Formatting Papers in Chicago Style

Woman working on a computer next to stacks of paper

akindo / Getty Images

The Chicago Style of writing is often used for history papers, but this style is called Turabian Style when referring specifically to research papers. The Chicago Manual of Style was first written in 1891 by the University of Chicago Press in order to standardize the process of revising and editing the many papers proofreaders were being given. Here's everything you'll need to know about formatting in this style.

General Formatting Tips

The Chicago Style of writing is often required for history papers.
Grace Fleming

Margins

Paper margins can be a pain. Too many students fall into a trap when trying to adjust margins to adhere to a paper's requirements. Instructors normally ask for a margin of one inch, but the pre-set margin in your word processor might be 1.25 inches. So what do you do?

If you're following Chicago style, you'll need to make sure that your margins are the right size. Chicago style requires one-inch margins on the top, sides, and bottom of your paper. Reformatting can get messy, but you can always ask your professor for help with this.

Line Spacing and Indenting Paragraphs

As for line spacing, your paper should be double-spaced throughout, excepting only block quotes, captions, and titles.

Chicago Style dictates that you use 1/2 inch indents before all paragraphs, bibliographies, and block quotes. You might need to go into your paper's settings to change the automatic size of indents when you press "tab," but most word processors default to 1/2 inch indentations.

Font Size, Page Numbers, and Footnotes

  • Use 12 point Times New Roman font always unless your instructor has explicitly asked for something else.
  • Put your page numbers on the righthand side of a page's header.
  • Don't put a page number on the title/cover page.
  • Your bibliography should contain the final page number.
  • Use either footnotes or endnotes as needed (more on notes in the following section).

Page Order

Your paper should be arranged in this order:

  • Title/cover page
  • Body pages
  • Appendices (if using)
  • Endnotes (if using)
  • Bibliography

Titles

  • Center titles at around the halfway point of your cover page.
  • When you are using a subtitle, place it on the line below the title and use a colon after the title to introduce it.
  • Center your name on the line below the title, followed by your instructor's full name, the course name, and date. Each of these items should be on their own line.
  • Titles are not to be bolded, italicized, enlarged, underlined, placed in quotation marks, or written in any font other than Times New Roman 12 point.

Appendices

  • It is best to place tables and other supporting data sets or examples at the end of a paper. Number your examples Appendix 1, Appendix 2, and so on.
  • Insert a footnote as you refer to each appendix item and direct the reader to the proper entry, as in a footnote that reads: See Appendix 1.

Chicago Style Note Formatting

You should insert a footnote number at the end of any paragraph that contains source information.
Grace Fleming

It is common for instructors to require a notes-bibliography system (footnotes or endnotes) in an essay or report and for this to be in the Chicago or Turabian style of writing. When creating these notes, keep in mind these important general formatting considerations.

  • Formatting in footnotes is different from the formatting in your bibliographic citations, even though they will refer to the same documents or books. For example, the footnote contains commas to separate items like author and title, and the entire note ends with a period.
  • Type notes in single-space with a full space between separate notes.
  • The bibliography entry separates items (like author and title) with a period. These differences are displayed in the image above, which shows a citation for a book.
  • Use a full citation the first time you refer to a specific source; afterward, you may use an abbreviated reference such as the author's name or part of the title, along with a page number. You may use the ibid abbreviation if you use the same reference in consecutive quotes or are using a reference just cited.
  • Note numbers should start with 1 and follow in numerical order throughout a paper unless your paper contains several chapters. Note numbers should begin again at 1 for each chapter (always use Arabic numerals, never Roman).
  • Never reuse a note number or use two note numbers at the end of a single sentence.

Footnotes

  • Footnotes should be at the end of the reference page.
  • Indent footnotes with a 1/2 inch margin but flush all other lines left.
  • Footnotes may contain citations for references like books or journal articles, or they may contain your own comments. These comments can be supplemental information to clarify points you're making in your text, or they could be interesting bits of information that are important to include but that would interrupt the flow of your paper.
  • Footnotes can also contain acknowledgments. It is common for the very first footnote of a paper to be a large entry containing a summary of work related to your thesis, along with acknowledgments and thanks to supporters and co-workers.
  • You should insert a footnote number at the end of any paragraph that contains source information. You may "bundle" several citations from a paragraph in a single footnote and place the number at the end of the paragraph.

Endnotes

  • Endnotes should be on a separate page after the body pages.
  • Title the first page of endnotes "Notes" in 12 point font—do not embolden, underline, or italicize.