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Style: Chicago

Everything You Need to Know About Style: Chicago

Feb 05, 2013 - Posted to  Writing in General
Formatting an academic paper is often a frustrating process. After you've put in so much time researching and writing, having to go back and put the finishing touches on citations and title pages can feel like a hassle. Unfortunately, though, it's a necessary part of the paper writing process, which means you need to take the time to get the style of your paper right.

Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style (usually referred to as CMS or just Chicago) is published by the University of Chicago press. There have been sixteen editions since the manual was first published in 1906, and it's one of the most widely used style guides today. In academic writing, the CMS is the guide most often used for writing in history and anthropology. All the information here was taken from the 16th edition of the CMS, which you can find in bookstores or online (although you need a subscription to access the online version).

The Basics

Here are the basics you need to know for formatting your paper:
  • Margins. Use 1" margins on all four sides of the page.
  • Indentation. Indent the start of a paragraph 1/2 inch from the left margin; indent set-off quotations one inch.
  • Font. Choose a common and easy-to-read font like Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Size. Use 12 point font.
  • Page numbers. Number pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, and your last name should be included before the page number. Don't include a page number on the title page.
  • Spacing. Double space the entire paper. The bibliography and endnotes should be single spaced within each entry with a double space between them. Block quotes are single spaced.
  • Title page. The title page should include the title of paper centered on the page, your name centered three quarters of the way down the page, and the class, professor's name, and date centered at the bottom.
  • Running heads. A running head - which usually includes the title of the paper - can be included in the header but is not required. If included, it should be at the top of the page and justified left.

Common Spelling, Grammar, and Punctuation Issues

Every style guide tackles issues of spelling, grammar, and punctuation a little bit differently. Below are the recommendations from the CMS for common issues you might encounter in a research paper. Many of these topics can get pretty complicated, so you might need to consult the manual if you have a complex question.

Numbers

In general, whole numbers from one to one hundred should be spelled out (thirty-six, twelve). When describing a round number followed by hundreds, thousands, etc., those numbers should also be spelled out (twelve thousand, fifteen hundred), as should numbers that start sentences ("One thousand seventy-six people showed up for the party."). All other numbers should be written with numerals (15.67, 1,283). Very large numbers can also be written with numerals (27 million), and numbers with units should use numerals as well (250 meters).

Dates

Dates should be written with the name of the month spelled out to avoid confusion (e.g., 12 January 2006 or January 12, 2006 instead of 1/12/2006).

Serial commas

The CMS strongly recommends you use the serial comma consistently throughout your paper to prevent ambiguity (the serial comma is the comma that comes before the conjunction in a list. For example, in the sentence "We're going to the store to get apple, peanut butter, and bread," the comma after peanut butter is the serial comma).

Foreign words

Foreign words should be italicized if they are not commonly used in English. If they're followed by a definition, it should be in parenthesis: She asked for mantequilla (butter), not aceite (oil).

Tables and Figures

Tables and figures should be positioned as close as possible to where they are mentioned in the text. They should be consecutively numbered in two different groups (meaning number all the tables starting at one and number all the figures starting at one) in the order they are mentioned and referred to by number in the text (see fig. 1; the results can be seen in table 3). A legend (a short description of the figure) should be placed below the figure (Fig. 2. A political cartoon, dated 3 July 1863, ridicules prominent politicians from the South.). Tables should be given a short title that is listed above the table along with the number (Table 12 Effect of sunlight on samples).

Citations

The Chicago system allows you to use one of two different citation styles. The first is notes and bibliography, in which you cite quotations in the text with footnotes (which appear at the end of each page) or endnotes (which appear at the end of the entire paper). All cited works are then collected alphabetically in the bibliography. This is by far the most common method used in academic papers that require Chicago formatting, although the CMS also allows you to cite the author's name and the publication year in parenthesis much like MLA or APA.

