When to Use Asterisks in Academic Writing

Imagine a graduate student writing an important paper on bioethics or psychoanalysis having a difficult time stating an idea. How can she mark this important idea? She thinks about using different symbols. A hashtag (#)? No, that has a clear usage on Twitter these days. A dollar sign ($). No. Obviously that would not work. An asterisk (*)? That might work; however, she does not really have a clear idea about how an asterisk can be used in writing, both general writing and academic writing. Let us find out how much we know about the use of asterisks.

Using an Asterisk in Academic Writing

The asterisk’s use as a marker in footnotes and endnotes dates back to the medieval period.One of the more common uses of an asterisk in academic writing today is its use in footnotes or endnotes. When you use an asterisk as a footnote or endnote symbol, it clearly indicates more information about the addressed topic. We find this additional information at the bottom of the page (footnotes), or, at the end of the chapter or end of the paper (endnotes), along with the (*) mark.

Sometimes, even the article titles contain asterisk mark. In his essay “Dicta”, Peter Goodrich writes:

“The asterisk footnote now tends to play the role of listing institutional benefactors, influential colleagues, student assistants, and the circumstances surrounding the production of the article.” This is a usage that is becoming more common. It is necessary because it can offer information about corresponding authors, tables, data, and other ideas related to the topic of an article.

Asterisks in Research Articles

In academic writing, an asterisk is used to give credit to corresponding authors. Asterisks (*) also denote the co-author or authors. These co-authors should be listed below the title in a clear format. For example: first name, middle initial (if applicable), and last name. In addition, the names and addresses of the universities or institutes where the work was done should be listed below the co-author names.

Asterisks are also important in scientific studies. One important usage is in tables where asterisk is the main symbol used to show statistical significance. Since asterisk is the main symbol used, it is important to note that they should always be placed in the same cell as the value they are noting. This gives the reader the ability to understand the significance of the information provided.

Using an Asterisk in General Writing

Besides academic writing, we use asterisk in general writing. Often, when writing an inappropriate word, we write the first letter, followed by a series of asterisks. These are known as grawlix. Cartoonist Mort Walker began this usage in his comics. Also, you will see asterisks used in advertisements. For example, we look into this advertisement in a newspaper by a car dealership: All New Models Now On Sale*! The asterisk here denotes that there is more important information provided at the bottom of the page.

Not many people know how to use symbols in academic writing. Make sure you use the asterisk mark correctly in your research paper.

How often have you used an asterisk in your own work? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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