How to use sources

Chicago Style Guide


The Chicago citation style is also known as CMS, which is an abbreviation for the handbook Chicago Manual of Style. The name of the style is a reference to the fact that the CMS guide is published by the University of Chicago.

Chicago style is most commonly associated with the disciplines of history and anthropology, although it also makes appearances in other disciplines connected with the humanities, such as philosophy. In general, Chicago style is sometimes used as an alternative in disciplines that more generally make use of MLA style.

Chicago style is also very similar to another style called Turabian. Turabian is more or less identical to Chicago, but because Chicago style is intended for published works, some adjustments from Turabian style are sometimes included into Chicago style for the purposes of unpublished coursework.

Download Turabian Style Manual 9th ed. (PDF)*

Chicago style and Turabian are very similar.

Overview of features

Title page

The formatting of the title page for Chicago style is fairly straightforward. About a third of the way down the first page, the title of the essay is to be written center-aligned and in headline format (with the first letter of every significant word capitalized and the rest lowercase). Then, about a third of the way from the bottom of the page, the following three lines should be presented:

  • Name of the student (Firstname Lastname)
  • Course (Course #: Course Title
  • Date (Month Day, Year)

This text should also be center-aligned and double-spaced. Then, on the next page, the text of the body of your essay should begin on the very top line (without the title repeated), left-aligned and in standard paragraph format.

There was a previous edition of Chicago style where the title line on the title page was supposed to be written in all-caps (LIKE THIS), but now it is just supposed to be in headline style (Like This). This is an example of how the various citation styles, including Chicago, change significant aspects of their guidelines with the publication of each new edition of their respective manuals.


Chicago style does not make use of in-text citations. Rather, it uses footnotes. So every time you cite a source in your paper, you should insert a footnote, which will contain reference information for your source.

There is a specific format that should be followed for the footnotes. Here are how the footnotes should look for three different common kinds of sources.





Firstname Lastname, Title of Book (Publication City: Publisher, Year), p.#.

Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 101.

Journal article

Firstname Lastname, "Name of Article," Name of Journal vol.#, no. iss.# (year): p.#.

Thomas Szasz, "The Myth of Mental Illness," The American Psychologist 15, no. 2 (1960): 113.


Author, "Article Name," Platform Name [if different from author], last modified Month Day, Year, URL.

Mayo Clinic, "Bipolar Disorder," last modified 2018,

A good way to think of the citation format for Chicago style footnotes is that they are supposed to be one continuous flow: there are not supposed to be any periods in the entire footnote until very end (except if one is including the initials of an author). This is different from how it works for bibliography entries, as will be seen below.

Also, if there is more than one author for a source, then the full names of both writers should be included, and they should be connected with "and" (As in John Smith and Peter Jones). If there are three authors or more, then there should be no comma before the "and", but there should be commas separating the other names (John Smith, Alex Brown and Peter Jones).

About subsequent footnotes

The information above is for the first time you cite a given source in your Chicago style essay. For later times, just the last names of the authors, along with the page numbers, will be fine. You can also use the abbreviation "et al." if there are more than two authors (Smith et al., 77).

In addition, a unique abbreviation in Chicago citation style is "Ibid." This essentially means "see the previous note." So, if you are citing from one given source repeatedly in a row, then you can your footnote can just say Ibid., followed by a comma and then the page number.  


The bibliography page of your Chicago style paper should have an entry for each of the sources you have referenced through your footnotes. You could think of the footnotes as "matched" with the bibliography entries, and the entries are very similar, except for a couple minor formatting changes. Here are the footnote and bibliography entries for each of the three examples above, side by side.



Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness unto Death (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), 101.

Kierkegaard, Søren.The Sickness unto Death. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).

Thomas Szasz, "The Myth of Mental Illness," The American Psychologist 15, no. 2 (1960): 113.

Szasz, Thomas. The Myth of Mental Illness." The American Psychologist 15, no. 2 (1960): 113-118.

Mayo Clinic. "Bipolar Disorder." last modified 2018,

Mayo Clinic. "Bipolar Disorder." Last modified 2018.

As you can see, the bibliography entries are very similar to the footnotes. The main difference is that in the bibliography entries, the last name of the first author should come before the first name. Also, whereas the footnotes use commas to separate units of information, the units in the bibliography entry are blocked off by periods.


This guide has now provided you with a solid overview on Chicago citation style. It can be a little tricky at first, and it is somewhat more complex than other common styles such as MLA and APA; but if you follow this guide, you should get the hang of it in no times. Writer Tools also has sample papers in Chicago style available for your examination, so please feel free to take a look around.

* Citation style manuals are available from third-party websites. Writer Tools does not condone copyright infringement and you are responsible for the use and reliability of third party downloads and tools. Writer Tools makes no claims or warranties.