If your instructor asks you to format the paper according to CMS, it refers to Chicago Manual of Style. This citation style has two different systems, the Notes-Bibliography System (NB) and Author-Date System.

The choice between these two systems depends on the subject and nature if the sources you want to cite. Different scholars prefer a different system. For this style, you present bibliographic information in the notes and often, in a bibliography. It accommodates various sources including the vague that will be less appropriate for author author-date system.

NB system usually applies for humanities scholarly work including arts, history, and literature. Author-Date System is for physical, social and natural sciences. For this system, you briefly cite in the text mostly in parentheses by the last name of the author and publication date. You amplify the short citations in a references list here you provide full bibliographical information.

History of Chicago Manual of Style

The first publication was in 1906 under another title “Manual of Style” by University of Chicago Press. It was a compilation of typographical rules and appended specimens of the type to use. This 203-page edition evolved to become a comprehensive referencing style guide that reached 1,026 pages in the 16th edition. CMS was the first editorial guide published in U.S and is responsible for standardization of research methodology especially citation style to a large extent. Kate L. Turabian created the Chicago-Turabian style at the University of Chicago in 1937.

The manual underwent a significant revision during the publication of 12th edition in 1969. It was re-titled to “The Chicago Manual of Style” in 1982, a name that many people were using albeit informally. Recently all the publishers release a new edition around every ten years.

The 16 editions were released during these years:

  • 1906
  • 1910
  • 1911
  • 1914
  • 1917
  • 1919
  • 1920
  • 1925
  • 1927
  • 1937
  • 1949
  • 1969
  • 1982
  • 1993
  • 2003
  • 2010

Publisher revised the 16th edition to accommodate the emergence of new computer technology and the Internet for publishing. It offers guidance on how to cite electronic works.

A student may consult a book by Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, These and Dissertations, the 7th edition. It is a book that presenting CMS in an appropriate form for student papers. Purpose of Chicago Style

The benefit of CMS is that it uses footnotes allowing writers to avoid long parenthetical information that can distract the evidence at hand. Chicago Style allows writers to use in-text citations or footnotes at the bottom of a page. They can focus on the page number or year or publication year in the citations according to the purpose of your research or quotation. This, in turn, enables readers to focus on text and refer to footnotes if there is a need to find further information. CMS all calls for a listing of citation when you reach the end of your academic paper. This is known as a bibliography.

Is Chicago and Turabian the same?

Kate L. Turabian is the creator of Chicago-Turabian style at the University of Chicago in 1937.

Turabian and Chicago writing style are similar in some ways. Both allow writers to choose between Notes and Bibliography or In-text author-date citation system. Their primary difference is that Turabian style contains fewer instructions and without information on the publication. It has a manual of 4488 pages compared to 1026 for CMOS. It is suitable for shorter papers. Chicago Manual of Style has more details. It suits professionals in different fields when they are publishing. It has more instructions on formatting and other things.

Turabian mostly suits high school and college students when they write their class research papers. Chicago has an audience among professionals/academics who write papers, reports, articles or books that require a strict scholarly approach. It requires presentation of information to be in specific grammar. Word usage, punctuation and so on the assumption that the user of this guide is an experienced writer. It even has guidelines on mathematical expressions.

General CMS Guidelines

  • The general format for a Chicago paper is no standard-sized computer paper (8.5 x 11 inches).
  • Set paper margins at not less than 1-inch and more than 1.5 inches on all the sides
  • Use a highly readable font such as Palatino or New Roman. You can use 10-points, but 12 -points is more preferable.
  • Add a page number on the paper on the upper right-hand corner beginning on the fist page of the body text. Start with Arabic number

At times your instructor may require more information in the header

  • Place an extra line space before and after the subheadings. Do not end them with a period.
  • Use subheadings for longer papers. CMS recommend you to use your format, but it should be consistent.
  • Double space the body text


  • Block a prose quotation with five or more lines
  • Do not enclose blocked quotation in quotation marks
  • Indent blocked quotations by 0.5 inches as a whole

Major sections of a Chicago paper

Title Page

A class paper should include either title page or title on the first page of your text. The title should be in caps. Do not place a number on this page. Who, what and when are the questions it should answer.

