Chicago Citation Style (Quick Guide)

Printable Version: Chicago Citation Style (Quick Guide)



What is Chicago citation style?

Chicago style gets its name from The Chicago Manual of Style, a manual published by the University of Chicago that details publishing, grammar, and documentation practices. The documentation style detailed in that manual is used for research across multiple disciplines, but it is especially prominent in history. If you are a student, this means that Chicago style determines the required layout for things like in-text citations and the bibliography page of many essays you will write for your History courses. This guide provides some Chicago style citation basics. You may find more detailed instructions about Chicago formatting in the MTSU EasyWriter or Research Matters.


Why does citation matter?

Whenever you refer to someone’s words or ideas, whether you are paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting, you have a responsibility to your readers to cite your source. If you do not cite your sources’ words or information, you are committing plagiarism (academic theft). Whether intentional or accidental, it has consequences. See our resources on Writing Responsibly and Citation for more information. Understanding your citation style can go a long way toward helping you write responsibly.


What's an in-text citation?

Writers use in-text (parenthetical) citations when they make reference to someone else’s ideas through paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting.

In-text citations in Chicago format are done by using superscript numbers that correspond to footnotes. Those footnotes typically contain:

  1. The author’s name
  2. The title of the source
  3. The facts of publication (location and name of publisher)
  4. The page number(s) referenced

These footnotes will appear at the bottom of your page. For example:

A news article from 1879 references the modern architecture of the Navidson house.1


1. Jorge Zampano, “New Modern House Built In New York,” The New York Times (New
     York, NY), Mar. 7, 1879.


If the source has no author and still is reliable, do not list an author name in your notes or bibliography. If the source does not have page numbers, do not list page numbers. Citations for web sites must include URL’s. If you are using the same source multiple times in a row, you do not need to include the full citation twice. Instead, you may use the word “Ibid.”

For example:

An anonymous scholar once argued that the Civil War did not have any one single cause.6 That critic instead proposed several social and economic causes of the war.7


6. A Wartime Analysis (Philadelphia: Pamphleteer Publishing, 1969).
7. Ibid.


What is a bibliography page...and how do I make one?

The bibliography section alphabetically lists every source referenced in text. If you didn’t cite it in your paper, don’t add the source to your bibliography page.

The purpose of the bibliography is to provide a roadmap to your sources so that other scholars or researchers can find them. This means that, as a writer, you need to provide as much information as you can about where and how to find a source. 

Scholarly sources include a variety of media, and each type of source has its own citation style. To find the formatting guidelines for the particular type of source you are working with, consult one of the following:

McGraw-Hill Education. Research Matters at MTSU, 2nd edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2013.

Lunsford, Andrea A. Middle Tennessee State University EasyWriter, 5th edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014.

The University of Chicago. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010.


Start citing!

Overwhelmed by the amount of the information needed for a citation? Before you begin creating your citation, collect as much information as you can about the source.

Some sources, particularly electronic ones, may not provide information like author name, publisher, or publication date. Some of this information will appear at different locations in your citation, depending on the type of source being used.

Author Name(s)


Title of the Work


Editor Name(s)


Title of the Collection , Newspaper, or Journal




City of publication (for books and anthologies)


Volume number (if available)


Issue number


Page number(s)


Date of publication


Name of database


Website name


Website URL


Website publisher


Publication medium


Date of access (for web sources)



Need more help? Visit the Writing Center!

Stop by LIB 362 or visit us online at to schedule an appointment.

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