You wrote your linguistics essay, put it in MLA format, and submitted it. Check.
Then you finished up your biology essay, made sure to properly type all your citations in APA format, and sent it off to your professor. Check.
Next up: your history paper. History is one of the humanities, so this paper needs to be in MLA format, right?
Not necessarily. History is one of the subject areas that often uses the Chicago Manual of Style—and it isn’t the only humanities subject in this category. So before you format your history paper, ask your instructor which style guide you should use. If it’s Chicago, familiarize yourself with the formatting and citation guidelines that define this style.
What is the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) format and citations?
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), also sometimes known as Turabian style (more on that in a moment), is one of the established style guides for academic writing. Currently in its 17th edition, it was first published in 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Like other style guides, such as MLA and APA, the Chicago Manual of Style provides guidelines for formatting work and citing sources in specific fields. These fields include history, business, and the fine arts. In some cases, work in the social sciences, humanities, and occasionally the sciences is formatted in Chicago style. Generally, Chicago is the preferred style guide for humanities works at the graduate level, whereas MLA is more common at the undergraduate level.
The name “Turabian style” comes from the style guidelines created in 1937 by Kate L. Turabian, the University of Chicago’s graduate school dissertation secretary. These guidelines provided a format for college and graduate students to use when formatting their research papers, acting as an introduction to the CMOS. The Turabian style guide is still published today and shares many similarities with Chicago style. The difference is that Turabian style is aimed at students, while CMOS is broader and includes more guidelines.
When to use Chicago-style format
With every assignment, ask your instructor if you aren’t sure which style guide to use. Unlike APA format, it’s not always clear when you should use Chicago style versus MLA. CMOS is typically the go-to style guide for history papers, but either style guide may be used for other humanities, like literature and theater.
Like with other style guides, properly citing your sources is a crucial part of Chicago style. In CMOS, there are two distinct systems for citations: Author-Date and Notes-Bibliography. Both include guidelines for in-text citations, and both follow similar bibliography structures.
Chicago style vs. other citation formats:
There are many style guides in existence, some of which are unique to specific and niche fields. For example, reports and research papers in economics and other finance-related fields often use The Economist Style Guide. As a student, the other style guides you’re most likely to be familiar with are the MLA and APA guides.
If you continue to graduate school, you will likely encounter the Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago style has more variables than most other style guides. For example, Chicago doesn’t require that a paper include a title page but has formatting guidelines if you do include one. Similarly, there are no hard-and-fast requirements for your headings and subheads, but CMOS also provides guidelines you can follow.
How to follow Chicago format
Several key formatting guidelines differentiate the Chicago Manual of Style from other academic style guides. These include:
1 CMOS uses two different citation formats: the Author-Date system and the Notes-Bibliography system. Both are completely acceptable for a paper formatted in CMOS, but your instructor may require that you use one or the other.
2 The CMOS bibliography page is titled “Bibliography” in the Notes-Bibliography citation format and “References” in the Author-Date format.
3 A title page is not required.
- If you do include a title page, do not include a header or page number on it. Write the paper’s title ⅓ of the way down the page. Write your name, course number and title, and submission date on separate lines centered ⅔ from the top.
- If you don’t include a title page, include your name and paper’s title on the first page.
4 Each page should have a one to 1.5-inch margin around all sides.
5 Each page (excluding the title page) should include a page number in either the top right or bottom center of the page. Whichever placement you choose, keep it consistent throughout the entire paper.
6 The paper should be double-spaced.
7 Every new paragraph should be indented ½ inch.
8 No specific font or size is required, but 12-point Times New Roman is recommended.
9 Although the title page is not numbered, it “counts” as page 1. In other words, “Page 2” should be your paper’s first page.
10 Quotations of five lines or longer are formatted as block quotes. Do not put these in quotation marks, but do indent them an additional ½ inch. Add an extra line space before and after the blockquote.
11 All headings are formatted in headline case (Capitalize Every Major Word of the Heading), rather than sentence case (Capitalize only the first word of the heading).
How to create Chicago-style citations and references, with examples
The CMOS title page guidelines come from Turabian style. If you submit a title page with your paper, include the paper’s title and subtitle (if applicable), centered and on separate lines about ⅓ down the page.
