Guide To Format Your Paper In Chicago Style

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Writing your academic paper in Chicago style can be challenging for amateur writers. The official Chicago style format guide is not only massive but also confusing most of the time. It is one of the extensively used style manuals. This manual has detailed directions on how to format, reference, and cite works.

It’s hard to know the Chicago-style citation to use by consulting the entire manual. So, to make things simpler, we will provide a comprehensive guide about the Chicago Manual of Style. Please refer to this easy-to-understand article and use it as needed.

What Is The Chicago Style?

The University of Chicago Press is responsible for creating the Chicago manual of style (CMOS). Its first version was released in 1906. The Chicago Style is an elaborate catalog of referencing, formatting, and citing rules. 

It is a comprehensive writing style that is developed for different types of papers written in American English. Currently, the manual is in its 17th edition.

CMOS is diverse and versatile and suits subjects such as arts, history, social science, and literature. The Chicago-style source citations come in two types. They are – the Notes-Bibliography System and the Author-Date System. Most professionals use the Chicago style to format magazines, journals, etc.

Difference Between The Chicago Style And Turabian Styles

An alternative to the Chicago-style format is the Turabian format. It is student-centric and also used by researchers. It has more varied citation and formatting rules than the Chicago style for academic writing. This format also applies to studies in the social sciences, such as history, business, fine art, and so on.

We have already seen that CMOS gives two methods to document sources. Let us understand how both work, one after the other.

a) The Notes-Bibliography method: Here, you’ll have to provide numbered footnotes in addition to abbreviated copies of citations at the page’s bottom. The total citations are then compiled at the end of the document on a separate Bibliography page. This method is popular for documents in the humanities disciplines.

b) The Author-Date method: This method requires the writer to use parenthetical citations after borrowed information or a quotation. The author’s last name, the year the source was published, and the page where the information you used can be found in the source should all be included in parentheses.

Each citation requires a precise entry on a reference page at the conclusion of the manuscript. Science and social science articles use the Author-Date System instead of the Notes-Bibliography approach.

Now, coming back to the Turabian style, it is a referencing and citing system designed on the basis of the Chicago style. This style format is most often used in social science academic papers. This style is named after its author, Kate Turabian, who adapted the style from the Chicago style.

Both the Chicago style format and the Turabian style format are almost identical. The Turabian style is formed out of the Chicago style, with the aim to simplify certain aspects of the Chicago style. Since students were not publishing their work, the simplification of the style was favored by students and researchers.

The significant difference between the two styles lies in the numbering system for notes. Yet, most of the guidelines of the Chicago style format apply to the Turabian style as well. One more remarkable difference between the styles is that the Turabian style is shorter, simpler, and has fewer requirements.

What Is The Purpose Of Using The Chicago Style or Turabian Style?

Since it is employed in a wide range of academic subjects, the Chicago/Turabian style allows writers to choose various formats. It permits you to mix and match formats as long as the result is clear and consistent.

The recent release of The Chicago Manual of Style allows the usage of both in-text citation systems (known as the “Author-Date” style in the social sciences) and footnotes and endnotes (known as “Notes and bibliography” style in the humanities).

The Basic Structure Of The Chicago Style Format or The Turabian Style Format

The essential elements of the Chicago/Turabian paper are:

  1. The Title page
  2. The Main Body
  3. The References (if using the Author-Date method)
  4. And the Bibliography (if using the notes and bibliography method)

General Rules In Writing Chicago Style Format

The following general guidelines apply to the Chicago style:

  • Font style: Use Times New Roman or Courier font
  • Font size: Preferably 12pt and not less than 10pt
  • Space: Consistently double-spaced, except for block quotations, bibliography entries, notes, table titles, and figure captions.
  • Margin: The margin must not be less than 1.”
  • Page numbers (for CMOS): Must be placed at the top right corner of each page (excluding the title page). The numbers must be Arabic number 1
  • Subheadings: Use subheadings for longer papers
  • Block quotations: Common rules for block quotations, also called extracts, are as follows:
    • Block the five-line or more prose quotation or one that has more than 100 words. 
    • Two or more lines of poetry should also be blocked, according to CMOS.
    • Quote, marks are not used to enclose a blocked quotation.
    • A blocked quotation should always begin in a new line.
    • Block quotations should be indented using the indentation tool in your word processor.

