries

In an index, cross-references draw connections between topics – guiding readers from one heading to a related heading that will lead them to the information required or to additional information on the same subject.

Four expressions are often used to indicate cross-references. These are always in italics, but either in lower case or minimal capitals: see, see also, see under and see also under. Entries after the expression are presented as they appear in the index heading (ie the same capitalisation and whether roman or italic) and are separated by semicolons:

alien species see invasive species

bushfires, 262, 274, 317, 322–333
      water quality impacts, 231, 854
      see also fire frequency; fire regimes

turbidity see under water quality

net economic returns, 1, 20, 26–28, 500–501, 505–506
     trends by fishery, 22–25
     see also economic status under specific fisheries

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Summary of how to present cross-references

Type Format Print Online (PDF or HTML)

Numbered element in book/report

Maximal capitals, roman

Refer to Chapter 6 …

Refer to Chapter 6

Details of the method are presented in Appendix A.

Details of the method are presented in Appendix A.

Unnumbered element in book/report

Minimal capitals, roman

Print: single quote marks

Online: no quote marks

Further information is available in the chapter ‘Structuring documents for readers’. 

Further information is available in the chapter Structuring documents for readers.

See ‘Discussion and conclusion’.

See Discussion and conclusion.

Page number

Minimal capitals

Online: link first number in range

page 19

pages 57–64

page 19

pages 57–64

Footnote, endnote

Superscript numbers separated by commas (no space)

Online: no range (write each number)

Buffel grass is only listed as a weed in South Australia.4,5

Buffel grass is only listed as a weed in South Australia.4,5

Buffel grass is toxic to horses.4-6,9

Buffel grass is toxic to horses.4,5,6,9

Index entries

Expression italic, index heading as presented in index

alien species see invasive species

alien species see invasive species

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