Two-thirds from the top of the page, include all additional information required by your instructor. This section often consists of your name, course number and title, and the date you submitted the paper, but it may also include your student number or instructor’s name.
A page number should be in the top right corner of each main body page. This number stands alone and does need your last name like in MLA format.
If you’re using the Notes-Bibliography citation style, note each in-text citation with a superscript number, then list these citations according to their numbers at the bottom of the page, beneath a page break that extends across about ⅓ of the text. This citation along the bottom of the page is known as a footnote.
Here is an example of how an in-text citation in Notes-Bibliography style would look on a page:
Although it was a rainy day, it wasn’t the rainiest day they recorded that year.
Peters asserted that “the rainiest day that year was March 18th.”1 Despite this,
the ground retained more water than it did on previous rainy days.
1. Thomas Peters, The Rainiest Days We Recorded Thus Far in 2022 (Newark:
Example Press, 2022), 16.
With the Author-Date system, in-text citations look a bit different. Here is the same example, but using the Author-Date citation format:
Although it was a rainy day, it wasn’t the rainiest day they recorded that year.
Peters asserted that “the rainiest day that year was March 18th” (Peters, 2022).
Despite this, the ground retained more water than it did on previous rainy days.
Although no footnote is required with the Author-Date format, an endnote is required at the end of each section of the paper. An endnote is formatted identically to a footnote.
Content on your main body pages should be double-spaced except for block quotes. Blockquotes are single-spaced.
References in Chicago style
In addition to in-text citations, your paper must include a comprehensive references page titled “Bibliography” if you used the Notes-Bibliography citation format and “References” if you used the Author-Date format. In both formats, sources are cited in the same format except for the placement of the work’s publication date. In the Author-Date style, it’s listed immediately after the author’s name. In the Notes-Bibliography style, it goes toward the end of the citation. Its exact location depends on the type of source being cited, such as a film, Wikipedia article, website, or YouTube video.
Here are two examples of book citations in CMOS:
- Notes-Bibliography: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication.
- Author-Date: Last name, First name, Year Published. Title of Book. Place of publication: Publisher.
In the bibliography, sources are listed alphabetically according to each author’s last name. List each author’s surname first, followed by a comma and their first name:
Footnotes in Chicago style
In CMOS, footnotes are formatted like this:
Number of reference. Author’s name, Title (City of publication: Publisher, year
published), page number.
Headings in Chicago style
Although there are no specific formatting requirements for headings and subheads in the Chicago Manual of Style, there are guidelines. One of these guidelines is that you should always be consistent and employ a parallel structure with your headings and subheads, which just means that you should format all headings and subheads throughout the paper the same way.
Turabian style includes guidelines for differentiating headings by hierarchy. Here is an example of how they look on a page:
Level 1 Heading
Level 2 Heading
Level 3 Heading
Level 4 heading
Level 5 heading
Tables and figures
Tables and figures go directly within your paper’s body content. Label each table and figure numerically (Figure 1, Figure 2, and so on), and when referencing them in the text, reference them according to their numbers.
Directly beneath each table or figure, provide a brief description of the image.
CMOS format and citations FAQs
What is CMOS format?
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) is one of the established style guides for academic writing. It is most frequently used for works in history, business, the fine arts, and in some cases, the humanities. Keep in mind that CMOS has specific guidelines for citing just about any kind of source, including PDFs, TV shows, and lectures.
How is it different from other formats?
A few key characteristics of Chicago style include:
- A title page is not required.
- The bibliography page is titled Bibliography or References.
- Each page is numbered in the top right corner, with just the page number.
- Two different citation formats are acceptable: the Author-Date format and the Notes-Bibliography format.
What are some examples of CMOS citations and references?
- In-text citation in Author-Date format: As Peters described it, the sunflowers were “shockingly resilient to the extreme change in temperature” (Peters, 2020).
- Book with two or more authors: Author 1 First Name Surname and Author 2 First Name Surname, Book Title: Subtitle (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year), page number.
- Journal article: Author Surname, First Name or Initial. “Article Title.” Journal Title Volume, issue number (Year): Page range of article.
- In-text citation of an image: In 2016, sales plummeted (see figure 3) despite increased marketing efforts.