Skip to Main Content

Chicago Citations

Here is how to cite sources using Chicago 17 [seventeenth edition, 2017].

Why Cite

We cite sources:

  • to give credit to those whose work you have used
  • to allow people who are reviewing your work to check your sources
  • to show readers how you came up with your arguments or ideas
  • to provide scholars with other sources for their research

What you don't know CAN hurt you!

When Should You Cite

If you use content you didn't create* such as written words, spoken words, audio, video, etc., you probably need to cite it.  For example, you need to cite when you use:

  • the exact words of a source (quote)
  • a passage from a source put into your own words (paraphrase)
  • main points of a passage from a source put into your own words (summarize)
  • statistics
  • data
  • other numeric information
  • tables
  • figures
  • images
  • audio
  • video

You don't need to cite a source when you are repeating common knowledge, information most people know. For example:

  • there are 12 months in the year
  • the American Civil War began on April 12, 1861
  • Barack Obama was President of the United States for two terms

Remember: for any type of information you use, when in doubt, cite!

*Be aware: You do need to cite work you created if you used it previously - for example, content from a research paper written for another class. Not doing so is known as self-plagarism.

How Citing Works In Chicago Style

Information sources can come in an astonishing variety of forms. So when you are creating citations for your sources, it's helpful to keep in mind this statement (CMOS 14.1):

Source citations must always provide sufficient information to lead readers directly to the sources consulted or, for materials that may not be readily available, to enable readers to positively identify them, regardless of whether the sources are published or unpublished or in printed or electronic form.

So what are the nuts and bolts of citing using Chicago style?

When you use source information in your research paper, you immediately follow it with a superscript number to connect it to the appropriate footnote appearing at the bottom of the same page. Each footnote identifies a specific source which appears in the bibliography, the list of all sources that appears at the end of your paper. For example:

A quote within a paper and its footnote number:

On November 17, 1973, then President Richard Nixon appeared on national television and told the American public:

I have never profited, never profited from public service. I've earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their president's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got.1

The associated footnote at the bottom of the page:

1. WPA Film Library, "This Day In History," video file.

The full source entry in the paper's bibliography:

WPA Film Library. "This Day In History: November 17, 1973 Nixon Speech: 'I'm Not a Crook.'" Video file, 01:31. May 24, 2015. Films On Demand (68772).

Footnote Numbers in the Paper Body - Basic Rules

1) Footnote numbers in text are set as superscripts (CMOS 14.24):

For example:

There is evidence that when Genghis Khan and the Mongol army tried to conquer Japan in the 13th century they shot gunpowder bombs at the Japanese.8

2) Normally footnote numbers in text are positioned at the end of the sentence (after any punctuation except a dash) or after the relevant clause (CMOS 14.26):

For example:

New Orleans native Ken Bellau is credited with saving more than 400 lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.21

"A fool who knows his foolishness is wise at least to that extent"3 is a bit of Buddhist wisdom.

3) If multiple sources are used in one sentence, combine them into one footnote (CMOS 14.28).

Shortened Footnotes - Basic Rules

1) The basic form of the shortened footnote is (CMOS 14.30):

footnote number, author(s) last name, main title (shortened if four or more words),
page number(s) (if applicable).  

For example:

2. Green, "Spiritual Direction," 315.

Based on the source entry in the bibliography:

Green, Monica. "Spiritual Direction and the Evangelical Church: Today, Yesterday and Tomorrow." Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care 10, no. 2 (Fall 2017): 313-23. Academic Search Premier.

Notice that:

  • each element of the footnote is separated by a comma (CMOS 14.20) and there is a period at the end
  • titles are presented "headline-style," which means all important words start with a capital (CMOS 8.157)
  • in the actual footnote the number is of normal size, though it may be a superscript if your word processor only does footnotes as superscripts (CMOS 14.24)
  • the first line is indented and all subsequent lines begin at the left margin

2) Only the last name of the author(s) are used. For up to three authors, list last name for each; more than three authors, give the first author's last name followed by "et al."  Abbreviations of "editor," "translator," etc. are not included (CMOS 14.32):

For example, for three authors:

6. Acharya, Blackwell, and Sen, "Explaining Preferences," 409.

Based on the source entry in the bibliography:

Acharya, Avidit, Matthew Blackwell, and Maya Sen. "Explaining Preferences from Behavior: A Cognitive Dissonance Approach." Journal Of Politics 80, no. 2 (April 2018): 400-11.

3) Titles of four words or less usually are not shortened. Longer titles are shortened by using keywords in the order they appear in the title, and omitting words such as "a" or "and." A title is put in quotations or italicized based on how the title appears in the bibliography (CMOS 14.33):

For example:

2. Love and Sikka, "Road to Bliss," 43.

Based on the source entry in the bibliography:

Love, Mike, and Bharat Sikka. "The Road to Bliss: The Ashram in India Where the Beatles Sought Enlightenment Remains a Pilgrimage Site for Fans of Music and Meditation." Smithsonian, Jan/Feb 2018.