Notes and bibliography

When using notes, you should number the citations consecutively with numerals in superscript, and each note should contain the full bibliographic entry. If you're citing a work you've previously cited (and therefore have already listed the bibliographic information), you can just list the author's name and the page number in the note. So, a paragraph with notes might look like this:
The issue of Jefferson's relationship with his slaves is a complex one. As the face of the new United States, Jefferson seemed to take a public stance against slavery, but in his private life he relied on hundreds of slaves to keep his plantation running. Historian Howard Smith says that Jefferson "struggled immensely with the contradiction between what he believed and the practical reality he faced every day"1 while other scholars have been harsher. They have been particularly unforgiving of Jefferson's sexual relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, noting that "it takes a cold kind of man to father six children into slavery in his own home."2 Smith, though, again notes that Jefferson "handled the situation the best he could given the political climate at the time."3

  1. Howard Smith, The Life and Times of Thomas Jefferson (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 156.
  2. Alexis Mastille, "Thomas Jefferson and his slaves" in The Development of the Plantation System, ed. Harriet Nicks, 278 (New York: Penguin Press, 1978).
  3. Smith, Thomas Jefferson, 178.
Below are examples of how to format footnotes and bibliographic entries for several common types of sources.

Book with one author

Footnote: Howard Smith, The Life and Times of Thomas Jefferson (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 156.
Bibliography: Smith, Howard. The Life and Times of Thomas Jefferson. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963.

Book with two authors

Footnote: Alex Jones and Matthew Holt, The Founding Fathers (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2005), 63.
Bibliography: Jones, Alex and Holt, Matthew. The Founding Fathers. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2005.

Books with three authors

Footnote: Amber Wilson et al., Civil War Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 187.
Bibliography: Wilson, Amber, Lipton, Shelly S., and Yost, John. Civil War Politics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Journal article

Footnote: James Carth, "Thomas Jefferson and the role of the Founding Fathers." Journal of American History 45, no. 3 (1996): 125.
Bibliography: Carth, James. "Thomas Jefferson and the role of the Founding Fathers." Journal of American History 45, no. 3 (1996). 116-131.

Journal article accessed online

Footnote: James Carth, "Thomas Jefferson and the role of the Founding Fathers." Journal of American History 45, no. 3 (1996): 125, accessed 19 August 1998, http://JAH.com/45-3/p116/Jefferson.
Bibliography: Carth, James. "Thomas Jefferson and the role of the Founding Fathers." Journal of American History 45, no. 3 (1996). 116-131. Accessed 19 August 1998, http://JAH.com/45-3/p116/Jefferson.

Website page with publication date and author

Footnote: Mark Hull, "New book on Jefferson threatens to change the way we look at history," Chicago Review of Books, 12 October 1993, accessed 18 January 2006, http://www.CRB.com/Jefferson.
Bibliography: Hull, Mark. "New book on Jefferson threatens to change the way we look at history." Chicago Review of Books. 12 October 1993. Accessed 18 January 2006. http://www.CRB.com/Jefferson.

Website page without publication date and author

Footnote: "The Facts about Thomas Jefferson." American Encyclopedia, accessed 12 June 2009, accessed 25 April 2011, http://www.AmEnc.com/Jefferson.
Bibliography: "The Facts about Thomas Jefferson." American Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 June 2009. Accessed 25 April 2011. http://www.AmEnc.com/Jefferson.

Author and date

A paper formatted using the author/date system would look like this:
The issue of Jefferson's relationship with his slaves is a complex one. As the face of the new United States, Jefferson seemed to take a public stance against slavery, but in his private life he relied on hundreds of slaves to keep his plantation running. Historian Howard Smith says that Jefferson "struggled immensely with the contradiction between what he believed and the practical reality he faced every day" while other scholars have been harsher (Smith 1963). They have been particularly unforgiving of Jefferson's sexual relationship with his slave Sally Hemings, noting that "it takes a cold kind of man to father six children into slavery in his own home" (Mastille 1978). Smith, though, again notes that Jefferson "handled the situation the best he could given the political climate at the time" (Smith 1978).
Works in a reference list in the author/date system look just like the bibliographic entries listed above, except that the year comes immediately after the author's name:
Smith, Howard. 1963. The Life and Times of Thomas Jefferson. New York: McGraw-Hill.
For more on Chicago citation style you can visit their website.
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