Title Page: Major Paper Section

According to the Turabian style, the class papers will have a title page, or the title will be included on the initial/first page of the text. Some general guidelines to follow are:

  • Center the title/heading a third of the way down the sheet/page.
  • Your name, academic information, and date should follow several lines later.
  • The title line for subtitles should end with a colon. And the subtitle must be written one line below the title.
  • There must be a double space on each line of the title page.

Text Citation In Chicago Style

Main body

The main body section of the Chicago-style paper is the central part of the paper. It is the section where the writer shares the core ideas, information, facts, and evidence on the given topic. The following list of general standards for the main body of the text is suggested by the Chicago Manual of Style:

Capitalization: The titles of sources cited inside the article and the notes and Bibliography should follow headline-style capitalization.

Title: You may italicize or use quotation marks to enclose titles placed in the notes, paper, and Bibliography.

  • Italicize the titles of larger works, books, and periodicals.
  • Use quotation marks for titles of shorter works, chapters, and articles.
  • Use double quotation marks for most of the poem titles.
  • Plays and poems with longer titles should be italicized.
  • In all other cases, make sure to keep capitalization to a minimum. Quotation marks and italics must not be used excessively for no purpose. Also, when uppercase is unnecessary, use lowercase.

Chicago Style heading

There are no strict rules about headings or subheadings in Chicago-style format. However, the manual does provide some basic recommendations. 

  • Use headline style for capitalization purposes.
  • Maintain consistency and parallel structure for all headings and subheadings.
  • All subheadings must begin on a new line.
  • There must be no period at the end of subheadings.
  • A writer can use different font sizes to differentiate between subheadings.
  • Never use more than three levels of hierarchy.
  • Be consistent and clear on all levels.
  • A writer can use different fonts, italics, bold, or various placements, usually centered or flush left to distinguish between hierarchy levels.

In contrast to the Chicago Style, Turabian offers numerous formatting suggestions for different grades of headings and subheadings. It is not necessary to follow this system, although it is suggested. The formatting recommendations by Turabian style for three heading levels are as follows:

Heading 1: Headline-style capitalization, centered, bold or italic

Heading 2: Headline-style capitalization, centered, regular

Heading 3: Headline-style capitalization, flush left, bold or italic

Turabian style also has two additional hierarchy levels:

Heading 4: Sentence-style capitalization, flush left, roman

Heading 5: Sentence-style capitalization, bold or italic, run in at the beginning of paragraph (with no blank line after that), terminal period.

Chicago Style In-Text citation

The method of formatting depends on the technique (author-date or notes-bibliography) you are following:

Rules for author-date system citations are:
  • Enclose the last name of the author, the date of publication, and the page number in parentheses.
  • Do not use punctuation marks between the author’s last name and the publication date.
  • Abbreviations are not allowed.
  • Use a comma to separate the date of publication and the page number.
  • Use a shortened title of the source in your in-text citation when there is no author.
  • If you’re mentioning the same pages of a source multiple times, cite the reference in its entirety after the final one.
  • When employing the Notes-Bibliography technique, the Chicago in-text citation is only placed in parentheses after direct quotes. However, use footnotes instead of paraphrases when paraphrasing information.

Chicago Style Bibliography, Endnotes, And Footnotes

Both Chicago style format and Turabian writing styles require footnotes or endnotes anytime you explicitly quote an external source or add paraphrased information if you use the Notes-Bibliography method. To reference your sources when utilizing the Author-Date format, you must use parenthesis in the text.

The Chicago style bibliography format guidelines can be referred to here:

Footnotes – Chicago Style

The notes at the bottom of each page are referred to as footnotes. Each footnote in Chicago style is numbered. The number placed after a quotation, passage, or paraphrased piece of information should correspond to the number placed after the quote, passage, or paraphrased piece of information. Footnotes in the Chicago style can serve a variety of purposes:

  • Use shortened citations for quotes and paraphrased text.
  • Provide additional explanations on specific phrases, terms, etc., where it is necessary.
  • Give background information where it is needed.
  • Provide links to outside sources.
  • Highlight copyright permissions.

