For a long time, the human appendix was mostly considered a health hazard waiting to happen.
But recent research has shown it does have a purpose, so perhaps it’s more like the appendices in an essay than we thought: not essential, but playing an important supporting role.
Not everyone knows how to use an appendix in academic writing, though, so we’ve prepared this handy guide.
What is an Appendix?
An appendix (plural: appendices) is a section at the end of a book or essay containing additional information. You should use it to cover data or details that aren’t essential to your work, but which could provide useful context or background material.
In the main body of your essay, you should indicate when you’re referring to an appendix by citing it in parentheses. For example:
The interviews show that most people like ice cream (see Appendix C for full transcripts).
What Should Go in the Appendices?
Appendices can include many things depending on your topic. Common examples of information added to an appendix include:
- Raw data from tests
- Technical figures, graphs or tables
- Maps, charts or images
- Letters or emails used in research
- Sample questionnaires or surveys
- Full interview transcripts
What these have in common is that you might need to refer to them in an essay without going into too much detail. For example, you might summarise the results of a test in the ‘Results’ section of a dissertation, then include the full data in appendices to ensure clarity.
How to Format Appendices
Exactly how to format appendices can vary between universities, so you should always check your style guide. Generally, though, appendices should:
- Appear at the end of your document, often after the reference list
- Be divided into sections depending on topic (e.g. separate sections for questionnaire results and interview transcripts), with each appendix starting on a new page
- Be labelled with a letter or number, along with a title clarifying content (Appendix A: Instrument Diagrams, Appendix B: Test Results, etc.)
- Appear in the table of contents at the beginning of your document
Are Appendices Included in the Word Count?
One big advantage of appendices is that they’re not usually included in the word count for an essay. As such, you can focus on the key information in your work and place additional information in an appendix without worrying about the word count.
However, this can vary, so you should always check your style guide on this. And remember that if you rely upon something in your main essay, it needs to be included there: you can’t just shuffle it into the appendices to reduce the word count!
I. General Points to Consider
When considering whether to include content in an appendix, keep in mind the following points:
- It is usually good practice to include your raw data in an appendix, laying it out in a clear format so the reader can re-check your results. Another option if you have a large amount of raw data is to consider placing it online and note that this is the appendix to your research paper.
- Any tables and figures included in the appendix should be numbered as a separate sequence from the main paper. Remember that appendices contain non-essential information that, if removed, would not diminish a reader's ability to understand the research problem being investigated. This is why non-textual elements should not carry over the sequential numbering of non-textual elements in the body of your paper.
- If you have more than three appendices, consider listing them on a separate page at the beginning of your paper. This will help the reader know before reading the paper what information is included in the appendices [always list the appendix or appendices in a table of contents].
- The appendix can be a good place to put maps, photographs, diagrams, and other images, if you feel that it will help the reader to understand the content of your paper, while keeping in mind the point that the study should be understood without them.
- An appendix should be streamlined and not loaded with a lot information. If you have a very long and complex appendix, it is a good idea to break it down into separate appendices, allowing the reader to find relevant information quickly as the information is covered in the body of the paper.
Never include an appendix that isn’t referred to in the text. All appendices should be summarized in your paper where it is relevant to the content. Appendices should also be arranged sequentially by the order they were first referenced in the text [i.e., Appendix 1 should not refer to text on page eight of your paper and Appendix 2 relate to text on page six].
There are few rules regarding what type of material can be included in an appendix, but here are some common examples:
- Correspondence -- if your research included collaborations with others or outreach to others, then correspondence in the form of letters, memorandums, or copies of emails from those you interacted with could be included.
- Interview Transcripts -- in qualitative research, interviewing respondents is often used to gather information. The full transcript from an interview is important so the reader can read the entire dialog between researcher and respondent.
- Non-textual elements -- as noted above, if there are a lot of non-textual items, such as, figures, tables, maps, charts, photographs, drawings, or graphs, think about highlighting examples in the text of the paper but include the remainder in an appendix.
- Questionnaires or surveys -- this is a common form of data gathering. Always include the survey instrument or questionnaires in an appendix so the reader understands not only the questions asked but the sequence in which they were asked. Include all variations of the instruments as well if different items were sent to different groups.
- Raw statistical data – this can include any numerical data that is too lengthy to include in charts or tables in its entirety within the text.
- Research instruments -- if you used a camera, or a recorder, or some other device to gather information and it is important for the reader to understand how that device was used; this information can be placed in an appendix.
- Sample calculations – this can include quantitative research formulas or detailed descriptions of how calculations were used to determine relationships and significance.
NOTE: Appendices should not be a dumping ground for information. Do not include vague or irrelevant information in an appendix; this additional information will not help the reader’s overall understanding and interpretation of your research and may only distract the reader from understanding the significance of your overall study.
ANOTHER NOTE: Appendices are intended to provide supplementary information that you have gathered or created; it is not intended to replicate or provide a copy of the work of others. For example, if you need to contrast the techniques of analysis used by other authors with your own method of analysis, summarize that information, and cite to the original work. In this case, a citation to the original work is sufficient enough to lead the reader to where you got the information. You do not need to provide this in an appendix.
Here are some general guideline on how to format appendices, but consult the writing style guide [e.g., APA] your professor wants you to use for more detail, if needed:
- Appendices may precede or follow your list of references.
- Each appendix begins on a new page.
- The order they are presented is dictated by the order they are mentioned in the text of your research paper.
- The heading should be "Appendix," followed by a letter or number [e.g., "Appendix A" or "Appendix 1"], centered and written in bold type.
- Appendices must be listed in the table of contents [if used].
- The page number(s) of the appendix/appendices will continue on with the numbering from the last page of the text.
Appendices. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Appendices. Academic Skills Office, University of New England; Appendices. Writing Center, Walden University; Chapter 12, "Use of Appendices." In Guide to Effective Grant Writing: How to Write a Successful NIH Grant. Otto O. Yang. (New York: Kluwer Academic, 2005), pp. 55-57;Tables, Appendices, Footnotes and Endnotes. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Lunsford, Andrea A. and Robert Connors. The St. Martin's Handbook. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989; What To Know About The Purpose And Format Of A Research Paper Appendix. LoyolaCollegeCulion.com.