  • Center your title to a third down the page.
  • Write your name and class information and due date several lines down
  • Insert a colon at title's end if you need a subtitle; place it on the line after the title.

Contents page

A long paper should have different chapters and a table of contents. Use headings for your content page. Number the page using lowercase numerals.

Main body

It is the section where you discuss the paper’s topic. Write text in the 12-point font and 10 pt. for footnotes, captions, tables, indented double-spaced paragraphs and one-inch margins. Use similar font for single-space block quotations, captions, and tables.

  • Capitalize the titles mentioned in text, notes and bibliography headline style. It means that you should capitalize the first words of titles, sub-titles, and famous words after that.
  • Treat notes and bibliographies with quotation marks based on the kind of work they name. Italicize titles of the larger work such as books and periodicals. Enclose titles of shorter works such as article and chapters in double quotation marks.
  • Describe periods in lowercase except for proper nouns. (E.g., “the history of colonization,” Vs. “The Victorian era”).
  • Place a prose quotation of five or more lines in “block.” Single-space your block quotations without quotation marks but leave an additional line space before and after. Indent the whole quotation by .5" in the same way you start a new paragraph.
  • Footnotes
  • Note numbers begin with 1 then follow consecutively throughout the paper.
  • Superscript the note numbers in the text.
  • Place note numbers at the end of sentence or clause that they refer. Put them after any punctuation.
  • In the notes, note numbers should be full-sized but nor raised followed by a period. It is also acceptable to superscript note numbers in the notes.
  • Indent the first line of the footnote .5" from the left margin.
  • Format flush left the subsequent lines within the footnote.
  • Leave extra line space between a footnote and another
  • In the parenthetical citation, use a semi-colon to separate your documentation from the brief commentary.
  • Do not repeat a hundred digits in page range if it fails to change from start to the end of this range.


For Chicago Manual Style, format the endnotes in the same way as footnotes. The difference is that they appear at the end of the document but not at the end of every page.

Formatting footnotes and endnotes

  • First and Last “Article Title,” Book Title (City where it was published: Publisher, Publication year), page.
  • Place titles of magazine or newspaper articles in quotation marks.
  • Write titles of journals, books, newspapers, and magazine in italics.
  • You need not use “p” and “pp” for page numbers unless it is confusing if you leave them out.
For example

Sentence: The Doctor said that “The blind may not see but can do many things.”2

Related Note: 2 Joe K. Kenneth, New Times Reads (Chicago: Chicago Publishers, 2016), 76.

When you refer the source for the first time, provide complete information like in the above example. If you refer to the source for a second time and so on, on the same page, use 2Ibid. If the reference is the same but different page, add a page to appear as 2Ibid., 222.

If you reference the same source later in the paper, use an abbreviated version of reference using the last name of the author, shortened title version and page number. For example: Kenneth, New Times, 50.

Formatting your written sources

Below is the standard format for a Chicago academic paper when the first reference in the footnotes and notes. First and last name, “Article Title,” Book Title (City where it was published: The Publisher, Publication Year) Page.

Book by one author

1 Joe K. Kenneth, History of Chicago Style, (Chicago: Chicago Publishers, 2015), 92.

Book by two (or three) authors

2Joe Kenneth, David Jeremy, and Nelly Graham, Life after School (Chicago, Chicago Press, 2014), 100.

Newspaper/Magazine Article

3 Joe K. Kenneth, “Remembering the Life of CMS,” Chicago Times, 16, Nov. 2016, A3.

Journal Article

4 Job John-Smooth, “Reasons for Developing Chicago Manual of Style” Academic References (November 2016): 2-4.

Multi-Volume source

5Nelly Graham, Joe K. Kenneth and David C. Jeremy, A History of Academic Writing, 2d ed., Vol. 3, (Chicago: Chicago Press, 2016), 101.

Anonymous Author

6 Refreshing Academic Writing, Chicago Times, 15 Nov. 2016, 12-14.

Formatting other Sources

Personal Interview

7Vincent Simon, interview by the author, written notes, Chicago, 15 Nov. 2016.