4) An even shorter footnote form can be used for footnotes referencing the same work as the one immediately before (CMOS 14.34):

footnote number, author last name, page number(s) (if applicable).

For example:

1. Levy, Dirty Blvd., 75.

2. Levy, 123.

3. Levy, 160.

Based on the source entry in the bibliography:

Levy, Aidan. Dirty Blvd.: The Life and Music of Lou Reed. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2016.

5) The start page through end page of the chapter or section should be given in the format "#-#"; a single page as "#" (CMOS 14.22).

6) Page numbers may not be available for online and other electronic sources. In such cases, try to find some useful text from the source to include in the footnote such as provided paragraph number; chapter name or number; section heading, etc. (CMOS 14.22).

For example:

17. Twain, Adventures of Tom Sawyer, chap. XVI.

Based on the source entry in the bibliography:

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Hartford, CT: American Publishing, 1884.

Bibliography - Basic Rules

1) The basic form of bibliography source entries is (CMOS 14.21):

Author last name, Author first name. Title. Facts of publication.

For example:

Crowther, Paul. How Pictures Complete Us: The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Divine. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2016.

Notice that:

  • each element is separated by a period and there is a period at the end
  • titles are presented "headline-style," which means all important words start with a capital (CMOS 8.157)
  • the first author's name is normally inverted, so their last name comes first
  • the first line begins at the left margin; all subsequent lines are indented

2) Up to ten authors or editors are listed in the bibliography entry; for over ten, list the first seven followed by "et al."  (CMOS 14.76):

For example, three authors:

Goshvarpour, Atefeh, Ataollah Abbasi, and Ateke Goshvarpour. "Impact of Music on College Students: Analysis of Galvanic Skin Responses." Applied Medical Informatics 35, no. 4 (December 2014): 11-20. Academic Search Premier

3) If an organization issued the source and no person or people are listed as author(s), the organization name may be used as author (CMOS 14.84):

For example:

Library of Congress. "The Dissemination of 'Amazing Grace.'" "Amazing Grace" Digital Collection. Accessed April 24, 2018.

4) If an author or organization cannot be identified, start the entry with the title (CMOS 14.79):

For example:

Legends of the Maori. Christchurch, NZ: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1926.

5) Titles of complete works (books, magazines, journals, videos, etc.) are italicized (CMOS 14.86):

For example:

Bilby, Kenneth M. Words of Our Mouth, Meditations of Our Heart: Pioneering Musicians of Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, and Dancehall. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan, 2016.

6) Titles for subsections of complete works (book chapters, articles in magazines or journals, etc.) are placed in quotation marks (CMOS 14.86):

For example:

Nettels, Elsa. "Willa Cather and the Example of Henry James." In Willa Cather and The Nineteenth Century, edited by Richard H. Millington and Anne L. Kaufman. Cather Studies 10. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2015. EBSCO eBook Collection.

7) Main titles and subtitles are separated by a colon followed by a space (CMOS 14.89):

For example:

Louden, Mark Laurence. Pennsylvania Dutch: The Story of an American Language. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016. EBSCO eBook Collection.

8) Website names are not italicized or placed in quotation marks unless they are the online version of a printed work (CMOS 14.86):

For example:

Kampe, Adam. "Poets Laureate Rita Dove and Tracy K. Smith in Conversation." National Endowment for the Arts. Accessed April 24, 2018.

Additional examples of bibliography entries are provided in subsequent sections of this guide.

Bibliography - Online Addresses and Access Dates

1) Bibliography entries for online sources need some form of address which will lead readers to the cited source or reliable information about it (CMOS 14.6).  Reliability and brevity are important considerations when choosing a form of an online address (CMOS 14.7, 14.9-14.11). Possible forms:

  • uniform resource locator (URL) - the address (CMOS 14.7) that appears in a browser's address bar

For example:

  • digital object identifier (DOI) - an assigned number used to create a persistent link to information about a source which is intellectual property (CMOS 14.8); frequently provided in library research databases

For example, an assigned DOI from a library research database:


The persistent link created from it which is used in a source citation:

  • permalink - alternate persistent form of the URL that appears in a browser address bar (CMOS 14.9); frequently provided in library research databases

For example:

  • names of library research database - a URL or permalink is unlikely to reliably lead all readers to library research database content since these databases often require an ID and password to access; therefore it may be better to use the database name (CMOS 14.11)

For example:

Academic Search Premier

2) Access date - the date when you viewed a source online is not required except when there's no publication date or revision date (CMOS 14.12).