Chicago Style Format To Follow For Footnotes:

The footnotes should be at the bottom of the page.

  • The note numbers must start with “1”.
  • The note numbers are not raised. They are full-size and followed by a period.
  • Lines in footnotes must be flush left.
  • When a footnote contains both commentary and source documentation, place the commentary after the source documentation; separate the two with a period.
    • A semicolon should be used to distinguish documentation from a brief remark in parenthetical citations.
    • If the hundreds digit does not change from the beginning to the end of a page range, do not repeat it.
  • On the page, same as the information you are citing, provide a footnote.
  • After each statement or piece, you are quoting, number each note with the same number.
  • Include all the following information in the first note for a particular source: the author’s complete name, the source title, and the publication details.
  • When you reference the same source again, you need to include the author’s surname, an abbreviated version of the title (if the title is more than 4 words), and page numbers.
  • When citing the same source and page more than twice, use the phrase “Ibid.” which means “from the same place.” Use the word “Ibid.” And provide a page number if they are from different pages.

To place footnotes in the text:

  • Always superscript the note numbers.
  • Note numbers should be inserted after all punctuation. Save for the dash at the end of the clause or sentence they refer to.

Chicago Style Endnotes

Endnotes in Chicago are comparable to footnotes in that they serve the same purpose. The sole distinction is that endnotes are collected at the end of a chapter, document, or article. At the same time, footnotes are placed at the bottom of a page.

Endnotes are also denoted with a short superscript number in the main body of the text. Then, near the end of the publication, an author can add a more detailed explanation next to a pertinent number.

Chicago Style Bibliography

Regardless of whether you document sources using the Author-Date or Notes-Bibliography method, your work will need a dedicated page for all of your references. This page should be titled References in the Author-Date format. If you’re using the Notes-Bibliography technique, you’ll want to call it Bibliography.

The Bibliography is usually the last page of the document. It must provide complete bibliographical information for all external sources used in the work, including those cited in the text and those mentioned in the footnotes.

Rules To Follow When Creating A Chicago Style Reference Page:

This page must have individual entries for each source you utilized and any other relevant sources.

  • There must be two blank lines between “bibliography/references” and the first entry.
  • One blank line must be there between the remaining entries.
  • Every paragraph should start on a new line.
  • A centered title – Bibliography (for Notes-Bibliography style) or References – should appear at the top of the page (for Author-Date type).
  • The entries must be arranged in letter-by-letter alphabetical order.
  • Use “and” instead of the ampersand (“&”) when writing multi-writer entries.
    • Write out all of the names of two to three authors.
    • Write out all names in the Bibliography for four to ten writers, but only the first author’s name plus “et al.” in notes and parenthetical citations.
    • When a source has no discernible author, cite it by its title on the references page and in parenthetical citations throughout the text in abridged form (up to four keywords from the title).
    • Write the names of the publishers in their entirety.
    • Unless publishing dates are unavailable, do not utilize access dates.
    • Whenever you are unable to discern the date of publication of a printed work, use the acronym “n.d.”.
    • Use DOIs when feasible, instead of URLs. If the DOI is not accessible, give a URL instead.
    • If you are unable to specify a precise page number when asked, you may substitute section volume (vol. ), (sec. ), equation (eq. ), or note (n.).

Chicago Style Citations

The four fundamental elements that every Chicago-style citation must have are – the author’s information, the source’s title, pages, where the information used, can be found in the source, and the publication details. The publication details must include – the journal name, publisher’s name, and publication year.

General Rules For Chicago Style Citation Are:

  • Write the first and last names of every author.
  • Italicize the titles of longer works such as books and journals. In contrast, use quotation marks to enclose shorter works such as articles, chapters, and poems.
  • The name of the publisher is mentioned first, followed by the name of the journal.
  • Use period to separate all significant elements.


These are some guidelines that involve the Chicago style format and Turabian style format to help you format your academic paper. Please keep in mind that you are free to choose the format style, whichever suits you best. Select the citation style that suits your subject and use it according to the guidelines.

We hope that the guidelines for the Chicago style heading and Chicago style bibliography are clear and concise. Refer to the appropriate rules when you are using the concerned elements. The Chicago style may be vast and confusing. But, give some time to understand and practice to be able to apply it correctly.

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