Introduction to Chicago/Turabian Style

When to Use Chicago/Turabian Style

Chicago style, created by the University of Chicago, is the primary citation style used for papers in history.

Learning Objectives

Recognize when to use Chicago/Turabian style in writing

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Chicago style is one of the most common citation and formatting styles you will encounter in your academic career.
  • Chicago style is based on The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Turabian style is based on Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses , and Dissertations, which is very similar to Chicago style but with an emphasis on student writing.
  • Chicago style provides guidelines for grammar, formatting, and citing your sources.
  • There are two subsets of Chicago/Turabian style which cite their research sources differently: Author –Date and Notes and Bibliography.

Chicago style is a citation and formatting style you may encounter in your academic career. Any piece of academic writing can use Chicago style, from a one-page paper to a full-length book. It is used by most historical journals and some social science publications. If you are writing a paper for a history class, it is likely your professor will ask you to write in Chicago style.

The Chicago Manual

The Chicago Manual of Style (abbreviated in writing as Chicago style, CMS, or CMOS) is a style guide for American English published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Its sixteen editions have specified writing and citation styles widely used in publishing, particularly in the book industry (as opposed to newspaper publishing, where AP style is more common). Chicago style deals with many aspects of editorial practice. It remains the basis for the Style Guide of the American Anthropological Association and the Style Sheet for the Organization of American Historians. Many small publishers throughout the world adopt it as their style.

The Turabian Manual

“Turabian style” is named after the book’s original author, Kate L. Turabian, who developed it for the University of Chicago. Except for a few minor differences, Turabian style is the same as Chicago style. However, while Chicago style focuses on providing guidelines for publishing in general, Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations focuses on providing guidelines for student papers, theses, and dissertations.

The Purpose of Chicago/Turabian Style

Chicago/Turabian style offers writers a choice of several different formats, because it is used in a wide variety of academic disciplines. It allows the mixing of formats, provided that the result is clear and consistent. 

The most recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style permits the use of both in-text citation systems (“Author–Date” style, which is usually used in the social sciences) or footnotes and endnotes (this is called “Notes and bibliography” style, which is usually used in the humanities).

Grammar and Formatting

Chicago style includes many basic grammatical rules. For example, Chicago style does use the Oxford comma, which some other citation styles (e.g., AP style) do not. Other examples include rules about what punctuation should be included inside a quotation and when to use what type of dash. For instance, Author–Date citations are usually placed just inside a mark of punctuation.


As mentioned above, the most recent editions of The Chicago Manual of Style permit the use of either in-text citation systems or footnotes and endnotes. It can give information about in-text citation by page number or by year of publication; it even provides for variations in styles of footnotes and endnotes, depending on whether the paper includes a full bibliography at the end.

Overall Structure and Formatting of a Chicago/Turabian Paper

Every paper written in Chicago/Turabian style has the same basic structural elements.

Learning Objectives

Identify the structural elements of a Chicago/Turabian paper

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • A Chicago/Turabian- style paper should include a title page, a body, a references section, and, in some cases, endnotes.
  • Chicago/Turabian style provides specific guidelines for line spacing (your paper should be double-spaced), margins (1–1.5 inches), and page numbering.
  • Use the Oxford comma, and only use one space following periods.
  • Listen to your professor’s specific guidelines if they want you to use a table of contents.

Key Terms

  • footnote: A short piece of text, often numbered, placed at the bottom of a printed page to add a comment, citation, or reference to a designated part of the main text.

Overall Structure of a Chicago Paper

Your Chicago paper should include the following basic elements:

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

General Formatting Rules


Your paper should be written in a legible font such as Times New Roman, and should be at least 10-pt in size (12-pt is recommended).

Line Spacing

All text in your paper should be double-spaced except for block quotations and image captions. On your citations page, each citation should be single-spaced, but there should be a blank line between each citation.


All page margins (top, bottom, left, and right) should be at least 1 inch and no more than 1.5 inches. All text, with the exception of headers, should be left-justified.


The first line of every paragraph and footnote should be indented 0.5 inches.

Page Numbers

Page numbers in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3…) should appear right-justified in the header of every page, beginning with the number 1 on the first page of text. Most word-processing programs have the ability to automatically add the correct page number to each page so you don’t have to do this by hand.

General Grammar Rules

The Oxford Comma

The Oxford comma (also called the serial comma) is the comma that comes after the second-to-last item in a series or list. For example:

The UK includes the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

In the above sentence, the comma immediately after “Wales” is the Oxford comma.

In general writing conventions, whether the Oxford comma should be used is actually a point of fervent debate among passionate grammarians. However, it’s a requirement in Chicago style, so double-check all your lists and series to make sure you include it!

Capitalization After Colons

In most cases, the first word after a colon should not be capitalized:

I know exactly what happened: he stole the cookies.

However, if what follows a colon is a series of multiple sentences, or a quotation, you do need to capitalize the first word after the colon:

If you have a colon in the middle of a sentence, and what follows after is a quotation or multiple sentences, the first word after the colon should be capitalized. For example:

I know exactly what happened: He stole the cookies. She snatched the cupcakes. You took the brownies.

Sentence Spacing

It used to be convention to type two spaces after every period—for example:

“Mary went to the store.  She bought some milk.  Then she went home.”

This convention was developed when typewriters were in use; the space on a typewriter was quite small, so two spaces were needed to emphasize the end of a sentence. However, typewriters, and therefore this practice, are now obsolete—in fact, using two spaces after sentences is now generally frowned upon. Chicago style in particular includes an explicit rule to use only single spaces after periods:

“Mary went to the store. She bought some milk. Then she went home.” 

A Note on the Table of Contents

Chicago style does not provide guidelines for tables of contents for individual papers themselves. If your professor asks you to include a table of contents in your paper, they will give you their own guidelines for formatting.