Personal Interview by another personr

7Vincent Simon, Interview by the author, AWB, Chicago, 15, Nov. 2016.

Electronic Article

8 Ben John, “Relationship between academic and formal writing,” Modern Writing, 11 October 2015[Journal on-line]; available from http://www.moderwrititng.com/articles/001010writing.html; the Internet; accessed 16 November 2016.

Video Recording

9 Ben John, Life of a Student, Chicago Videos, Chicago. 2015.

Bibliography /Reference List

Cite every source you use in the bibliography. Cote the source wherever it is integrated. You can do it using parenthetical citations. Use the last name of the author, publication year and specific page.

  • Label your first page of the back matter and comprehensive list of the sources as “Bibliography”-for notes and bibliography style- or “References” for Author-Date format.
  • In between the “References” or “Bibliography” and the first entry, you should leave two blank lines.
  • For other entries, leave a single blank line.
  • List entries in alphabetical (letter-by-letter) order according to the first word for each entry.
  • Write all names of one to three authors.
  • For multi-author entries use “and” but not ampersand “&.”
  • Write out all the names for four to ten authors in the bibliography but in notes and parenthetical citations, write the name of the first author plus “et al.”
  • When your source does not have an identified author, you should cite it by title in the shortened form (up to four keywords of the title) in parenthetical citation throughout text and reference page.
  • Write out the name of the publisher in full.
  • Avoid access dates unless you can find the publication dates.
  • If you cannot ascertain the date of publication for printed work, abbreviate it as “n.d.”
  • Provide DOIs rather that URLs when it possible.

Book by one author

Joe, Kenneth. History of Chicago Style. Chicago: Chicago Publishers, 2015

Book by two or more authors

Kenneth, Jeremy, Becky Rivers, and Nelly Graham. Life after School. Chicago: Chicago Press, 2014.

Anonymous author

“Refreshing Academic Writing,” Chicago Times, 15 Nov. 2016, 12-14

Magazine/journal article

Job, John-Smooth, “Reasons for Developing Chicago Manual of Style” Academic References 15 November 2016, 2-4.

Electronic sources

Ben, John. The relationship between academic and formal writing. Chicago: Chicago Department of Arts, 2015. Article on-line. Available from http://www.... HTML

Personal interview in person

Vincent, Simon, interview by the author, 15 Nov. 2016, Chicago. Written notes.

Personal interview by another person

Vincent, Simon. Interview by the author, 15 Nov. 2016, Chicago. E-mail.

Video Recording

Ben, John. Life of a Student. Chicago Videos, Chicago, 2015.

If it is impossible to name particular page when it is called for, you use these options: Section (sec.), equation (eq.), note (n.) or volume (vol.).


Chicago referencing style is an optional system with five heading levels.

Level and Format

Level 1: Centered, Italic or Boldface Type, Headline-style Capitalization

Level 2: Centered and Regular Type, Headline-Style Capitalization.

Level 3: Flush Left, Italic of Boldface Type, and Headline-style Capitalization.

Level 4: Flush left, Roman type, in sentence-style capitalization.

Level 5: Run in at the beginning of the paragraph (do not leave a blank after), italicize or boldface, sentence style capitalization, terminal period.

Tables and Figures

Position tables figures and tables after the paragraph where your described them. Cite sources of your tables and figures information in a “source line” at the bottom of a figure or table.

  • Use the word source(s), colon and end with a period to introduce source lines.
  • Cite the source as you would in the parenthetical citation but without parentheses. Include full information in your reference page entry.
  • Acknowledge any adapted or reproduced sources appropriately i.e. data adapted from; or map by.
  • Place a number and caption flush left for each figure on a line below the picture.
  • Number figures and tables as separately so that you mention them in your text.
  • In your text, identify figures and tables by name (e.g., “in figure 3”) instead of identifying by location.(“below”).

If you are uncertain on how to cite an individual source, refer to Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition as is the latest

For more reference, see our Academic Writing services page.